By Chester Campbell
After reading my colleague Ben Small's recent post on the horrors of visiting your dentist's office, I thought I might give a more positive view on my experiences with the ophthalmologist. It won't be nearly as funny as Ben's hilarious piece, but it might give you a little better feeling if you or a friend run afoul of the dreaded cataract condition.
First, a little history. In the fall of 1947, about the time I started my junior year in journalism at the University of Tennessee, I got a job as a reporter for The Knoxville Journal, the city's morning daily newspaper. The offices were in a building on Gay Street that had once housed an arcade. The news room was on the second floor, which appeared to have been added by closing in the two-story open area. The ceiling was low, marked by a cross-hatch of wooden beams that kept the lights from illuminating beyond a limited area. I felt that poor lighting contributed to my need for glasses by 1950, when I was twenty-five.
Fast-forward some sixty years. My eye doctor had been telling me I had cataracts that were growing. She advised not doing anything about them unless it began to bother me as the surgery might affect the AMD, age-related macular degeneration, in my right eye. But since being diagnosed with AMD several years ago, the disease had not progressed thanks to high-powered vitamin pills called Preservision.
I've had problems seeing to drive at night for a good while, which the doctor attributed to my cataracts. When we got caught out after dark a couple of months ago and I was unable to see an interstate access ramp because of the lights from oncoming cars, I decided it was time for a change. The doctor agreed and set me up for cataract surgery. I didn't realize that along with removing the cataracts, which are a clouding of the lens, they can make permanent improvements in your vision by replacing the old lens with an implant that corrects your problem, which in my case was severe nearsightedness.
The surgery itself was simple, totally without pain. I went into the day surgery center, got set up with an IV (the only pain was a small stick when the needle went in), had a bunch of drops put in my eye, then got a dose of anesthesia which left me able to talk to the doctor but feel nothing of what she was doing. After the operation, she put a patch over my eye, I got dressed, and went home.
She did the right eye first, which was the weaker and also the one with AMD. The day following surgery, I went to the doctor's office and they took off the bandage. Voila! I could see things across the room without glasses. Colors were brighter. Whites were whiter. Two weeks later, she did the left eye. The acid test came tonight (I'm writing this on Monday) when I drove for the first time since surgery. The darkness didn't bother me at all. I could see great without glasses. It's miraculous.
Because I was so nearsighted, the doctor put in a lens to correct my far vision, but I still need a slight magnification for reading and using the computer. Currently I'm using a pair of drug store glasses with minimum magnification, which works fine.
The only problem, which is hardly a problem, is that I have three little bottles of drops I have to use in both eyes. Four times a day for the first week, then tapering off. They're primarily to prevent infection, which is the major complication, and inflammation. I have two sets of bottles, since each eye is on a different schedule.
We walk daily (as much as possible) at the mall, and it's a real treat to see all the colorful stores in bright array. Since I thought I could see pretty well before with my glasses, I didn't realize how dull my vision had become. For the past few years, I've also had a bit of trouble separating blue from green. I can now see blue big and bright again. I'm currently wearing sunglasses even if it's only a cloudy bright day, since the whiteness of the clouds is so striking. I'm told it takes about a month for your eyes to settle down to the way they're going to be, but if it gets any better I don't know if I can stand it.
Bottom line: if you have cataract problems, get rid of 'em.
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