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I can see clearly now

I can see clearly now
Published: 
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
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Photo by:Tamika Amora

It's been almost a year since I had cataract surgery and joined the "eye drops" lime; the "having to be driven home" embarrassment and the "sit down with bandaged eyes" posse.

Yes, having a cataract operation is a real coming of age hammer. One day you are happily driving around without realising you are seeing the world through your very own yellow-tinted lenses, the next day you understand why people wear shades. The process through which one comes to that can be quite demoralising and perhaps explains why so many refuse the surgery. It's akin, I suppose to being told that your hearing is going and you need hearing aids.

I had no hesitation when my long-time optometrist told me, I think you need surgery. Driving home through Santa Cruz, Christmas Eve before last, I had difficulty seeing the edge of the road and ran up onto the grass on a curve. I had not been drinking so as soon as the Christmas celebrations ended I was in her office.

The ophthalmologist, a former student of mine, was equally certain. After the measurements and so on, with a great variety of instruments, by some very competent and understanding office staff, a date was set and one Friday I duly presented myself at the surgery in St Augustine at 7 am, and was home by 10.30.

Except for the indignity of having to put on one of those open-backed hospital gowns, obviously designed to make men feel inadequate, the actual operation lasted a painless 15 minutes. I was fully awake, saw a lot of flashing lights during the procedure, my ophthalmologist and the operating nurse talked to me calmly and reassuringly during the entire procedure and nursey said, as I was wheeled out of surgery, with a normal pulse and BP, if you feeling well, yuh cud go home now.

So I jumped off the stretcher, hurriedly dressed and walked outside into the glare, feeling that there should be a great trumpet sounding and people cheering. My wife said to me, already? And drove me home, eye bandaged for 24 hours and nobody came to see me. Steups!

Next day I started the great eye drops journey where you put a drop in the affected eye six times a day for the first week, then five times a day for the second week, then four times a day for the third week, by which time you are so confused you putting drops any time you remember, until the sixth week when, heaven-you put one drop a day and give your wife some time off by herself.

I did not have to stay in bed, stop walking around the Savannah, stop bending, lifting and was back in the office in 72 hours. There was very mild discomfort for a day or two and it needed no treatment.

Two weeks later, the second eye was done. The procedure was repeated, no problem, no pain, good vision, if limited and I said to myself, suckeye!

Who send me?

First of all you have to wait for the eyes to settle and for your brain to come to terms with the new visual processes. The new glasses have to wait until then and that time period varies, about six weeks or so. In the meantime I am driving around without glasses because far vision is great but I cannot see well up close so I can't tell what speed I am going but I can see everybody's license number and who they driving with. I buy several pairs of those cheap "readers" they sell in the pharmacy, since my close vision seemed to change, for the better, every other week. And the sky, which used to be a grey blue hue, is so blue! So clear and blue!

Then on one of the follow up visits at the optometrist, I am told that I have developed some scar tissue which needs to be "zapped". Full of hesitation I present myself to the ophthalmologist who says, no problem, sit down there, press your eye there, don't move, the machine went "zizz"; "zizz"; "zizz"; " six times, and he said, nice, yuh cud go now.

So everything seems to be going good until I realise that I am having trouble reading. When I try to focus on a word, it seems to vanish and I have to look around the side of the word to see it! My central vision was going. You have swelling in the centre of the retina, Doc, said the former medical student, yuh doh remember that from med school? Of course you, of all people, being a doctor, must get it!

Turns out the treatment for this complication is injections into the eye. Ugg! It sounded awful. In reality, it's an office procedure performed under topical anesthesis (more drops!) in which medication is placed inside the eye by a very small needle. I was initially told I might need three injections into each eye. Apart from a slight initial sting, there was no pain and I needed the injection once.

These were minor stepbacks. I recommend the operation unreservedly. You don't have to go away either. I still have some irritating problems. Glare, so I now know why people wear shades. Dry eyes, so eye drops to moisturise.

But the advantages! I went to the Oval the other day. Before the operation I could not follow the flight of the ball as it left the bowler's hand nor its course if driven to the boundary. I missed catches and LBW's were beyond me. I couldn't understand how half-drunk people could see better than me. Last week I watched a fast bowler pitch up just outside the off stump, saw the ball curl slightly away, the batsman drive, edge and watched the ball as it proceeded straight into the wicketkeeper's gloves. Lovely and worth everything!

Last week I watched a fast bowler pitch up just outside the off stump, saw the ball curl slightly away, the batsman drive, edge and watched the ball as it proceeded straight into the wicketkeeper's gloves. Lovely and worth everything!