Seeing the world in a better light
When I finally got around to having a complete eye exam because my failing vision made driving difficult, the eye doctor was thorough and competent.
But he sounded stern as he told me it was two cataracts, not poor glasses, that were making it hard for me to see street signs. "You'll have to have these taken care of if you want to see better," he said.
I had a hard time not jumping up and down and yelling: "Yippee!"
Like most people, I dread any kind of surgery. But I've been listening to people and seeing the phenomenal results they've had with cataract surgery.
It used to be something to dread. I remember decades ago visiting a woman who just had cataract surgery. She was in a hospital with her head surrounded by sand bags. It was a scary sight and she complained about having to lay motionless on her back for so long.
As the expression goes, We've come a long way, baby. Cataract surgery is now done as an outpatient, recovery time is minimal, and patients get back to their normal activities in a few days.
Best yet, the results are astonishing.
My friend, Jeanne, wore thick glasses and we both made jokes about how little we could see when we didn't have our glasses on. Sometimes, we couldn't see well enough to find the glasses.
All that changed for Jeanne when she had cataract surgery. Now, she doesn't wear glasses at all.
Some of my other friends had the same experience.
We were out to dinner one night with a few friends and I took my glasses off and laid them on the table because they were uncomfortable. "Remind me not to leave these behind when we go," I said.
Then they regaled me with stories about how they don't need glasses anymore because they've had cataract surgery. I joked about looking forward to that part of aging if it meant I didn't have to wear glasses.
I lose too many pairs of glasses. If they're not falling into the water when I kayak, I leave them behind somewhere. It gets expensive and it's agonizing not to be able to see while I wait for a new pair.
I try to eliminate the situation by buying "two for one" specials. But then I still need sunglasses and reading glasses that seem to disappear as quickly as an ice cream cone in the sun.
Last year, when I totaled my medical expenses for income tax, I was startled to see how much money I spend on glasses. No wonder I was looking forward to cataract surgery.
A month or so ago, my husband needed cataract surgery for one eye. I had more discomfort after teeth scaling than he had after cataract surgery. He walked out of there saying, "I can see better already." And he felt wonderful. I had a hard time holding him down for the required two-days of taking it easy.
With all that as a background, of course I was looking forward to those astonishing results, too.
But then I did what I always do - I went on the Internet and spent days researching cataract surgery and types of permanent intraocular lens implants used to restore focusing power.
I believe in being well informed, not in undergoing any procedure without being aware of potential risks. Through several medical sites, I learned there are some serious sight-threatening complications to cataract surgery, including retina detachment and blindness.
In one study of 17,000 procedures, fewer than two percent had serious complications. While that sounds fine, what if you're among the two percent?
Online I read stories from people who wish they never would have had it done. "I wanted cataract surgery so I could stop wearing glasses," wrote one woman. "Now, I can't see well at all and wish I had my old vision back."
Other medical sites stressed that 95 percent of patients were satisfied or highly satisfied with the results of their cataract surgery. Again, that sounds like good odds, unless you're part of the five percent.
All of life is gamble. Any surgery is a gamble. Heck, so is any hospitalization. It's better to avoid it all, if you can. But since I could no longer see well enough to be a safe driver, I decided to take the gamble.
I told David his job was to pray me through the surgery. The actual surgery is only six to 10 minutes and patients are ready to go home two hours after they arrive.
I'm happy to report the first surgery went well. Even before the second cataract is removed next week, I'm seeing much better.
I'm now one of 15 million people each year who experience the miracle of better sight after cataract surgery.
We've learned to give ailing people new hips, new hearts, new knees, teeth implants, and now, new eye lenses.
All that turns back the odometer and makes the ride called life longer and better.
Think about that progress if you want to see the world in a better light.