Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - November 21, 2014

I can see (almost) clearly now

A week ago Thursday, husband Art and I arrived at the surgery center at about 8:20, ten minutes before my appointment. I answered a few questions and signed release forms while the phone kept interrupting the receptionist.

"Hmm. That would drive me crazy pretty quickly," Art commented.

She chuckled softly, seemingly acknowledging that she understood completely.

Art was issued visitor ID tag number 17 and then we went to the adjacent waiting room. A little more than an hour passed before I was called. I was there for cataract surgery. Although the procedure to replace an afflicted lens has become a relatively routine one, I was a nervous Nellie and hadn't slept well the previous night. However, someone I know snored - I mean slept - soundly!

Despite being nervous, I was more than ready. For years, Art has been surprised how poorly I could see - or couldn't see - fine lettering. He had also noticed that some dishes he'd pull from the kitchen cabinets would occasionally have small spots on them - something that had never happened until recently. But I hadn't really been that aware of my declining sight until this past year. No matter how many times I rubbed or blinked my right eye, my vision was blurry. I could see OK to drive, read and do computer work, but the blurriness was irritating. Yet I think I sort of attributed the problem to just getting older.

Then, in July, I went to my optometrist, who informed me I had cataracts. He referred me to a local ophthalmologist, and she recommended surgery for both eyes. She also suggested that I get toric lenses to correct the astigmatism created by my irregular-shaped corneas. Since the right eye was the worst, we scheduled the procedure for it first.

When they were finished, they would call for Number 17 to come and collect me to take me home.

"Ah, the time has come - relegated to being just a number now," Art said, grinning.

A nurse escorted me beyond the double doors, and with the help of another, they prepped me for the operation. First, they put a blue "bonnet" over my hair, blue "slippers" over my shoes and a blue hospital gown over my clothes. Then, while one was taking my blood pressure and temperature and entering the numbers into her laptop, the other put an IV into my right hand.

"We're coming at you from all angles, aren't we?" one said.

The other asked me to check the laptop to make sure my name, address and birth date were correct. The type was small, causing me to wonder if it was another test to see if I really needed the procedure. I squinted and with some effort, noticed my name was listed as Gloria V. Freeland rather than Gloria B. Freeland. She notified the front desk to change it and made sure my wristband had the correct middle initial. She then asked me to point to and say out loud the eye they were going to work on. I pointed to my right one and said, "my right eye."

The anesthesiologist came in to explain that I wouldn't be asleep, but I'd be comfortable and wouldn't remember much.

Then I hopped onto a gurney and they wheeled me away. A sign at the end of my wheeled stretcher had my name and "Right Eye" in big bold letters. A few seconds after arriving in the operating room, I heard the doctor's voice. "Please tell all of us in this room which eye we're doing."

"My right eye," I replied again. "Wow, I guess they REALLY want to make sure they don't make a mistake!" I thought.

They strapped me down, including running some kind of restraint from the left side of my head across my forehead and over to the right side.

"We don't want you slipping away from us," the doctor said.

She may not have wanted it, but it happened. Almost immediately I slipped away right into la-la land. The next thing I recall was Art sitting next to me in the recovery room. I had a hard plastic "patch" with ventilation holes over my right eye and I felt really sleepy.

For the next few weeks, I have to put three kinds of drops - an antibiotic, a steroid and an anti-inflammatory drug - into my eye four times a day. I discovered this was something I'm not very good at. I tried, but somehow always managed to hit my cheek. So Number 17 has been assigned that duty, putting them in the eye each morning, noon, evening and bedtime.

For a few days, I even had to wear heavy-duty plastic sunglasses to protect my eye from the sun and wind. When youngest daughter Katie saw me, she told me they made me look old.

I chuckled. "You mean they're not sexy like what Hollywood stars wear?"

While I've never particularly liked wearing glasses, I had become completely accustomed to them. I started in sixth grade, and so for 50 years, the first thing I would do every morning before I crawled out of bed was reach for my spectacles.

But now I won't have to do that! Only two hours after the operation, I was at home sitting in my favorite recliner. Art had just put the last of the drops in my eye when I looked across the room at a painting Katie had made of Art's mother Donna. I could see it quite clearly with my right eye. And my post-op check confirmed it. I now have 20/20 distance vision in that eye.

Yet now I have a different problem. With no glasses, my right eye is great for distant work, but my left eye is useless. If I put my glasses on, it's reversed. But that should be resolved soon. Assuming everything continues as it has been, I'll have surgery on my left eye in December. Then I should see more clearly than I have since I was in elementary school. What a great Christmas present!

However, Number 17 has some misgivings. He says that now that he's moving into his senior years, it may be better my eyesight isn't so sharp!

The portrait at the left I gave Art shortly after we married. He hung it at his work, commenting it was probably going to be the only time he'd see me without my glasses - I was wearing contact lenses - except when I was sleeping. But as soon as I lose those black "old lady" shades on the right, he will be seeing me without spectacles often - although he's never going to see that much hair again!

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