Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Eye Surgery Story

My Eye Surgery Story

I have mentioned it before, but I was diagnosed late last year with cataracts in both my eyes, a condition that had literally crept up on me. While my diabetes made the situation worse faster, it was not the cause of the problem. In other words, I do not currently have to worry about diabetic retinopathy (which would be really bad news - possible eventual blindness bad news.)

But it did mean that to get my vision back to a state where it doesn't feel like I am looking at the world through a thick bridal veil, I would need to have surgery. The left eye first and then the right eye.

While outwardly I projected calm (not always successfully) internally, I was freaking out. Eye injuries have always been a bit of a phobia of mine. I suspect partly this has to with the fact that I have been a comics reader since I was about 6 years old when my Dad bought me my first comic, a Dr. Strange illustrated by Frank Brunner I think.

(My Dad really bought the comic for himself and used me as his beard. When I had my own money to buy comics, I began a love affair with the Legion of Super-Heroes.)

Comic books have long had a perverse fascination with eye injuries. This might have something to do with the fact that many comic book artists worked as freelancers and relied heavily on their eye-sight to be able to earn a living. Of course, one might wonder why there isn't a similar fetish for hand injuries?

Seriously, I had nightmares.
Joe Shuster, the Canadian-born artist of the original Superman comics, eventually went blind. It was partly his condition that shamed Warner Brothers into giving Siegel and Shuster a life-time pension and health benefits when the first Christoper Reeves Superman film was about to come out. One could argue that the eye injury motif was an unconscious expression of the anger and guilt felt by comic book artists over the neglect of a man whose artwork essentially launched the comic book industry. Great theory, but since much of the eye-injury artwork happened before Shuster started going blind, it requires a very mischievous time-travelling editor to make it work.

My first surgery was scheduled for last Tuesday. Because I am diabetic I get to be operated on first thing in the morning, with my surgery scheduled for 7AM. I got to the Royal Vic a little after 6:30 AM just as they were opening the doors to the admitting department and taking people's health cards and hospital cards. My hospital card had my name misspelled ("Micheal") and the name of my street catastrophically misspelled ("Watcohrn") but my general philosophy with stuff like that is not to complain to people who can do a lot worse to you than spit in your soup.

And some daymares.
(As it turns out, the admitting secretary was a bit of a stickler for details and eventually corrected all the mistakes which I appreciated.)

Once the door was open, the waiting game started as about twenty-five people, some patients, some friends and family of patients patiently waited for thehir names to float to the top. I was eventually seen about 7:15 AM. As soon as I sat down, the phone rang on the secretary's desk,

"Yes, he's here. He's right in front of me. No, he wasn't late. Yes, he will be up in five minutes."

And from that point onward I was being rushed around like a white rabbit with someone else holding the watch and yelling that I was late, late for a very important date. Which naturally led to me being even further late as the admitting nurse led me to the changing room, left me to change, but never bothered to mention that I was supposed to come back to her office when I was done changing.

No, not this kind of dream.
Then the other huge obstacle was that I had to choose my new lens, a choice that no one had bothered to mention until that point I would have to make. The admitting nurse was quite cross with me that I was unable to give me a quick choice.

"The hard lens is free. The soft lens is $300.00."

"What's the difference?"

"The soft lens is better for diabetics."


"You will have to ask your doctor."

All of this time, every time someone has something to say to me or ask me they are simultaneously dropping a small river into my left eyeball, so by the time I make it down to the operating room, my left eye is better hydrated than a fish and I am confused and petrified.
Knife to the Eye! the surgeon said.

The operating room roll call is guy who is wheeling me from the eye clinic to the operating room, operating room nurse, anesthesiologist,  anesthesiologist's assistant, Dr. Galic, my eye doctor and surgeon and Dr. Galic's British sounding assistant who finally explained, literally seconds away from me being sedated, why I wanted the $300.00 soft lens instead of the free hard lens.

"We can fold the soft lens so we need to make a smaller hole to insert it."

"Is there a lens where you don't have to make a hole at all? Because I would like that one."

"Fraid Not."

"Right. I am all in favour of smaller holes in my eyes. Soft lens it is."

The Gay Pirate
And with that it is all happy drugs, look up, look at the ceiling, look up, look at the ceiling, keep looking at the ceiling, seriously the ceiling watch it, I don't mean to alarm you but that ceiling seems suspicious better keep an eye on it and we are done and I am being wheeled back to the elevator and the eye clinic. .

They stuck a blue and silver eye-patch (perforated with holes so I could see) on me and my vision improved immediately like flipping a switch, even if I ended up looking like a gay pirate according to my girlfriend. Because I was wearing a patch, the left side of my vision saw perfectly clearly for the first time since Vladimir Guerrero played right field for the Expos, while my right side was cloudy like there was a roll of gauze between me and the world. Which was always there, but I was never really aware of it, because I had nothing to compare it to and my eyesight had deteriorated so gradually and in both eyes.

I have seen the world through Harvey's eyes.
With one side super sharp operating at 110% and the other side limping around at about 20%, I quite litearlly felt like I was seeing the world the way that Two-Face does.

(When I mentioned this to my Dad, he said, "... Or Jonah Hex" because he is a secret comics nerd.)

The next day in Dr. Galic's office (where I spent two hours cooling my heels and resting my eyes) I got my marching instructions: two different sets of eye-drops each one drop four times a day with a five to ten minute gap between each drop. (As I am sure you can imagine for a klutz like your truly getting the drops into my eyes rather than anywhere but, is a bit of an adventure.) I am to wear the patch at night when I sleep to prevent me from pawing at the eye, a bit like making a dog wear those goofy plastic collars. I don't have to wear the patch during the day - which is a good thing, because besides making me look like a Gay Pirate, wearing the match also makes me invisible to waitresses and taxi drivers.

I was expecting Dr. Galic to ask me to wear sunglasses to protect my new left eye, but in fact he wanted me to do the exact opposite,  to exercise the eye as much as possible. he did warn me that since the retina of my left eye was dilated, my vision might be a little wonky at first and in fact that Wednesday, St-Catherine's did seem over-exposed like a badly taken or badly developed photograph.

We are here for your eye sir.
It has also proved a bit challenging getting my two eyes to operate in stereo with one being so much stronger than the other. (Although oddly, the right eye is better at reading - what little of that that I am doing currently. It is also somewhat better at helping me work on the computer and do things like write this blog.

I am scheduled to have the right eye done at the end of April. About six weeks after both eyes have been done, I may need to get reading glasses for reading and using the computer.  I also haven't quite got around to paying the Royal Vic for the lens. (I am still a bit ticked off about not being told about the options ahead of time.) Think they will send Jude Law to repossess?

Wonder if that enlarged eye helped make Jonah a better tracker?
Until then, I am Two-Facing (Jonah Hexing?) my way around life with a strange blind spot in my right-side peripheral vision. 


One Final Post-Script

After apologizing for my medical team leaving me so poorly briefed on my lens choices, Dr. Galic explained another reason for soft over hard lenses.

"Since we started using the soft lens, we no longer have 70 year-olds who have had this surgery falling down and their globes splitting open like a grape."

All things considered, I am happy that I picked the non-exploding eyeballs option for my lens.


It occurs to me on re-reading this that a casual reader might assume that I am somewhat less than grateful to my doctors. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am delighted to be able to see this well out of left eye and desperately looking forward to being able to see this well out of my right eye.

On the other hand, it can be a bit annoying to go to your eye doctor's clinic, arrive on time for a scheduled appointment, pay $40 for eye-drops and then wait for 2 hours to be seen.

($40 for eye-drops that probably cost them a nickel, because that is legal to do while charging $40 to see the doctor and giving you the eye-drops for free is illegal. "The Law is a ASS")

On the gripping hand, sometimes I'm a dick.


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