It is Wednesday, February 3, 2021. If all has gone well, I am in my first day post-op of my second cataract surgery.
A couple of years ago, my optometrist mentioned during an eye exam that I had the beginnings of cataracts on both eyes. “We’ll keep an eye on it,” she said.
Optometrist humor, I suppose. I didn’t think much about it until several weeks ago when, during another exam, she said, “You know those cataracts we’ve been watching? Well, time for them to be removed.”
Cataract surgery is the removal of the lens of the eye that has become opaque. Metabolic changes in the crystalline lens fibers over time lead to the development of the cataract causing impairment or even loss of vision. Basically, the lens gets cloudy and, left to its own devices, is likely to get worse over time. The removed lens is replaced with an artificial lens.
Because this happens fairly slowly, the person may not be aware of the change in vision until an exam or, as in my case, family members pointed out how poor my driving, especially at night, was becoming. Had become, actually.
Cataracts, and the treatment of the same, is well known in human history. Cataract surgery itself was first mentioned in the Babylonian code of Hammurabi in 1750 BC. That’s almost 4,000 years ago! Some sources indicate that cataracts were a problem in the 5th century BC, nearly 7,000 years ago. A Greek physician, Galen by name, performed an operation similar to modern cataract surgery in the 2nd century AD. The first surgical removal of a cataract was performed in Paris in 1748. It was the development of modern topical anesthesia, however, that made the surgery more practical.
“Still,” I thought, “they’re going to cut on my eyes.”
“Not to worry,” my many friends who had experienced the procedure, told me. “It’s a piece of cake,” was the most common refrain. The other was, “You’ll be so glad you did it.” “But it’s my EYES,” was my silent internal response.
So, I met with the ophthalmologist, the medical doctor who would do the surgery and, sure enough, I was put on the surgery schedule. I did all the pre-op eye drops I needed to do, cleared the schedule, refrained from eating or drinking after midnight, and, on a Tuesday morning at 7:00 a.m., walked up to the desk in the surgery center and announced my presence.
I needn’t have been concerned. The worst part of the day was the nurse putting in the IV line for the anesthesia. I remember nothing after the anesthesia traveled down the plastic tubing into my arm. The next thing I knew, I was in recovery and it was all over. I’m told the actual surgery took about eight minutes.
There were some post-operative things I had to do but nothing burdensome and I was amazed about how little pain I felt. Mild discomfort, perhaps, but no real pain like I was anticipating. By the next day, the vision in my right eye had improved an amazing amount. I realized that, all this time, I was previously looking at the world through a light brown haze — like looking at everything through muddy water.
One of the big surprises was seeing the inside of the church that we had painted a few months ago. I discovered, for the first time, that the walls were an eggshell color. I had always seen them as tan, like one of those brown eggs in the supermarket, and privately thought it was an odd choice of color. Imagine my surprise! In fact, nearly everything has been a surprise.
With one eye being implanted with the new lens and the other still needing surgery, I could close one eye, then the other, and see the world through two different perspectives. Assuming all went as planned, that ends today. Starting today, I will see the world through two good eyes.
My “night-blindness” has gone away, car headlights beaming in my eyes at night are no longer painful, and the world is filled with more color than it was two weeks ago.
A couple or three generations ago, or so, people simply and slowly went blind. In the Bible, there are instances of people whose vision grew dim. The Patriarch Isaac, because of his blindness, mistakenly gave the birthright to the wrong son. I assume those were cataracts.
For many of us, the growing blindness of our grandparents or great-grandparents was likely due to cataracts. If I am correct, irrespective of what ancient people did with cataracts (imagine being awake and without anesthesia when your lens was being cut out!), modern cataract surgery really began in 1967 and really came into its own in 1993. Now there are more than 2,000,000 cataract surgeries performed in the United States each year.
Yes, my friends, you were correct. It was a piece of cake and I am so glad I did it. Each person, of course, has to make their own decisions about any medical procedure but, as for me, after the first surgery, I was eager for the second. I may still need reading glasses, but time will tell on that. I have been nearsighted and have worn glasses since I was 13 years old. Those days just may be coming to an end. If not, it was still worth it to me.
[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). The church is open at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays but is also live streaming at www.ctk.life. He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.life). He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]