A baby boomer actually enjoyed cataract surgery

Well, there’s no getting around it: sometimes we baby boomers have little things go wrong with our bodies. For Philadelphia writer Roz Warren, something had been going downhill for a long time, which finally put her under the knife. Which is where the rest of the story becomes a surprise because Roz says, “I actually enjoyed cataract surgery, and how cool is that?!?”

If you’re a Boomer, you might be looking at cataract surgery in the near future. Rather, you might be trying to look at it — everything is so blurry these days that, really, you can’t see a damn thing.

Having a cataract removed is quick and easy. And your doc can even insert a lens during the procedure to improve your vision!

Cataract surgery

Cataract surgery

So naturally, when I developed cataracts, I rushed to schedule surgery. NOT! I put it off as long as I could.

First, I couldn’t see well enough to drive at night. Soon I couldn’t drive during the day either. I had to switch to large-print books. And forget about reading a menu.

And when friends began to hum the “Mr. Magoo” theme song as they watched me squint and stumble through my day, I knew I had no choice; I scheduled surgery to remove the cataract in my right eye. (You have to do them one at a time.)

Roz Warren

Roz Warren

So what’s cataract surgery actually like?

First, I had to pass a routine physical, and an EKG. Then, after a pre-op visit with my ophthalmologist where my eye was examined and measured, surgery was scheduled at a nearby outpatient clinic.

Cataract surgery means learning whether there’s anyone you can count on to devote 24 hours of their life to taking care of you. Your DCSC (Designated Cataract Surgery Companion) has to bring you to the clinic, take you home afterwards, then stick around for another day, just in case.

If they also enjoy administering eye drops, that’s a plus.

That’s because this surgery is all about the eye drops. I was prescribed different three kinds (in tiny color-coded containers), which I began using several days before surgery, and will continue to need (up to 9 drops daily) for weeks.

The day before the procedure, I got a call from my doc’s office. “You’re scheduled for 9:30. Get to the clinic an hour early. And remember not to eat or drink anything after midnight.“

An hour later, the outpatient clinic phoned to deliver the same message. Great! I love redundancy, especially when it comes to medical procedures.

Then, at 8 o’clock that night, Dr. Greenbaum himself phoned to repeat the information one more time. Terrific! But also, to an anxious person like myself, a little troubling. “Why is he still working at this hour?” I fretted to Mark, my Designated Cataract Surgery Companion. “He’d better go home soon and get a good night’s sleep.”

Surgery Day! I woke up (desperately missing that morning cup of coffee I wasn’t allowed to have), showered, donned comfortable, loose-fitting clothing, and was driven to the clinic.

Paperwork completed, I was escorted by a friendly nurse to the pre-op area. I stretched out on a gurney. My doc, in scrubs, turned up to touch base with me and put numbing drops in my eye.

He’d be performing half a dozen procedures that day, but was reassuringly bright-eyed and alert. (Of course, I’d checked out his rep with the local docs I knew. “A real pro,” I’d been told, “with good, steady hands.” )

From the moment I’d arrived at the clinic, I was asked one question by every staff member I encountered.

“You’re having the right eye done today?”

“It’s the right eye?“

“We’re operating on your right eye today?”

Yup. You bet. Yes. The right eye is indeed the correct eye. Thanks for asking. I don’t want to go to all that trouble for the wrong eye.

The pre-op nurse started an IV and covered me with a warm blanket. Then? More eye drops! Over the next 15 minutes, as far as my right eye was concerned, it was raining eye drops. My doc circled back a number of times to peer into the eye and add more. My nurse got into the act too.

The anesthesiologist turned up to tell me about the drugs I’d be on during the procedure. “We’ll be heading over to the OR in a few minutes,” said Dr. Greenbaum.

“How are you feeling?” asked the nurse.

“Anxious,” I admitted.

“Don’t you worry. We’re about to give you a sedative to take care of that.”

I was wheeled down a corridor into the Operating Room, positioned beneath a large round white light, then given that promised sedative.

And the fun began!

The instructional pre-op video had informed me that my doc would be making a small incision, breaking up the cataract, then removing it and placing a corrective lens in my eye. This was something I’d anticipated enduring, not enjoying. To have somebody poking around in my eye, no matter how sedated I was? Yuck.

But, for me at least, cataract surgery was an oddly pleasant experience.

kaleidoscopeAs I gazed up into that big round white light, ornate patterns began to form, re-form, and move slowly about. Fascinating! I knew the lovely drifting patterns were being made by the doc breaking up and removing the cataract, but I didn’t care. They were so beautiful! Eye surgery? What eye surgery? I just lay there, happily enjoying my own private light show.

It felt as if I were inside of a fabulous kaleidoscope.

Moments later, I was in the recovery room, with a clear plastic disc taped over my eye. And with a few post-op instructions, we were out of there.

Total elapsed time between arriving at the clinic and leaving again, sans cataract? Two hours.

I’d been warned that I could feel some post-op pain, but I didn’t need a single aspirin. (The most painful thing about the whole procedure will undoubtedly be battling with my insurer to get them to fully cover it.) And by day’s end, my right eye could see clearly, without glasses, for the first time since I was a kid.

Cataract surgery? It was amazing. I can’t wait to get the other eye done.

So for all my peeps who need to get their peepers fixed? Go for it! You won‘t regret it. Good luck! (And enjoy the light show.)

    4 Comments

    1. Cataract surgery was without a doubt the weirdest of the many surgeries I’ve had. It is, btw, the most common surgery in the US. I’ve had both my eyes done… and was given what they call mono vision, which means one eye that sees distance and the other that sees close up. it took quite a while for my brain to totally adjust to that, but now I’m very glad I have it… I don’t need glasses at all, ever… u less the type is absolutely minuscule. anyway, the first surgery was as Roz has described it… very thorough and very quick. only one caveat… I was very confident in my doctors ability, so I skipped the sedative. very bad idea. once they started the procedure, I was so anxious, I wanted to bolt… and would have had there been any way. it was, however, quick, painless and totally successful, as described above. my head did a few summersaults during the operation, but it was all good. the second time, I took the happy juice and it was over in the blink of an eye (no pun intended). which brings me back to my initial statement about how weird it is. when they sedate you, they can’t knock you all the way out… you have to stay awake so you can look in a certain direction… they don’t want your eye wandering off to Venus in the middle of the procedure. so here you are, watch them do the surgery using the eye they’re doing the surgery on to watch! it totally crazy! but when your lens shatters and you see the kaleidoscope effect, it gets even weirder, but suddenly more interesting as well. they when they insert the new lens and you can see almost immediately, it’s truly amazing! weird, yes… but very, very cool! one of the best, simplest, most effective procedures I’ve ever had… and I highly recommend monovision… who needs glasses anyway?

    2. Mike, I am now (oddly) looking forward to this procedure (for the benefit of mono vision). Even though I don’t have a hint of cataracts yet. You have definitely taken the mystery out of it for me and I appreciate that.

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