Part One of this story can be found by clicking here.
The first thing that I noticed inside the operating room was how cool it was. That was a good sign, I would rather be cold than hot.
I took a look around the room and everyone but me wore a surgical mask over their nose and mouth. I chuckled to myself and thought about what my response would be to the first person who asked me, “Who did your surgery?”. I would look them straight in the eyes and say, “I don’t know, everyone but me was wearing a mask.”
The nurses helped me onto the operating table and the surgeon talked to me and made me more comfortable about the procedure. Between the anesthesia and the fact that I would be conscious while someone cut into my eyeball, most of this pre-op leading up to the surgery is blocked out of my memory.
The one thing that was on my mind was Sally’s caution about the “liquid”. Before I could ask about it I heard those famous words, “I’m going to put some medication in your IV. Please count to ten.”
“OK.” That’s as far as I ever get. I’m a lightweight when it comes to anesthesia.
I could hear the rustle of clothing and the metallic sound of instruments placed on a tray. Light and dark shapes were the only things that I could see. I had no sense of pain or discomfort. I also could not move a muscle. In a sense I was a prisoner in my own body. That was a unsettling thought, but I didn’t focus on it because my own personal light show got under way.
The light and dark shapes that I saw a minute ago were superimposed with streaks of red. It looked like someone had poured melted red crayons across the top of my field of vision. Here and there, light or dark areas remained as islands in a sea of red. Slowly the red color swallowed them up and 3 or 4 more shades of red flowed into the broad curtain of crimson that was before me.
I felt a trickle of liquid flow from the corner of my eye and onto my cheek. Sally! Liquid! A hand with a tissue dabbed at the side of my face and dried the moist trail.
The curtain in front of my eye gained more shades of red. Streaks and spots, rivulets and abstract forms were flashing before my eye and more liquid was running down my face. I could feel it under the back of my jaw, under my chin and down my neck. More hands and tissue hurried to keep up with the flow.
Dr G pushed a finger into the center of my forehead, forcing my head back onto the table. “Keep your head still. Don’t lift up.”
I didn’t even realize that I was moving my head, albeit very slightly. My reaction to the combination of the light show in my eye and the liquid on my face had put me in an anxious state.
“We are going to be another 10 or 15 minutes before we’re finished. Just relax and hold still.”
I lost track of time and settled back to accept my fate. Liquid was running down my face and at least 83 different shades of red were now combining to rival the greatest 4th of July fireworks show that I had ever witnessed.
At this point I had but one thought in my mind, A Clockwork Orange. Stanley Kubrik’s cinematic masterpiece with Malcom McDowell has a particularly tense scene where McDowell’s character, Alex, undergoes aversion-therapy in which his eyes are clamped opened and drops are administered periodically while he is forced to watch a series of grotesque videos.
So, yeah, I’m awake—but sedated—with my eyes open and all I can see is red. Meanwhile liquid is running down my face and neck and now onto my chest.
“Please stop moving your head. I’m almost done.”
Really? ‘Cause all I want is to get out of here. NOW!
Time passed quickly. I felt a comforting hand on my shoulder and heard Dr G’s soft voice. “We’re finished. I’m going to slowly raise you up into a sitting position and then we will adjust the bandages over your right eye.”
Once I was upright I looked down at my chest with my left eye, expecting to see a bloodbath. I had some wet spots on my hospital gown, but they were not red. I looked around at the nurses and back down at the clear wet spots. No blood anywhere in sight.
One of the masked marauders took pity on me, “Are you looking for anything in particular?”
“The liquid, it’s not…”
“Not what, Sweetie?”
“Oh, nooo. No, siree. That’s distilled water. We use it to irrigate your eye during the surgery.”
“But, I thought…I mean, it seemed like a lot of liquid and…”
“You’re fine. We are going to dry you off and take you into the recovery room for a short spell.”
“T-th-th-thank you. All of you. Thank you for coming to work today.”
“It’s our pleasure. Now you just relax, follow the doctor’s orders and get better.”
Over the next few weeks I followed the doctor’s orders and my eye healed up as advertised. During my follow-up exam I learned that I had a Polar Cataract removed. This is an uncommon form of cataract and is a bit more difficult to operate on. [NOTE: I am no doctor, so I won’t attempt to diagnose, analyze, or comment about symptoms, surgeries/alternative care.]
I followed Sally’s advice about comparing my vision from one eye to the other and the difference in the visible colors was dramatic. I seemed to have a child’s view of the world. The sky was a gorgeous shade of blue. Long-forgotten subtle colors and textures of flowers returned to me once again. My world was expanding and re-generating in front of me.
Even my night vision was better. I could make out shapes of gray and black in areas that were formerly solid black. The only side-effect that I had was that points of light—headlights or light fixtures—had a starburst halo around them. When I went on my Swing shift light checks I could see 120 points of light, one for each roadway pole light on the bridge. It was actually quite impressive.
Six months later I had surgery on my left eye and it was a comparatively simple procedure. There was no red light show and I was prepared for a certain amount of liquid during the operation.
I revived my stagnate photography hobby once I had two good eyes. My desire to document and illustrate the world around me grew stronger than ever before. I have met, and corresponded with, an array of incredibly talented people from around the globe. I am energized by their talent and generous help, freely given. Thank you one and all.
If you, or someone you know, are faced with the prospect of cataract surgery my advice is to do it. Find a surgeon that you are comfortable with and follow their instructions. There is a whole big, beautiful world waiting for you out here.
Above all, don’t worry about the liquid.