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I can see clearly now ... well almost

Published September 11. 2010 09:00AM

As I walked out of Dr. Donald Newman's office last year, I was scoffing at his diagnosis.

"Cataracts. Hmmmph. I'm way too young for cataracts. That's an old person's condition."

I mentally disregarded the visit. After all, Mom was told she had cataracts four years ago and she keeps telling me they're not "ripe" yet for surgery.

As the months went on, I found myself taking my glasses off and cleaning them more. It always seemed like there was a film on them. While working on the computer, the screen appeared blurry. When driving, I noticed I couldn't read road signs until I was almost right up on them.

Still I was flabbergasted when Dr. Newman told me a few weeks ago that I needed the surgery now.

"But I'm only 59! I'm much too young for cataracts!" I exclaimed.

His response was that yes, many older people develop cataracts as part of aging. But babies can be born with cataracts and people of any age can develop them also.

I told him about my mom and how she's been waiting for years until they got "ripe."

He said it is not true that cataracts need to be "ripe" to be removed. It is when they cause enough loss of vision to interfere with daily activities. And I had a fast-growing type of cataracts.

Well. Isn't that special.

I really didn't want to have this surgery. It wasn't fear. I've had several surgeries over the years, all way more involved and painful, because according to Dr. Newman, the only pain I would feel would be when the nurse put the IV in my hand, to be used only if needed.

I couldn't seem to get over the age thing. But really, I don't know why I'm so surprised.

I've had bad eyesight for most of my life. It would be hard for me to even know how young I was when my eyesight became bad. I was in fourth grade when I got glasses and I remember being so shocked at the clarity of the world that I have to wonder how long I endured bad eyesight.

Over the years, I've come to appreciate the sight I have, no matter how bad it is. Besides being nearsighted and farsighted, I have a bad astigmatism, so I never could wear contact lenses like all my other teenage girlfriends.

When I was aware that you could signify on your driver's license that if anything happened, I could donate my eyes, as well as my other organs, to help someone else. Each time I renew my license, I renew my commitment to do that. Because I'm so grateful for the sight I have, as bad as it may be and God forbid the need would arise, perhaps someone who has no sight or very little would be glad to have the eyesight I have.

Wednesday morning Dr. Newman performed the outpatient surgery on my left eye.

I was in and out of his office in one hour and 45 minutes. And it was painless. Well. Almost. I had to watch the "Price Is Right" while having eyedrops put in.

I asked Dr. Newman how many cataract surgeries he performs in a day. He said it varied. The most is about 14.

That made me feel pretty good. I figure by now he must be able to do this surgery with his eyes closed. (Which I certainly hope he didn't.)

He added that there are approximately 2 million cataract surgeries done in a year and with the Baby Boomers all coming to age, that number is increasing.

My eye was numbed by eye drops. Dr. Newman removed the cloudy lens and replaced it with a permanent Intraocular lens implant. No lasers are involved in cataract surgery. If scar tissue results from the surgery, a laser treatment is used to remove the scarring.

Because my pupil was extremely dilated, my sight the rest of the day was pretty weird. But by late in the evening, I was amazed at the clarity of my sight in the left eye.

Many cataract surgery patients' vision is greatly improved, some may even not have to wear glasses after.

I woke up Thursday morning amazed at how improved my left eye is. I laid in bed and played the "What can I see without my glasses?" game. When I closed my right eye, I could actually see clearly the numbers on the alarm clock. I could see Harry's dear smile. When I turned the TV on, I could even make out people's faces, something I couldn't do before.

Now I can't wait for the surgery on my right eye in a few weeks!

In the meantime, I'm walking around without the left lense of my glasses which makes me look a little strange.

But I'm thinking, having cataracts may have been an unexpected gift.

It's a gift I get to unwrap every time I open my eyes.

What a hoot!

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