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Two Days After Cataract Surgery

Updated on May 30, 2013

It is exactly 49 hours and 40 minutes since my cataract surgery.

I've been chomping at the bit to write an article about the experience, but I needed to rest my eyes--both the right eye which experienced the surgical trauma and the left eye which has been stressed to a greater degree during this time. Besides, my vision was partially clouded for the first day.

There are three different kinds of drops that I'm applying on a regular regimen to my right eye to facilitate its healing while safeguarding against infection.

About three years ago, during an eye examination, I learned that I had a cataract forming in my right eye. The optician informed me that the cataract was still small and that surgery was unnecessary at the time.

Last year, while updating my vision prescription and purchasing two new pairs of glasses--a transitional trifocal for everyday usage and another pair for the hours of work I do in front of a computer screen. The cataract diagnosis was confirmed, and so was the advisory that the situation did not yet warrant surgery.

Then, about three or four months ago, I noticed increasing cloudiness in my vision accompanied by bloodshot eyes and eye fatigue. My wife told me about a personable optometrist in Walla Walla whose professional service had really been of great benefit to her and our adult son and daughter. True to my gender-specific denial and avoidance of doctors, I initially put up a fuss. In the end, though, because my online work was becoming more and more difficult by the day, I waved the proverbial white flag.

In hindsight (funny I should put it that way), I'm glad I did. The eye doctor said that he could see my cataract with his naked eye (wow! two eye cliches in the same paragraph!). He told me that it wasn't the usual kind of cataract. This one resembled spokes of a wheel that were invading peripherally and headed towards the center. He strongly recommended cataract surgery.

He added that my left eye had a cataract developing as well. That was a surprise! He reminded me that he wasn't an ophthalmologist, but to the degree that his level of professional expertise allowed him to opine, he did not think the left eye's cataract warranted surgery. Although his tests revealed that I needed a new prescription, he advised me that it would be wiser to wait until after cataract surgery to obtain yet another prescription due to the inevitable change in vision.

A couple of weeks or so later, I had a consultation with the eye surgeon. His office staff had me fill out the obligatory paperwork, and the optician ran the initial tests. I found the personnel to be very friendly and accommodating. My initial anxiety and hesitation soon disappeared, and my emotional state paralleled the sensation of landing in a perfectly comfortable easy chair.

Dr. G, the ophthalmologist, reminded me of Hawkeye, the tall, lanky, and witty surgeon on MASH. He even looked a bit like Alan Alda.

With an easy boyish grin, Dr. G showed me, with the use of a 3-D model, what a healthy eye looked like in contrast to an eye with a cataract.

The information was most interesting to me, and I remember pondering how very much I'd taken my eyes for granted.

Dr. G briefly went over the surgical procedure. Essentially, a couple of things happen during cataract surgery. First, the clouded lens is eradicated. Then, a clear artificial lens is implanted.

The surgical method the ophthalmologist would use on me was called phacoemulsification. In this procedure, the surgeon would make a tiny incision in the front of my eye and insert a needle-thin probe. He would then use the probe, which transmits ultrasound waves, to emulsify or break up the cataract and suction out the fragments of tissue. The backdrop of my lens would remain in place as a surface upon which the artificial lens would then rest. If things had gone successfully up to this point, there would be no need for any sutures.

The clear artificial implant is known as an intraocular lens. The IOL is made of plastic, acrylic, or silicone. (As I write this, I can report that I neither see or feel the lens. What's convenient is that it requires no care and becomes a permanent part of my eye.)

The IOL Dr. G used on me is flexible and requires no stitches. The eye surgeon folds this type of lens and inserts it into the empty capsule where my God-given lens used to be. Once inside the eye, like a butterfly emerging from a coccoon, the folded IOL unfolds, thus filling the capsule. In pre-operation tests, the eye is painstakingly measured to ensure a perfect fit.

The doctor then went over the risks of surgery, utilizing the same carefree and lighthearted delivery. Honestly, his upbeat mood lifted my spirits even as my anxiety level began rising like an out of control elevator.

Sensing my emotional agitation, the doctor simultaneously reassured me while providing me with the necessary disclaimer--"I'm a very good surgeon, but I'm not God." The fact that he said this, and the comforting way in which he said it, helped me to trust him all the more.

"Here are the risks," he added. "While these conditions are unlikely, I still need to go over them with you."

  • Vision loss
  • Persistent pain despite the use of over-the-counter medication
  • Increased eye redness
  • Light flashes or multiple spots (floaters) in front of one's eye
  • Nausea, vomiting, or excessive coughing
  • Death

As you may have guessed, I did ask a few questions about the last condition. Pretty much, it had more to do with complications that involved optically unrelated pre-existing conditions such as cardiovascular problems, difficulties with anesthiology, etc.

(I'm at Starbucks on Main Street in downtown Walla Walla as I compose this hub, and a trip to the restroom revealed a slight bloodshot tinge in my right eye. I'm thus compelled to bring this to a close. Normally, an abundance of these editorial comments detract from the core integrity of a well-written article, but I wanted my readers to receive as much of a real time, by proxy, experience as I could possibly present in this piece.)

On the day of surgery, I had to report to the Walla Walla General Hospital two hours prior to the procedure. I exchanged my aloha shirt for a hospital gown. I remember being thankful for the opportunity to keep my trousers and socks on.

The hospital staff were so good to me, bending over backwards to make my time there as pleasant and comfortable as possible. I thought it was pretty cool that the student nurse who took my vitals had been a fellow athlete on my son's basketball team at Walla Walla Valley Academy. The female RN who took inventory of my health history, current status, and miscellaneous information for the computer database had been a barber of mine twenty-five years ago. Administering a regimen of eye drops was an LPN who just happened to be my neighbor across the creek that serves as a natural boundary between our homes.The anesthesiologist present in the operating room (in the event that I needed more sedation) was the mother of a girl who had been a classmate of my son.

The OR assistant who wheeled me down the corridor was especially personable and comforting. He constantly tapped me on the shoulder or arm as he spoke to me during the trip to the procedure. The mild sedative that the LPN had administered under my tongue had started to give me a somewhat euphoric feeling. I didn't remember what the surgically gowned and capped gentleman said to me, but I do remember feeling calm and reassured by his kind words.

In the operating room, Dr. G, true to form, was full of levity and easy conversation with both his staff and me. While I honestly can't remember all that transpired, I remember that a sheet was placed over my entire body, even my face, and that a hole was made in the area of my right eye.

An oozy substance serving as a local anesthetic was put into my eye. All I remember from this point on were the following sensations or events:

  • When asked if I was doing alright, I commented about the operating room ambience--"I feel like I'm in MASH !"
  • Dr. G asked for my permission to pray with me, to which I responded with a hearty, "Absolutely!" (Earlier, the chaplain of the hospital had prayed with me in my hospital room. I really appreciated the spiritual aspect of my short stay there.)
  • I was surprised to be conscious during the entire procedure.
  • It seemed like I was looking at a cloudy tunnel with a bright light at the end. (I silently hoped that I wasn't looking at a portal to the afterlife.)
  • Though I cringed during the procedure, I felt no pain whatsoever.
  • The entire procedure seemed so short, like five minutes in duration, but that may have been due in part to my mild sedation. In reality, it may have lasted about fifteen minutes.

When I returned to my hospital room, I ordered a huge breakfast. After some last minute vitals were taken, a volunteer, accompanied by my wife who happened to be working on a different floor that morning, wheeled me across a short walkway to the doctor's office where an eye pressure check was administered.

My wife then drove me home and returned to work. I rested for a few minutes, placed some drops in my eyes, and remained calm and relatively inactive for a few hours.

In the afternoon, I caught a bus ride back to the office. Dr. G had a short session with me and then dismissed me. As I was leaving the office, the optician handed me a fruit basket, compliments of the doctor and his staff.

Wow! What a great experience!

Cataract surgery is the most common procedure in our country, if not the entire world. It is a relatively safe and complication-free surgery, and if one follows the regimen of eye drops and follow-up visits faithfully, the prognosis for successful and long-lasting healing is statistically outstanding!

In a couple of weeks, I get to go back and have cataract surgery in my left eye. Strangely enough, I can hardly wait!

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  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Congratulations! I'm also happy to hear that things have gone very well for you. When I go walking, I can see clearly the cross traffic two miles down the road. What I have great difficulty with are the things up close, like a menu at a restaurant, a book, etc. I rely heavily on my reading glasses. Glad you stopped by to share in this hub experience. Aloha from SE Washington!

    Joe

  • wilderness profile image

    Dan Harmon 3 years ago from Boise, Idaho

    Good to hear of your success with your cataract surgery. I have now had both eyes done, along with YAG laser surgery on both eyes at a later date.

    I couldn't be happier. I don't even carry glasses with me any more; although a restaurant can be difficult to read in the typically dim light I can do it for short periods. Computer usage gives me no problem without glasses, and the night time driving trouble is gone as well.

    I think the biggest shock was coming out of surgery the first time and seeing my white kitchen. I didn't realize that I had been seeing it as a rather dingy yellow for months or years; the purity of that brilliant white paint was a huge surprise.

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @KoffeeKlatch Gals

    Hi, Sue!

    Both eyes were done, two weeks apart, back in May of last year. There were minor complications with the left eye, but all is well. Just a matter of keeping both well-lubricated with OTC artificial tears, such as the brand(s) found at WalMart, etc. I'm happy to report that I had, overall, a very pleasant experience. The doctor and the hospital staff at Walla Walla General were superb! Thanks for sharing your time and comments, Sue! Aloha!

  • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

    Susan Haze 4 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Joe,

    I enjoyed your journey through eye surgery. It gives me a heads up on what to expect. Good luck with your other eye. Aloha and best wishes.

    Sue

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    You know, if I'd stopped to really think twice about what the surgery was all about, I would have totally felt the same way. Thank you very much for your kind and supportive words. Once I get the second eye done and obtain new prescription glasses, I should have greater comfort when reading and writing. As always, I really appreciate your comments. Continued best wishes!

  • wetnosedogs profile image

    wetnosedogs 5 years ago from Alabama

    Hope your eye is doing well. Keep us updated on this and your next surgery. I had a friend who had cataracts removed and after the healing process, she was surprised how well she could see now. Sorry, didn't watch the videos. I'd just get squeamish. If I need anything surgical thing done, put me to sleep and wake me up when it's done!

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    I just read with great interest and appreciation your hub, kashmir 56, on the same topic. Thank you so much for sharing your personal experience and for taking time to encourage and wish me well on my next surgery. I take comfort in knowing that our experiences have been positive ones and that the sharing of these events will be encouraging and comforting to others. Best wishes to you, and continued success on HubPages!

  • kashmir56 profile image

    Thomas Silvia 5 years ago from Massachusetts

    Hi hawaiianodysseus, just enjoyed reading your adventure of going through cataract surgery, i to have just had this type of surgery and i to could not wait to have my other eye done . I just saw my eye surgeon last week and he told me my eyes have healed well i do not have to see him any more.I had a eye exam last week to and will be getting my reading glasses sometime this week. I wish you much luck with the surgery on your other eye and hope you do well so you can enjoy great vision and see as well has i do now. This surgery is amazing and so easy with awesome results . I wrote a hub about it to.

    Vote up and more !!!

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