Thursday, January 24, 2013

I Can't Stop Smiling

Its been a week since my cataract surgery and I still can't stop smiling.

Seeing through the new lens in my left eye is nothing short of miraculous! I have never ever seen this clearly out of my left eye. I don't have perfect vision but everything is so clear even when I can't focus on words (I'm going to need reading glasses).

Every speck, smudge, wrinkle, line, shadow, sparkle ... every little detail that I can see brings a smile to my face. Finally being able to see my friends' faces, my niece and nephew as they clown around - its like a new world that's been there all this time.

Most of all, I marvel at how bright the night is with all the street lights and leftover holiday lights. Prior to the surgery I dreaded the night time. It was just dark with no definition or shared of gray. For me, venturing out at night was a heavy experience, laced with dread.

This brightness is simply amazing. It lightens everything. I am uplifted and just so much lighter. The gloom of darkness was lifted as this new lens of mine allows more light to pass through my eyes as I see.

I went dancing for the first time and I had so much fun! I felt such joy at being able to see everything while I dance. I could see a smile clear across the room. I could see all the friendly faces and see the joy reflected in their congratulations and happy wishes on my new lens and recovery. Its going to be hard to stop smiling.

I walked in to the room that I would be teaching dance class in wondering what I will see. Prior to surgery, it was just black. Today, I saw the shadows on the floor, the outline of the window frames as lights from the outside illuminate the floor.

Simply amazing.

To the powers that be and the universe in general, "thanks!" are not enough to convey how grateful I am for being able to experience my vision with such clarity. Its going to take a while before I stop smiling.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What a Difference a New Lens Makes

I received a gift: a new lens in my left eye to replace the old lens that had clouded over and was legally blind.

I had been diagnosed with cataracts in 2010, nothing noticeable, just something to keep an eye on. Starting in May 2012, my cataracts progressed rapidly (in a large part due to treatment from another condition that is called uveitis, inflammation in the eyes). I went through 3 eye prescriptions and within 5 months, became "legally blind". I could still see because my right eye was borderline ok. With the right light conditions and with the right contrast I could still distinguish most things. I couldn't drive and with the greyness of Seattle, it was nerve-wracking to walk around looking for bus stops because everything just looked hazy black and gray.

I'm on my recovery path so theses next entries will record my experiences and thoughts as I move forward.

On January 15, 2013, I woke up a bit on edge. This is partly due to some of the medicines I started to take as part of pre-op. The other part was a just excitement to see again fighting anxiety about what might go wrong. Luckily, my natural inclination is to focus on the positive outcome so, overall, I was calm and ready, though a bit sleep deprived.

I got to the clinic to check in and waited to be called. One patient was already being escorted to her husband, her operation successfully completed. There were 2 other people waiting for their loved ones to come out. My sister sat on her laptop with her WiFi clearspot typing away while I posted an update to my Path and Facebook feeds and even responded to a few emails.

The nurse came to get me and the first thing she asked were 3 questions:
1) Do I have a phone?
2) Am I carrying a gun or firearms ?
3) Am I carrying any medical marijuana?

The randomness of  the questions were amusing. I can see why the phone, some people are just joined at the hip to that nifty price of communication. The firearm, well, better be safe right? The medical marijuana threw me a little but at that point I was just realizing the absurdity of asking these questions (all part of standard procedure) to an elderly patient. I'm the exception as far as age goes: most cataract patients are over 70 year's old.

At any rate, next order of business, putting a sticker above the eye to be operated on. Then, put on this lovely hospital blue hair cap and matching booties over my shoes. I am given a post-op kit and walked through the instructions for what to do after surgery. Then, 8 drops in my eye in rapid succession: for dilating, numbing, disinfecting and reducing inflammation.

Keeping you eye opened is NOT that easy - who knew? Through this whole process of being treated, I've come to realize that. (sorry for the side bar)

So now, I'm brought to a staging area and given the final medication . I can't remember the exact name, it had 2 syllables and is basically like Valium and mean to  decrease anxiety. I won't be knocked out. Then, it was wait for the procedure before me to finish (typically 15 - 20 minutes. In that time I could hear the surgeon addressing the patient and his assistants and some sounds that had the same timber as those notes the aliens played in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I decided to do some deep breathing. A few breaths later, it was my turn.

The surgical team was great - they do their best to make things comfortable while dressed in similar hair cap and booties with mouth shields and scrubs. I am asked to Ly down, face up ad they strap me to the table, put on the monitors on my chest, finger and arms (for blood pressure) and strap my head down for stability.

The surgery begins. I am awake and aware the whole time and its probably the only time I'm very glad that my eye is legally blind - it would've been impossible to stay calm seeing things come right at my eye! I see the light that illuminates my eye for the operation and can hear the voice of my doctor and his assistants as they work. I more or less know the process and try to mark if I can tell when it the steps happen.

 First, an incision. I just feel a brief pressure across the are around my lens. Next, break up the lens. This is when the surgeon asks for a specific piece of equipment which basically uses an ultrasonic  device to break the cloudy lens. That's that funky sound I heard earlier. This takes a little longer and I feel the pressure across my eye and for a split second I see what looks ilk branches which I think might be the blood  vessels in my eyes.

Next they remove the broken bits of lens and set up the lens cap for the new lens. Again a lot of pressure, this time I'm feeling this weird uncomfortable sensation. For a split second I see what looks like cracked glass and then I feel a lot of pressure, I know there won't pain, but the pressure feels like a dispersed tingling that makes my skin crawl. I realize I'm tensing up and start to focus on my exhale to breathe. Its much like trying to relax in a dentist chair during a root canal except my mouth isn't getting dry or my tongue getting moved around. There's a lot of irrigating my eye which feels wonderful, a relief from the pressure.

It is at this point where I sense some sort of challenge as the doctor makes requests for things that need to be prepared. The voices are stern and urgent and I hear that the Topic lens (which corrects for astigmatism, will not be supported and to use the regular lens instead. Then there's more of the pressure and tension management and when that second "bout" is over, my legs and arms get ansy (its clear why they have to strap you down). I'm not sure how long it took but I know its not over, so back to breathing and releasing the tension. I  notice that I can see what looks like small clear thin worms, swimming with this vertical squiggle across my eyes as they are irrigated. I think this must be the water rippling across. Its kind of whimsical and calms me down

Then the lens is placed in the capsule. I see a clear round edge and the more pressure, not as bad, around what I'm guessing is the border of the lens. I'm asked to look up, look left, look right and down. More irrigation and its over.

The doctor gives me the thumbs up, explains that there were complications that were managed and that I have a regular lens instead of the toric. The nurses take over and boy were they great. I din't realize how much tension there still was in my body and they kept repeating "It's over now, good job.", and rub my back as I sit up.

I CAN SEE! I see the different shades of blue from the folds and shadows in the scrubs. I see the clock and the hands of the clock and the door and the pattern of the tiles on the floor and the colors - just the colors - are so vibrant. I cam see eyes, lips, brows and the facial expressions of everyone in the room. I must be smiling because they are beaming from ear to ear. I am astounded and all I can say is "I can see."

I am walked to the waiting room where I got my booties and the nurse bring around a pencil/pen  holder. Oh my god! The colors! She had fluorescent pens of all colors: yellow, pink, blue, green, orange and then blue, black and red pens. It was a bouquet of beautiful flowers to me: so bright, so vibrant. Astounding.

I got my stuff and as my sister drove us to get lunch (we just stopped by Burgermaster which is a drive in) and then home, I marveled at the different shades of color in the sky. Look! I can see the dividing lines on the highway. We cross the bridge and I can see the mountain ranges in the distance, the ripples of water, everything. Its really a miracle how much science has progressed that I have this wonderful new lens to see through.

Not only that, the eye as an organ is  pretty amazing, I mean, I just had a cut, old lens broken and removed and a new lens placed and I can see so much. All that took about 20 minutes. I am not quite in the clear. My pupil is still dilated so I see halos like a  sphere of rainbows around halogen bulbs and can't quite read tiny fonts. There are still many check-ups to make eye pressures stabilize and lots of eye drops to go. It will be about a week or two before everything is clear enough to start talking about my right eye.

For now, I am basking in gratitude and wonder. Thankful to my sister and her family who have been so great, so supportive and so loving. Thankful to such awesome friends who have helped me to get around in my "blindness", who have supported me with well wishes, worry, sympathy and laughter; even a little scolding. I can't say enough about the dancing and how it saved me and kept me floating. A friend pointed out another rare gift: to dance without depending on my sight and really develop the "feel" in the different partner dances that I love.

Life is good. Thank you