Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What it Feels Like to Have Cataract Surgery (Video)

Like I said, it was my time. My eyesight had deteriorated due to cataracts and I was having a tough time doing my photography and travel writing.

So the day came for my surgery. I arrived at the surgi-center at the appointed time accompanied by my good friend, also a food and travel writer. I was checked in, given my patient bracelet (asked about my spiritual needs, even) and sent to the waiting room, interestingly named after a local park. I guess that was to comfort me!

I was told that I would be there at the surgi-center two to three hours. And, my surgeon added, "you'll be in the OR at 11 a.m. and out the door at 11:30 a.m." Wow! Of course I didn't believe it. Doesn't something always come up?

At 9:30 I was called in, weighed and taken to the back where a crisp-sheeted gurney awaited me. I think that was about the third time I had been asked my name, DOB and what I was there for. It was the left eye... left eye!

I was hooked up to a blood pressure monitor, my finger was clipped by a device that measured oxygen saturation in my blood and then leads were applied to my chest so my heart could be monitored. All that for a 15 minute surgery, I thought!  But one never knows what will happen, I guess. I had given the admitting clerk my Advance Directive forms. All was in order. If today was to be my last day, I could honestly say I had lived a good life.

I laid down and felt relaxed under the warm blanket. The nursing assistant and nurse positioned pillows under my head and legs so I'd be comfy. (Actually, I'd be most comfy lying on my own couch after it was all over!).

They were great. They explained everything. I expected the IV and the RN inserted the IV line into my hand. It barely hurt. She also asked me which eye was going to be done. The left eye... left eye! And marked it on my brow over the left eye, of course. I was sure no mistakes could be made. She said the surgeon would come in and mark my eye too!

And, then the nurse said she'd be giving me some sedative.... just a little bit. She did. I didn't feel any different. I thought I was relaxed any way. In a while she said she'd give me a bit more. I still didn't feel much different. I closed my eyes and listened to all the conversations around me.

Eye drops were instilled, everything was checked and re-checked. And then my surgeon came in to say hello and make sure to mark over the correct eye... the left eye... left eye! I now had two marks over my left brow.

I felt fine as they wheeled me into the operating room. It was cold. I had a full team there. I think there were three nurses and my surgeon. Everyone was very professional and had introduced themselves. I was ready.

My surgeon explained everything, step by step. Of course I had watched cataract surgeries on You Tube (my favorite is above) so I pretty much knew what to expect. My main fear was that I would feel something I didn't expect and not know how to react. I told my surgeon that I wasn't sure what "pressure on my eye" would feel like or if I would react. The nurse had advised me that if I felt uncomfortable, had to sneeze or anything, just to say "Doctor" and the surgeon would make sure I was cared for.

So the procedure went on. My eye was gooped up good with a not very watery substance that would keep me from feeling anything. A plastic drape was put over my eye to catch the water they would be using in my eye, a device to keep air circulating was put there and then the surgeon made a slit in the plastic so she could access my eyeball.

Once they got all that done, it was time for the microscope with the bright lights. She said, "look at the three lights." Heck, that was my bad eye. All I saw was one blurry light. So I stared at it trying my best to be a good patient. Before I knew it, the incision was made. (I only knew because my surgeon told me!).

Then the destruction of the lens with the cataract began. Then the washing out and scraping out of the destroyed lens commenced. And, finally the "polishing" of the sac. Then, the highly awaited event.... the placement of my new lens! Yay! Throughout the process I kept my gaze fixed on the lights. Colors changed but it wasn't uncomfortable.

All that took about 15 minutes and the lights were removed, the drape removed and... ugh!, the removal of the adhesive around my eye socket. That was all that hurt! Rip....

And then, I was wheeled out to the recovery nurse who got rid of my leads, IV and "party hat." As I sat up and transferred to the chair, I was offered juice and crackers. I was very hungry and needed something in my stomach. My friend was invited in to hear the discharge instructions with me and... just as I had been told, I was out the door at 11:30 a.m.

I was walking just fine although the ugly cataract glasses they gave me made me unsure of my vision in either eye. There was no bandage on the left eye. Just my now ineffective glasses and the fit over sunglasses. I was glad no one except my friend could see me. I was certain I was not looking a bit fashionable!

Then it was into the elevator and into the car. As we drove onto the busy street I thought... "I'm free... it's over and I survived!"
This is the thank you note given to me upon discharge.
A well-oiled machine!

Next: The Recovery Process