Too close… too far… juuuust right!

So… it’s been a weird progression over the last few years. First, I find out my eyes are getting worse and go to get a new prescription for my glasses. The optometrist tells me I have cataracts but can correct for them with lenses in the meantime. Then it progresses to even worse and I get my optometrist to schedule me for surgery. We don’t bother upgrading my prescription because, well, my eyes would just quickly get worse and the money would have been wasted.

Over the six months waiting for my surgery my eyes do get steadily worse. Pretty soon my prescription glasses don’t seem to make much difference at all. Then, at my eye measurement appointment, the doctor suggests I simply get some cheap drug store reading glasses. I take her suggestion and find reading glasses with a +2.0 rating allow me to read again. Joy! Sure the frames are kind of small and the arms dig into my head above my ears, but it’s a small price to pay to be able to read again.

Then, the surgery, and my left eye clears up like never before. I haven’t seen this clearly since I was in my twenties. It’s glorious. The doctor tests me the following morning and says, for distance vision, I have 20/20. For close up work, though, they’re completely unfocused. I definitely will need reading glasses.

Now, however, the cheap reading glasses I got from the drug store only let me read when the book / computer / text / whatever is fairly close to my face. Working on a computer at a table becomes awkward again. I have to drag the monitor close to my face for the text to become clear.

Today I went back to the drug store willing to pay another thirty to forty dollars to find the right quasi-prescription that lets me read at arms’ length.

My discovery? The more powerful the prescription, the closer the text needs to be. So, after trying a few on, I discover that a prescription of +1.25 is pretty good. They don’t go lower than that, though, so I hem and haw a bit. I don’t want to spend money if a slightly lower prescription would work better. I decide to leave it alone for a while and try again later.

Then, as I’m walking home, a thought occurs to me.

My original glasses were actually pretty weak. I seem to recall the optometrist saying they were barely a +1. I go home, I put them on, I sit at my computer.

Perfect. Well, maybe not 100% perfect, but definitely workable. I can now work on my computer with the screen at slightly more than arms’ length away. And the frames fit comfortably!


Terrifying clarity

The experience was nerve wracking and terrifying. While there wasn’t any actual pain there was a little discomfort and the glaring knowledge that someone was cutting into my eye.

I arrived very early. The doctor’s office called on Saturday to let me know my appointment had been rescheduled from 8:15 to 11:45. They had some patients who were diabetics and since we’d all have to forgo eating from midnight on they wanted to get those people in first.

While I appreciated the need it did kind of screw my plans up a bit. Tony was going to pick me up afterward but he had a voice gig scheduled for the afternoon and wouldn’t be able to make it that late in the day. That’s not what screwed me up, though. What screwed me up was the mental blank I went through when I called the cab company to schedule a pickup time. My brain stalled at “eleven” and didn’t fill in the “forty five” so when I added a little extra time to compensate for potential cabby incompetence I decided an hour would be safe. I scheduled the pickup for ten. The ride was maybe fifteen minutes. I was an hour and a half early.

Luckily for me the nurse checked with the doctor and they managed to get me in early anyway.

Which is good because the whole appointment took nearly two hours and the majority of that was waiting for the next series of eye drops to be administered. The actual surgery itself took all of ten minutes and I was out of there five to ten minutes afterward.

The first forty five minutes was spent sitting in a waiting room full of geriatrics swapping stories of their latest ailments, playing Sudoku on my iPod, wearing a generic blue disposable hair net (yes, even though I’m bald and, no, they didn’t require me to cover my beard… go figure) and a set of disposable booties covering the soles of my shoes. The booties were supposed to cover my whole shoe but they barely stretched far enough to reach over the edges. I guess old people have small feet.

Most everyone had someone with them to drive them home, but visitors weren’t allowed in the pre-sterile environment… at least no longer than it took to drop their father/uncle/mother/aunt off with the nurses.

Rumor had it there was a coffee shop available in the building next door. I’m guess that’s where most of the family chauffeurs waited out their time.

After three sets of four eye drops my left eye was starting to feel a little numb and I was taken into the quasi-sterile environment where they laid me down, attached a heartbeat monitor to one of my right fingers and a blood pressure cuff to my left arm and let the machines tell them how I was doing. After ten or so minutes of that the anesthetist put a drop in my eye that stung like salt water but only for the few seconds it took to take effect. Then she put two globs of gel onto my eyeball, spaced a couple of minutes apart. It felt funky… like when you’ve got pink eye but without the pain or itch. By the time they lead me into the now-we’re-actually-sterile surgery room I couldn’t much tell if my left eye was open or closed.

They laid me down on the operating table and attached a heart monitor to one of my left fingers and the blood pressure cuff on my right arm. At the time I had no idea why they needed to do this twice, or why they switched sides for it. Perhaps they were looking to average out the readings, I theorized. In any case the right blood pressure cuff had issues with the size of my arm. The Velcro kept releasing as it pumped up. They eventually got it properly secured and were then able to begin surgery.

I was awake for the whole thing and trying very hard not to panic. I kept reminding myself that if I moved I could screw up the whole thing. They had an intensely bright light for me to focus on but given the way they moved my eye around I think they told me to focus on it primarily as a way of giving me something to do.

They covered my entire face with a sterile cloth that had an aperture in it for the eye. They attached some kind of spreader between my eyelids to keep them apart and, I suspect, to also immobilize my eyeball. I’m not one hundred percent sure but it did seem that my eye stayed remarkably still despite my inclination to roll it around in a frenzy.

The whole thing had an x-files-alien-abduction-to-the-probe-ship feel to it. I could catch a glimpse of various instruments being used on my eye, a flash of light off of something metallic, a vaguely circular disk like object, a flash of blurred hands or fingers. The actual incision was entirely painless but it did not help that the cutting instrument had a dentist drill sound to it. I knew it was the cutting instrument because each time it wined there was the slightest pressure and my vision became briefly clouded with red before being washed away.

Part way through it all the blood pressure cuff was auto-inflated again. I wondered about that briefly but then reasoned that they were probably keeping periodic tabs on my vitals throughout the procedure. Then it occurred to me to wonder if the heart monitor was giving away my level of panic. I could just barely hear it beeping in the background. I tried to figure out if it sounded fast or not but I hadn’t thought to note what it had sounded like before, when I was… well, not calm, but less panicked.

Just as I was starting to wonder how long I would be able to keep my composure, it was done. Devices were removed from my eye and the sterile face cover, which had a self adhesive ring around they eye, was pulled off quickly like a band-aid. In truth that was the closest to pain I got through the entire procedure. The plaster cast of my face we did over a decade ago had been far more painful, I can assure you.

I was led out to yet another sitting room, told to take off my hat and booties, and given about an ounce of orange juice and a couple of cookies.

The clarity was staggering. I just kept looking around the room at everything. The bright colors, the crisp edges… it was all so fascinating. The best analogy I can give is switching from a poorly tuned VHF TV to a brand new High Def. At least… for things three or more feet away. Anything closer than that simply becomes a blur. A bright, colorful blur, but still a blur. The reading glasses I got from the drug store still help with that, but I know I’ll need significant reading glasses once all this is over.

The doctor stopped by to check on me before I left and asked me to tell him how many fingers he was holding up. I told him and he nodded, “Well, that’s about the best you can expect from today.”

“Are you kidding?” I said, “This is the clearest I’ve seen in years!”

He grinned at that. “Well, then, it’ll just get better from here.”

I can hardly wait.

In my mind I’m already going blind

Well, after much phone tag between me and the doctor’s receptionist we finally have the dates nailed down for my eye surgery. I’ll be having my eyes measured on May 21, the left eye lens replaced on June 7th, and the right eye lens replaced on July 5th.

At first I wondered why they couldn’t do both eyes at the same time but then quickly realized that would leave me blind for a day or more. I’m much more okay with this option. Although it does make me wonder about glasses and whether or not I’ll have much use of my left eye between the two surgeries or if I’m going to have to get my glasses changed one lens at a time as well.

I’m definitely not looking forward to the surgery, or the recovery period afterward, but I am very much looking forward to being able to read the ingredient lists on food packaging again. Not that ingredient lists are all that entertaining to read, but it’s really disturbing to realize there’s just a point at which you can’t focus on something enough to identify it. It’s rather scary, actually. The thought that keeps going through my mind whenever I can’t read something is a single note of panic with the phrase “I’m going blind” repeating over and over again.

I’m getting older, no question, but I feel I’m far too young for changes like this.

It doesn’t help that both the optometrist and the surgeon agree with me on that point. They all keep asking me “are you *sure* you don’t have diabetes?” which doesn’t help my panic level at all. Apparently cataracts don’t normally happen in someone my age without some other factor involved, usually diabetes.

To answer the question before anyone else asks it again, yes, I have been tested and no, I do not have diabetes. Although the repeated asking has made sure I get myself checked every year now. If I do develop diabetes I want to know about it early.

Now that I have the dates marked on the calendar I’m left impatiently waiting for them to arrive. I want my eyes fixed and I want it now. I want them fixed while I can still see well enough to read the road signs as I’m driving. I’m already having to use brighter and brighter light in order to simply read a book, and the lights of oncoming traffic glares almost painfully when I drive at night. And now that I know what the problem is and that there’s a fix available for it I can’t stop focusing on it.

I start thinking: “If it’s this hard for me to get a job while I can still read, imagine how hard it would be for me to get a job if I go blind.”

It just kind of adds to the pressure.

I’ve been reassured by the optometrists and surgeons that cataract surgery has become incredibly routine, that even the elderly recover from it in a day, two at most. (and internally I’m grateful for the implication from the statement, that I’m not old *yet*)

Still, I’m not going to shake this fear of going blind until I’m through both surgeries and fully recovered. The odds against any complications are very small, but as one surgeon pointed out there is *always* risk in *any* surgery.

Now I’m going to go off and do something else to try and take my mind off of this.

Eye wear my son glasses at night

Yep, itll have to come out.

Yep, it'll have to come out.

Went to the optometrist today. Received both some reassuring and disturbing news.

As I’d mentioned before when my mother was my age she was changing eyeglass prescriptions more and more frequently. By her late forties she was getting new lenses every six months or so. At the time I’d attributed it to her work, retouching film negatives with brushes as small as a single hair in size.

Well, my eyesight has been bothering me in increasing amounts over the past couple of years. I’ve gone through a couple of different eyeglass prescriptions already, and this after my prescription hadn’t changed in over twenty years. I started to worry that I’d wind up with my vision degrading as fast as my mother’s did.

I found out last year that I have a cataract on the lens of my left eye. My optometrist strongly suggested I get a physical in case this was indicative of something more. I followed her suggestion and, thankfully, found myself to be still fat but otherwise healthy. (and with cholesterol still lower than Ronya’s, a fact that continues to driver her nuts)

Today I found out that my right eye is also developing a cataract. Up until recently my right eye had been compensating for the blur in the left, but that’s no longer the case. Now, unfortunately, it’s time for surgery.

On the one hand I’m nervous because someone is going to be cutting into my eye. On the other hand I’m reassured that it’s an incredibly simple procedure these days and even the elderly that go through it recover easily. It takes about 15 minutes and some local anesthetic. They replace the cloudy lens with an artificial one and, presto, your vision is clear.

Which I’m eager to get, quite honestly. Right now any light source I look at has a foggy corona around it, something that makes driving at night just that much more difficult. I’m thinking I’m going to let Ronya drive at night until I get this fixed.

The downside is that the artificial lens, while clear, isn’t as pliable as the natural lens. This means I will definitely need reading glasses after the surgery is done. Which I’m more or less okay with because I’d kind of like to have reading glasses *now*. I’m already having to pull books away an extra foot or so to be able to read them clearly. Some of that is the cataract but a fair amount of that is simply my aging lenses getting more and more rigid on their own. Replacing them won’t be much of a loss.

The other slight downside is that it *is* a simple procedure done with local anesthetic. If someone is going to operate on my eye part of me would much rather be unconscious for the whole thing. If I’m awake and aware of everything going on I’m going to develop nightmares, I’m sure of it.

So now I have to wait for a specialist to contact me for an appointment, which I’m told will take a month or two, and then we will schedule the surgery, which I’m told could take as much as a year. I’m not in dire need (I’m annoyed but I can still see and function) so others will take precedence.

I’d rather wait the extra time under our current coverage than be able to have ready access to a procedure I can’t afford. At least this way I’ll get it done *eventually*.

In related news, Josh Silver’s self adjustable eyeglasses (which I wrote about here last year) are being talked about again, this time at TED.