For much of my life I have been plagued by sneaky retinas – they like to cause problems for me now and then. The idea of losing my vision has been reinforced by every specialist I’ve ever seen. The phrase “it’s a miracle you can still see” has turned my stomach more than once.
Blank spots in my field of vision, flashes, really large ‘floaters’ and tiny spots everywhere are some of the classic symptoms I’ve observed when my retinas have either pulled away, torn or detached. There is no pain with this type of injury. I find myself constantly preoccupied with wondering if something I am seeing is the telltale warning, or just a fluke. Cloudy or snowy days make all the existing floaters and scars in my field of vision from past surgical repairs especially noticeable.
Three years ago, I had a new scare. The vision in my left eye became more fuzzy than usual, blurry and I needed more light in the dark to see properly. I went to my regular eye doctor and he said I just needed a stronger prescription. I should note here that my glasses prescription is already much higher than the norm. As well, having had as many errors in diagnosing my past retinal issues as I’ve had, I tend to be skeptical. Especially when I know darn well my eyesight does not diminish that fast and only on one side. The new glasses prescription he recommended DID NOT make any difference to my vision.
One tends to be cautious when doctors can’t answer questions to your satisfaction. I have had every possible symptom one can experience with retinal issues and thought this must a new one.
After hearing my history, the new doctor I found through a friend was very thorough and cautious. He determined that I had developed a cataract. As a precaution, he sent me to my retinal specialist to make sure everything else was intact. My retinal specialist, Dr. Lam at Toronto Western, agreed with the diagnosis of cataract and said everything else was fine.
With the retinal concerns Dr. Lam decided that although he has done cataract surgeries, I should receive care from a doctor who does these all the time and has much more experience. He’d heard of the place I’d been referred to and suggested that would be my best course of action.
Enter Dr. Ro at the Oshawa Eye Clinic. Hundreds of cataract surgeries are performed every month in the small hospital near us. Dr. Ro himself does approximately 100 a month. Of all the eye surgeries I have undergone in the past 25 years, this would be one of the simplest.
In fact it is one of the most common, least invasive, fastest healing and immediately beneficial operations conducted in this day and age. Sure problems can occur, and it increases the risk of retinal problems with every average eye but it’s usually very small risk. However, it was decided that due to my past retinal issues, I would have to wait to have the surgery done when it was unavoidable. I was told to live with the vision in my left eye being cloudy. My brain would adjust they told me. Well it didn’t. Those three years were frustrating, scary and annoying as all hell.
And so I waited. Until this spring when I noticed the vision in my right eye was getting blurry too.
I visited Dr. Ro in May and he scheduled me in for surgery June 17 and 24. They did them a week apart so I wouldn’t have too much eye strain in between. (My glasses prescription was -12.5 which is pretty high. By the way, using the word ‘was’ is me foreshadowing!) As for what it would be when the surgery was over, Dr. Ro told me the lenses that are used to replace your natural lens have a corrective prescription in it that makes it possible for most people to see without glasses after. However, in my case, my prescription was already so high, the manufacturers had not been able to create a lens that strong. He said he could correct my vision to a much lighter prescription like -1 or -2. I was looking forward to the idea of getting cheaper glasses with much lighter lenses. Maybe even a prescriptive diving mask!
So here is what happens when you go for this surgery. (At least at this clinic.) Three days before surgery you start using antibacterial eye drops to make sure your eye is infection free. The day of your surgery you go in to the hospital, sign in and are taken for more drops to your eye. You are given an iv shunt in preparation for the sedative that is used to keep you relaxed. They don’t want you to go to sleep, just chill out.
Then you are placed on a stretcher, with pillows under your knees for comfort, a warm blanket and a dot put on your forehead above whichever eye is getting fixed. Also, you will be asked the same questions over and over by every new person you meet. The nurses, the anesthesiologist and your surgeon. I think I was asked six times what my name was, why I was there, what eye they were operating on… Then they give you the drop that will make your eye feel nothing. Seriously – one little drop. I’ve had these before and they are incredible.
You are wheeled into the operating room. Everyone was very positive and friendly and continued to answer my questions. Eye area was cleaned. Dr. Ro came in, got his bits and pieces sorted out and asked me the same questions again. He then used some sort of clamp to keep my eyelids out of the way. That part was uncomfortable but only for my eyelid. My eyeball felt nothing. Then there was a plastic barrier stuck on my face around my eye to keep it sterile and stop the liquid they use in the procedure from soaking everything. At that point the anesthesiologist sent me to laalaa land.
The next thing I remember was waking up in the recovery room, the plastic, iv shunt and doctors were gone. I was being told something about not rubbing my eye, going swimming or lifting heavy stuff. And I could see my husband was there. And THEN they handed me my glasses. I hadn’t realized I wasn’t wearing them and I could see my husband!
My legs were a bit wobbly so they let me ride out to the car in a wheelchair.
I’d been in surgery all of 10 minutes for my left eye. We left our house at 6:30am and were returning before the kids had even arrived at school.
On the ride home I could see the street signs, the license plates in front of me, the LEAVES ON THE TREES!
I stared out the window at the ‘nature’ all around me for a very long time that day. I did feel sore around my eye muscles – apparently I’d been very chatty in surgery until they gave me a bit extra sedation to shut me up. You need to be awake to answer questions but I was talking so much my eye was moving. So I think that is why the pain was present. Other than that, over the next week my eye healed. There was a bit of a grainy feeling like some dust in my eye.. There are 3 sets of drops you have to use to heal properly – they helped.
The next morning at the post operative appointment with Dr. Ro, his assistant had me read the eye chart. She asked me to read the lines but I could not tell her what they were because I COULD READ THEM ALL and I was crying! For the first time in my life! Then she started to tear up – it was a hot mess.
The next surgery on my right eye was much easier on me. I had been very nervous for the first one but knowing what to expect made all the difference. Plus the anesthesiologist had been warned about me so he gave me a little extra something to get things going even faster than before. It was like ‘woohoo’ then I was back in recovery.
Post op appointment the next day. Dr. Ro made me read the chart again in front of him after I’d done it for his assistant. He didn’t believe it at first. He had told me that you can’t predict the exact results until after surgery and after healing is complete in 3-4 weeks. At this point though, I officially have 20/20 vision. I officially have 20/20 vision! Dr. Ro was pleasantly surprised with the results. I told him I’d have to blog about it – no question.
So far my retinas are behaving properly. I think.
I am the sort of person who likes to know exactly what is happening to her body parts. For example, I like to be told if the needle is about to go in to draw blood and you are almost finished and now you are pulling it out. I know, freakish. Control issues? Maybe. I work best with people who give this info to me as a constant play by play when any part of my body is affected. This is why I decided to post about my cataract removal and my new prosthetic implant. It will give you an idea of what to expect.
100% of the population will have to get this done. EVERYONE. I am very glad to have had this successfully completed while I am still relatively young. It is liberating. It is a miracle.
In doing my research prior to the surgery, I was able to find lots of info from people about the process but not any personal stories. I am not a medical person, nor do I claim to have any knowledge about this type of surgery other than what happened to me. For more information check on the internet, talk to your doctors and ask people who have gone through it recently. Here is a link to the Canadian Ophthalmological Society site explaining cataracts. The procedures are even more streamlined now than they were 10 years ago. Healing times are reduced, the process is less invasive. If you would like more information about the clinic I went to, click here.
Remember when it’s your turn for this surgery be calm – it is ok and there is practically no pain.
I can see clearly now the rain is gone….