I’ve worn glasses since I was 10 years old.
I used to get a stronger prescription every two years. I always sort of looked forward to the resulting new, sharper eyesight. Over time, my lenses became heavier and heavier until I had to get the expensive lenses so that my ears would stop bleeding from the pressure of the glasses. Ugh, right?
Eventually I had to accept that I was quite blind without my glasses. Even with them, I got floaters that would occasionally obstruct parts of my vision. With time, I learned to take the advice to ignore them. I adjusted.
Then it was glaucoma. This is treatable with drops that I must take every night. I also keep a spare bottle in my emergency kit, along with other meds. I adjusted.
Finally, I started to develop cataracts. With all the other eye problems, surgery was the best option. I adjusted to enduring more decline in my eyesight until my spot in line came up, but thanks to a cancellation I got to have the surgery done in both eyes this past month.
I could not find definitive statistics on the number of Yukoners with cataracts, but I am most definitely not alone. I did find Canadian data. The University of British Columbia’s department of ophthalmology and visual sciences states that more than half of all people over the age of 65 have some form of cataracts. That percentage increases dramatically for those over 75.
A bit of welcome news is that there are now surgeries scheduled at the Whitehorse General Hospital, which means I could get both eyes done within a week and sleep in my own bed.
The day of my first eye surgery came after a rather restless night. I joined four other people in one of several waiting rooms. We were all experiencing different degrees of anxiety, compounded by the extended wait for our turn. At the same time, we shared stories, laughter and feelings of mutual support. There was a real sense of camaraderie as we waited, before and afterwards. I know I was quite happy to see some of the same people again when the procedure was repeated for the other eye later that week.
I was lucky in that everyone post-surgery chose not to share too many details about the experience. How you feel and react differ significantly from person to person, so I will spare you any details here. I will say it was much shorter than most dental work and, if you’re going in, be sure to try to ignore the machine noises.
It is kind of miraculous when you think about it. You are in and out the same day. First, the surgery, and then a check by the ophthalmologist. Recovery involves taking drops four times a day for varying periods of time, wearing an eye shield to bed for five nights, and avoiding lifting, vigorous exercise, or bending for seven days. (I am very good with avoiding exercise, so that has been no problem!)
It takes a while for my vision to settle down fully. Then I can get a new pair of glasses. Now I can drive and read and play bridge and attend meetings, so things are good. I am adjusting!
- Do not put a password on your phone if you want to use it (like calling your ride or listening to a podcast) after the surgery. The numbers can be very fuzzy.
- Not bending was the hardest thing. Tongs or grabber tools can really help, unless you are a klutz like me. I inevitably dropped them and promptly bent over to pick them up!
- Try not to trip over your cat and then try to pick her up for a cuddle.
- Smart speakers can be a good friend. They can remind you when to take your drops. They can also play music, read audiobooks and tell terrible jokes. Set things up beforehand as you may not be able to see the app on your device clearly for a bit.
- If you have arthritic fingers, get a device to squeeze the drop bottle when you pick up the prescription. If you hate putting drops in your eye, also ask for a device that makes it easy and practice beforehand, as the instructions may be hard to read.
I have been enjoying so many first things since the procedure: the first time I could stand to look at the bright sunny snow; the thrill of not having to wear glasses around the house; the pleasure of listening to an audiobook from the library to give my eyes a rest; the sense of great good fortune at the medical miracle and support which are helping to restore some of my eyesight.
Of course, I still cannot see in the dark or shoot lasers from my eyes, but maybe in the future?