Coffee And Notes

Cataract Surgery: A modern medical miracle

 There are only two things you need to know if you are considering cataract surgery to prevent spending your retirement years like Mr. Magoo looking for Bugs Bunny:

1.) The procedure has a solid success rate of 87%, which are pretty good odds, and:

2.) This delicate eye operation has been around longer than the word of God.

Here is the thumbnail after hours of internet research:

Ancient Babylonia

Cataract surgery was first mentioned in the Babylonian code of Hammurabi 1750 BC.

Ancient Egypt

Possibly the first depiction of cataract surgery in recorded history is on a statue from the  fifth dynasty (2467-2457 BC).

Ancient Greece

Galen, of Pergamon, 2nd century AD, a prominent Greek physician, surgeon and philosopher, performed an operation similar to modern cataract surgery.

Ancient India

A form of cataract surgery, now known as “couching“, was found in ancient India and subsequently introduced to other countries by the Indian physician Sushruta (c. 6th century BCE), who described it in his work the Compendium of Sushruta or Sushruta Samhita

Ancient China

The removal of cataracts by surgery was also introduced into China from India, and flourished in the Sui (581–618 CE) and Tang dynasties (618–907 CE).

Ancient Europe

The first references to cataract and its treatment in Europe are found in 29 AD in De Medicinae, the work of the Latin encyclopedist Aulus Cornelius Celsus.

Ancient Persia

The removal of the clouded lens by suction through a hollow instrument was described by the 10th-century Persian physician Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi, who attributed it to Antyllus, a 2nd-century Greek physician. The procedure “required a large incision in the eye, a hollow needle, and an assistant with an extraordinary lung capacity.”

Modern Yukon

Reassured by such an impressive historical resume your diligent reporter, who was diagnosed with cataracts in Whitehorse on November 2, 2019, made a quick decision to get on the “pending list” for surgery sometime in early 2020 which, of course, was postponed indefinitely by the sudden and unexpected onset of a new viral pandemic you may have heard or read about.

At the time your retired escriber (sports mostly but also other more serious subjects like history and politics), was halfway through his ski racing memoirs which had stalled at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics then stopped completely when it finally became apparent that “cataracts” was just a medical term which means “you’re going blind.” I could no longer see the letters on my various keyboards by March of 2020 as the Covid lion was beginning to roar. Since I never learned how to write by braille during my long literary journey, the unfinished Memoirs went the way of Mr. Magoo’s wife as the lights faded but didn’t go out entirely. Ironically, I could still drive because I could still see the road but was unable to see the tiny letters on my writing machines which began to resemble migratory gnats rather than proud building blocks of a long, and ignoble, literary life.

So I was left in limbo waiting anxiously for a phone call from the cataract people at the hospital before my 75th birthday arrived when annual eye exams become mandatory in the Yukon for golden geezers who need to drive to live. There was zero chance I could pass the DL eye exam when I couldn’t even read the local newspapers, a small blessing at times, or even my own feeble chicken scratches which at one time produced nearly annual journalism awards, not to mention a semi-living of sorts.

I learned the hard way it’s impossible for a writer to feel right when he, or she, can’t write. Right?

So, a long year later, in the summer of 2021, I got a phone call saying I had been promoted from the pending list to “active” and the dates for my left eye, the worst, was Oct. 4 with the right a month later on Nov. 1. 

(This is being written on Nov. 4 so I must be making a rapid recovery even though both eyes are still watering and a little blurry.)

It’s true both surgeries were brief and painless which required over an hour at the hospital but only 15 minutes each in the OR (operating room) but each eye needed a month of diligent rehab and recovery, mostly self-squeezing endless eyedrops, blinking a lot and crying at dumb movies or bad jokes.

And, yes, I did hear stories of patients among the unlucky 13% who did not regain full use of their eyes but the vast majority came through with flying colours, so to speak.

My first comment when I walked out of Whitehorse General after the left eye with my chauffeur/son was: “It’s a miracle! I had no idea the Yukon sky was THAT blue.”

When I asked the skilled eye surgeon if I could mention his name in the story I planned to write afterwards if I could still see, he said: “Why? I already know my name.”

So I’ll just thank the Miracle Worker who made it possible for you to read this.

The eye dude is good at what he does.

“Here’s lookin’ at ya, kids.”

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