Cataract Surgery: The Day of Reckoning

The time had come.  Like conjoined twins who share the same heart, on the day of separation surgery one of us would have to be sacrificed in order for the other to live a normal existence.  Since I’m the larger of the two, I got to make the decision as to who goes, who stays.  And because I’m writing this story, you already know which choice I made.

Yes, I’m still here.  My dear cataract, however, the one with whom I’d shared my life lo these many years, is no more.  Rest its weary, opaque soul.

It took maybe five minutes — enough time for one and one-half Christmas songs to be piped into the operating room — for the ophthalmologist to sound-wave my aged, cloudy, natural lens into a million pieces, vacuum it away like so many dust bunnies and cram in a clear, artificial lens in its stead.  It was almost a letdown, really, after the bizarre business of cataract removal pre-op.

And hoo boy, is it ever a business.  An assembly line, actually.  It started when the doctor’s assistant led me into a large room to join many other patients, all of them in progressively different stages of preparation.  I was instructed to put my personal belongings in one of the lockers lining the back wall, after which the assistant pinned the locker key onto my shirt as if I were a grade-schooler who can’t be trusted keeping track of her mittens.

She sat me down, slapped a name tag on my chest, and after confirming it was my left eye headed to surgery, took a black magic marker and drew an X above my left brow.  The cataract patient’s version of the scarlet letter.

X

Soon after, a nurse rolled her blood pressure machine over to me, wrapped my arm and once again, asked which eye was to be violated that day.

“The left one,” I answered reluctantly, knowing nothing good would come of it.  As I’d expected, out came her pen and with a dramatic whoosh whoosh, she slashed another X directly on top of my earlier branding.

Before I could ask whether they were using washable or indelible ink in those wretched pens, the surgeon walked up to introduce himself and shake my hand.  He asked (you guessed it) which eye he’d be massacring — wouldn’t you think it was fairly obvious by then? — and again, upon my reply, I was hit with yet one more X.  Tic Tac Toe, you win.

At this point, I had a little more time to take in what was happening around me.  The woman to my left (X marked the spot above her right eye) was offered a slurp of some sort of anti-anxiety liquid and turned it down.  Blasphemy!  When the offer was extended to me, I latched onto that elixir-filled dropper like a newborn suckling piglet to mama sow.  As I waited for the happy juice to carry me off to la la land, I observed the other patients who’d arrived ahead of me.

Each one was called individually into another room.  When they eventually reappeared, it was on the arm of one of the nurses — by necessity since whichever eye was underneath the dreaded triple X’s had been covered with a most frightful apparatus:  an orb slightly smaller than a racquetball positioned directly onto that eye by a strap wrapped around the patient’s head.

The nurse would then gently sit the patient down in one of two large lounge chairs, where they were hooked up to an EKG machine and yet another blood pressure monitor.

Ving & Bruce

All I could think about was Pulp Fiction — and the fact that I was yet to feel a damn thing from the supposed anti-anxiety drink they’d given me.  I started to seriously consider asking for a refill when…

“Jo?  Come with me, please.”

Oh no.

The mystery room was dimly lit, with a reclining exam chair in the center beside which sat a diminutive man with a metal tray stand at his side.  He lowered me into the chair and instructed me to stare at the photo on the ceiling (an idyllic country scene…as if that would be calming).  He started with small talk — “Do you go south for the winter?” — then instantly interrupted with a warning:  “This is going to pinch a little bit.”

He stuck a needle in the outer corner of my left eye.

And yes, it pinched.

“No,” I replied in a panic, every molecule of my being concentrating on the ceiling photo.  “We’re new here.”

“Where did you move from?”

“Austin.”

“Oh really!  What did you do there?”

“We were organic farmers.”

“Wow, my nephew is an organic farmer in Illinois!”

Yeah, buddy, that’s fascinating.  Now TAKE THAT FREAKING NEEDLE OUT OF MY EYE.

All right, I didn’t say that.  I wanted to, but I didn’t.  We continued with more inane chitchat until he abruptly pulled out the needle and just as abruptly ended the conversation.  He sat me upright, strapped on the torture ball and handed me over to the nurse to stumble out to one of the lounge chairs.

I have to admit, I enjoyed scaring the new patients in the waiting room.  Maybe the elixir was finally doing its thing.

After my cataract was ultimately obliterated and replaced I was sent on my way, a complimentary Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute gimme cap in hand.  By late that evening, I could see out of my left eye like I haven’t seen in years and years.  I was astounded and couldn’t stop telling John how clear everything looked, how vibrant the colors were.

I was eager to try out my new eye the next morning in the daylight.  Know what I saw?  Dust.  Lots of it.  The place looked like a haunted house.

Next, I made the mistake of looking closely into the bathroom mirror.  I had no idea I have so much gray hair.  Honestly, I was stunned.  Why hadn’t anyone told me?  I mean, John occasionally teased me about it but, you know, I thought he was just being silly.  Turns out, it was the truth.

I wonder if there’s an institute somewhere that puts cataracts back in.

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26 thoughts on “Cataract Surgery: The Day of Reckoning

  1. Oh, Jo! I’m laughing so hard, my co-workers think I’m insane. Actually, I guess it just verifies what they already knew.

    I guess clearer vision isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When I take out my contact lenses and put on my glasses, I see how dirty my house is and I have more wrinkles on my face somehow. Ugh!

    Was the happy juice worth the trouble? I mean, maybe I can grow a cataract just for that!

    BTW – did John drive you home? Or were you on your own again?

    • The happy juice was a HUGE disappointment, Debbie. When I’m forced to go down this road with my right eye, I’m going to happy myself up beforehand on my own. (Remember, in Washington a certain herb is legal now, and it’s one heck of a lot happier than the stuff they gave me at the cataract clinic!) And John did indeed drive me home — but certainly not because I was loopy from the juice. It’s because after the surgery, they tape your eye shut. Another fun-filled part of it all.

  2. Hi,

    Can you see me? Can you see me, yet? Good!

    I love your writing.
    ………..

    You sold your farm about two years ago; I just went back and read a large chuck of your Angel Valley Farm’s Blog and the beginnings of your Furthermore and So Forth blog to find that date.

    At that time you said that the buyers were looking for a farm and would keep the Angel Valley name; so to my question: do you know their current status? Are they farming? Is it commercial, as yours was?

    …………………..

    With my Curiosity Cat now off my lap, my family and I want to wish you and John and So Forth, a very Merry Everything and Happy Always now and in the Future.

    …Bryce

    • Thank you Bryce! And oh my, I can see everything and everybody now…whether that’s a good or a bad thing. Alas, however, I don’t know what has happened with our former farm. All I know is the new owner still hasn’t transferred the website to his name, which makes me wonder whether he’s actually going to farm it at all. Sigh. Yet on a happier note, we wish you and yours a very Merry Everything and Happy Always in return!

  3. I must say that Bob was given the opportunity for renewed vision. He didn’t tell me a thing about it since he hasn’t talked in so long, I cannot remember. I was the eye medicine dropper lady and while it was a challenge to fight with the strongest eyelids ever, I learned how to fake him out and get those darn drops in. I really love what you wrote! Thank you! Page

    Sent from my iPad

    • Thank you, Page. And I understand completely why Bob developed superhuman eyelids — the four-drops-per-day regimen gets old REAL fast!

    • Wow, thanks Cindy. I don’t know that the paper would be the least bit interested, but it warms my little heart that a writer such as yourself would suggest it!

  4. Oh Jo!! I just adore how you put things into perspective!!!!! Forget the gray hair–we all have it–we just don’t care to witness it!!!! Love your blog–keep them coming–hope you and John have a very fruitful, blessed year. Ruth

    • Thank you Ruth! And I promise to try to forget the gray hair. Maybe I’ll just avoid mirrors, that should do it! You have a wonderful New Year.

  5. My optometrist gazed into her crystal ball (actually my eyeball) and said ” I see cataract surgery in your future”. I have been researching what it would be like. None of the stuff I have read so far got to this level of detail. Enjoyed (I think) the details that the medico’s leave out.
    I hear the MD’s here in Texas call the happy juice “Tres Equis” – served with a slice of lime. Maybe that’s why all the marks on your brow: making sure they got your drink order right?

    I was wondering, how many Mr. Magoo moments does a potential patient have to experience before they “know it’s time” ?

    Seriously, good to run across your humorous ramblings once more. Alas, sans poultry.

    RudyC, and Bobbi is listening too.

    • I would have traded a fine Tres Equis for this clinic’s poor excuse for happy juice any old day. In fact, now that you mention it, when I’ve Magoo’d enough to have the other eye de-cataracted I think I’ll just bring my own bottle (or two). Thanks for the tip, Rudy. Great to hear from you and I’m tickled to see you here at my blog.

  6. Wow. So a friend posted a notice that she’s playing a gig in Jonestown. Hey, I used to go to a farm stand there back when we lived there (moved in 2011). So I do a google to your old Angel Valley blog, read the final post (wow again) and tracked you here and caught up a bit with your stories and adventures. Hope your eye has healed and Washington treats you both well. Its springtime busting out all over in Texas, as I’m sure you remember how it used to be…you know, those 3 weeks of joyous wildflower profusion and decent weather punctuated by late freezes. My sister and B-i-L visit WA frequently (from Montana) and have good things to say about it. I hear the mushrooms are phenomenal. Take care and keep writing.

    Don (formerly CP, now Waco)

  7. Hi you nice folks…..I just realized that this is the last blog I received from you. Are you still writing it or did you give it up? I used to come to your stand by the library Saturday mornings and enjoyed the friendliness there and I have kept up with you ever since. I have so enjoyed reading your weekly blog that I hope to keep receiving it if you are still doing it. If not, know how much I liked it and looked forward to it weekly…………….Roger

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