My brand new plastic eyes
I am not sure whether they are plastic or glass, but am guessing glass would have too many problems if one fell.
When I was five or six I went with my dad and sister to see a local basketball game. It was fun to watch, but I had no idea what they were talking about when they mentioned points and scores. So my dad told me to look up at the big board in the corner and read it. "I can't see anything much at all," I said, "only blurry stuff."
So that is when we knew I had difficulty with my eye sight, which has continued for the last
70 years or so. I remember the Eureka moment, when I put on my first pair of big ugly glasses, and realised how much I had been missing out on. I had another of those moments a few weeks ago.
All my friends seem to have had cataract surgery, and said it made such a difference, but my hospital consultant said, my eyes were hardly touched by cataracts yet, and certainly no need to worry about it.
Then in January, when I was put under a different consultant, and I asked the same question, he was reluctant but when I said I was having trouble playing bridge and playing the organ, and the quality of my life was greatly diminished and I didn't want to waste any more of my life without getting the full benefit that my friends were talking about. So he put me down for cataract surgery. I should mention that I also have glaucoma, which means that due to something (usually high eye pressure, but not in my case) the optic nerve gets eaten away - little bits of being taken out permanently. I was diagnosed with having that about 10 years ago, but from what I read about signs and symptoms, I think I probably had it at least five years earlier. I could see coloured rainbow like effects in lights and sometimes half a page would disappear as I was reading it.
My treatment was the same for anyone with basic glaucoma - eye drops at night, and I have
taken them faithfully for all these years, and my optic nerve has not greatly decreased during that time period.
So when I got my note from the hospital that I was to be seen in the pre-op eye surgery department at the local hospital, I was both delighted and more than a little bit nervous, especially when they had opted to do my better eye first. "What if something goes wrong and you lose your sight
in that eye?" asked my very practical daughter?" "Very slight chance of that," I said, and thought they probably had a good reason for doing one before the other.
The pre-op was straight forward, except for my blood pressure being much higher than usual.
The nurse said that if the lower number was over 100, they wouldn't operate. I think it read 150/95 at that time. But he said they would retake it later. So I gave myself a good talking to, and did some
deep breathing and it had gone down to 140/85, which they were delighted with.
You get a picture taken of your eye ball, and all the various measurements so they can make your fake lens the right shape and cure all your defects. The man said I was very greatly myopic and had bad astigmatism. He said my eye looked more like a rugby ball than the nice round sphere that was
intended. He said that I should be aware that after the first eye, my eyes would be very much at odds with each other, so they would try to get the next one done as soon as possible, and I just had to cope with the problem of the miss match in the meantime.
I should say that this surgery, although it was meant for cataract removal, actually takes out the whole lens, as that is much simpler than trying to get rid of just the yellowing layer on top.
To give you an idea about what it is like to see through a cataract and mine supposedly were only mild to moderate - I couldn't tell the difference between blue, black and green. And I had problems with yellow and white - so playing games with my grand kids that depended on you picking the
right colour were a real challenge. Quite often as I looked at a book, it would have large splodges of yellow spread across the two pages. And it cut down the efficiency of my glasses correction, so I
could only read the top three lines on the eye chart with my very best and most recent prescription.
I was still driving although various medical people had questioned the wisdom of it. Although I passed the eye test you have to take to get your driving license renewed quite easily a few years ago. But a few months ago I realised I couldn't read road signs. This didn't matter when I was
driving around home, but whenever I went somewhere I was unfamiliar with, I just had no idea of the names of the roads, or the labels of attractions - although the signs were often quite big.
Then came the time when I picked up my daughter from the train station, and on the way home,
realised that I could not see anything on my left side. I had no idea where I was in relation to driveways and such like. So I made the sensible decision, and decided to stop driving. I made sure I was not going to cave, by selling my car to the man next door who passed it on, no doubt at a huge profit to himself, to a man who works at Chatsworth. It was 10 years old but only had a few bumps and bruises and had done only 23,000 miles.
So finally the day came for the actual surgery. My daughter came to take me in, and then collect me afterwards. (She cleaned my house in between.) The procedure takes only about 20 minutes if
nothing goes wrong, but there is a lot of paper work to do in advance, and recovery time. I went in at 8 a.m. and she took me back home at 11.30.
The first thing that happens after checking umpteen times that you know where you live and when you were born, they do a last blood pressure and eye pressure test. Then they put a little plastic bead - sort of like a small disk, into your eye, to make your pupil dilate. Then you have to sit
back with the 12 others who were having the same thing done to wait for it to do its work.
I was one of the first ones called, and the anesthetist, explained what they were going to do, which I already knew having read all that google had to offer on the subject. The bed I had to lie on was very flat with a hole for my head to rest in, but my knees were somewhat raised, and I kept all my clothes and shoes on. The injection into the eye of the local anesthetic was quite painful - sort of like the ones you get at the dentist for a big filling. The consultant, who was the one who told me I was in no need of having this procedure done, was the one doing the surgery. He went over everything again that the others had said, and then I was wheeled into the surgery room and introduced to another doctor who was assisting him, and a nurse who held my hand, which I had to squeeze if I needed to cough or sneeze or something like that. Mr. Uyen said to me that when they were done I would have perfect vision in my right eye, and it would include being able to see everything, except for close - so I would need glasses to read.
He said my astigmatism was taken care of by the shape of the new lens. I was to keep still and look at a bright light. Before that, they put a sort of hood over my head, so I couldn't see anything with my left eye. But with my soon to be replaced eye I could see a machine and a bit of the consultant and this bright light. He said, "if you put your chin down, it will help you relax" so I did. And the procedure began. No pain or discomfort - lots of water was poured over my eye every few minutes, and all seemed to be going well, when he said, "Put you chin down" in a very commanding voice. I felt bad that I had annoyed him by not obeying his original request, so I started the mantra in my head, CHIN DOWN, CHIN DOWN, ETC. " and then I realised that it had gone up again so I pushed it back down.
He stopped and hesitated and I think with great restraint on his part, he finally said, "you moved."
"I was putting my chin down," I explained. "I was in the midst of cutting your eyeball open and this could have had a very dire result."
He paused again and one of the other asked him if he was okay. He agreed that he was and the operation continued for another 10 minutes or so. At the end, another rather painful jab of medicine into the eye, and Mr. Uyen said, "It is perfect."
They wheeled me out into the previous room, and put a patch of plastic with holes in it over my new eye, and told me to get up and go into the next room for some tea and a biscuit. I was still shocked from my near miss, so I felt very lightheaded and not at all confident as I walked and sat down in the little drinks area. The nurse brought me a cup of tea, and left to call my daughter to collect me. But this wasn't what I had thought was going to happen. I saw two of everything but not on the same level - one image would be a foot of so below the other and to the left. I asked the nurse about it, and she said it sometimes happens and it would probably go away by mid afternoon. But to make me feel more normal, she put masking tape over the whole of the eye patch, so I couldn't see anything at all exciting and new with my new lens. She brought me two sets of drops that I had to use four times a day. I tried to get her to say when I would be having the next eye done, but she said it was all in the notes she provided with the medicine. The booklet we had been given said maybe I would be seen again after a week, and if no appointment had been made to contact the eye hospital. The letter she gave me said I was to go to the local optician for a pressure check in four weeks time.
My daughter nursed me very well, but I need to put in that with having only one eye, I was able to visualise what sight loss I had from the glaucoma. Forinstance when I lifted the cup of tea to drink it, I could only see half a cup - cut lenghwise. And when I was having soup provided by my daughter, the spoon disappeared half of the way into my mouth. I tried testing how far I could hold my hand out before the fingers dropped off - quite a fun game really.
Nothing remarkable about the rest of that day, and when I was able to remove the bandage from my eye the next morning, the first thing I could see, were loads of spider webs on the ceiling above my bed. I was so thrilled, that Icould see something I had never been able to before. "I'll get rid of those," said my daughter. "No, leave them for awhile, and then when I wake each morning, I will see them first thing and know my eye is still working okay."
As I had been advised, the combination of my two eyes was a big strain, so mostly I wore for
that month my old mid distance glasses, but took them off when the TV was on so I could read the writing on the questions for Impossible and Pointless - something I haddn't been able to do for many years.
But I think the biggest surprise to me regarding colour was when I was going to put on my jacket, and I said, "This one isn't mine."
"What are you talking about?" said my daughter, "that is the jacket
you wear all the time - hardly take it off."
"But mine is rust coloured and this is a sort of pinky purple. I would never buy anything that colour." And as I went along I found several other things I wouldn't have bought if I had realised what colour
they really were.
My vision from the new eye was so sharp and clear, I spent hours looking at the flowers
which were deeper than I had imagined. But on the down side, my carpet was much more in need of a good clean than I had imagined too.
The next chapter of this tale starts in four weeks time, on a Tuesday when I made my visit to the optician - thinking how well I was doing and how I would amaze her by how well I could rad the chart now. But she was amazed but not by that. My eye pressure which had always been about 15, was
now 40, and she said I needed to be seen in the hospital straight away. Not driving any more, and not having my bus pass or any money with me, I had to go home first. She didn't pull any punches. "If they don't get the pressure down fast, your eye might sort of explode, and you will be blind." So I took a taxi, not wanting to risk my exploded eye ball to the shock of the others on the bus.
I was given a hospital appointment for 11.30 but wasn't seen until nearly 1. I had been prepared with lunch and my phone, so I amused myself by sending messages to my children. I didn't tell them about the soon to explode eye ball. The doctor I saw in the eye casualty department said I was
in glaucoma crisis - caused by several possible things, probably due to the drops I had been taking, but they had to get the pressure down straight away. So I was taken to the treatment room, given two nasty tablets and some eye drops and told to wait an hour. She came and took the reading again after an hour, and it was still 40. So I had two more tablets and eye drops and said I had to wait two hours this time. When that time finally came, the pressure had dropped to 22, so
I could go home, first collecting a supply of nasty tablets and two more sets of eye drops. These tablets did the trick, but they had enormous side effects. I took a bus home, but I could hardly walk
straight, and felt enormously tired and uncoordinated. The doctor had made an appointment for me to go back to see them again on Friday. In the meantime I had received an appointment for my second eye to be done the following Wednesday. I asked the doctor when I was finally seen if I was well enough to go ahead with the next operation. He said to stop the strong medicine, to see if my body could cope on its own, and come back again on the next Tuesday. And the pressure did stay down, and it was then time for Act III.
I was less nervous for the second operation, and in fact it went better, even though my Mr. Euen dropped out and left his assistant to do the operation. I knew because of the very different accents, but I also wondered if he was scared I would repeat what I had done last time.
All the same, but no double vision this time. Mr Uyen told me that he expected that I would have a raise in pressure again with this eye. "Why not give me something else then?" I asked.
"There is nothing else that works as well, and you would feel like your eye was burning if you didn't have this." But this time I was scheduled to see the optician after two weeks. And again the result was the same, although the pressure was even higher this time - 53. I was told that if it got as high as 60, I would be admitted to the hospital proper and it really would be a crisis situation. Because it was quite late in the day by the time I was seen, they gave me tablets, eye drops and an injection directly into the blood stream. An hour's wait and after the clinic had officially closed down, I got my new old medicine from the pharmacy and there was even more of it and it had to be taken for a week this time. So I took a taxi home too.
But the after affects were not as bad, and on my follow up appointment last week, both my
eyes were given an A+ for having a pressure of 15.
So I thought as a reward, I would clean the cobwebs off the bedroom ceiling.