Over the holidays, as I prepared for the first of two cataract surgeries, eye drops, dark glasses, a ride to the surgery center and subsequent appointments, I missed the part about the reading restriction: only ten minutes an hour for three weeks following surgery. No email, no facebook, no twitter (restricted because I get sucked in and go over the time limit). No books. No blogging. No reading menus at restaurants, not even the big ones behind the counter. I couldn’t even pick up a magazine when I was waiting for my appointment with the eye doctor. Carrying my iPad was unnecessary, actually a dangerous temptation. Until I developed cataracts (fast growing starting in the center, not from edges like most people) and needed eye surgery, I never quite realized how much I read. I never thought about it. Not until I couldn’t read. It almost drove me crazy.
It’s been four weeks. I’ve had the second eye surgery. The first special lens the surgeon implanted is supposed to give me good mid-range to long distance vision. It’s not very clear yet, I’m told it’s because my eye is too dry and still dilated. Be patient, they say. It’ll get better. The second implant is supposed to give me good vision from mid-range to up-close reading, that is as long as the light is bright. Don’t use the reading glasses, they say. Make the eye work, so it can learn to see. Be patient, they say. It’ll get better.
If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I’m a writer and an artist. My eyes are everything to me. It’s hard to be patient when I have two books to complete, one in it’s umpteenth edit, the other written during Na No Wri Mo last November. To make things worse, I’m a slow reader. Always have been. Something to do with how the muscles in my eyes focus on the page.
Before the surgeries, everyone I talked to, and I mean EVERYONE, said cataract surgery is a snap. Almost no discomfort the first day they said, and by the second, I’ll be seeing like never before. I’ll love it, they said. As usual, I’m the exception. The first eye, my right, felt like I had glass in it for the first day and leveled off to the “uncomfortable” stage the day after surgery. The second eye felt like shards of glass were sticking in my eye the first day, and reduced to gravel (maybe sandpaper) by the second day.
When I called at 8:00 p.m. the day of surgery because I couldn’t stand the pain any more, the nurses at the surgical facility were great. They were very sympathetic, but informed me that pain medication taken orally wouldn’t help (I’d already found that out, because I had some leftovers from my knee surgery) and numbing eye drops would be toxic to the lens. I didn’t want that, right? The only choice to mitigate the pain was to keep my eyes closed as much as possible and use eye drops to moisten my eyes. I had to keep both eyes closed, they explained, because if you have one covered and use the other for watching television, they will track together and irritate the closed eye. So no television to distract me from the fact that I couldn’t read, for almost a month. I mean really read, like for three hours at a time, like what I did before surgery, Have you ever tried to eat a salad with your eyes closed? It doesn’t work very well.
I don’t mean to be going on about this. I don’t like to complain. It’s just that it would have helped if even one person would have told me that there could be problems with my eyes after cataract surgery, I would have been a bit prepared. I’m sure you’re thinking (at least I am) that I’ve been struggling for only a few weeks, and I really have no right to complain, not with all those soldiers on the news coming home with head trauma and blown off limbs, not with all the gun shot victims from movie theaters and schools.
So why am I blogging about my eyes? Well, the reason is because the experience taught me something. Something I think is valuable.
When I had my knee replacement surgery three years ago, the healing process gave me compassion for people who must use walkers and wheelchairs to get around. Now, after having surgeries on my eyes, I’ve been given a glimpse into the world of the blind and vision impaired. I don’t know how they manage. Really, I don’t. I’ve only had to cope for a few weeks. And, it’s been a real challenge. Why? Because when I feel out of control, I get grouchy, very grouchy. I’m not good at asking for help. I’m independent and a perfectionist, both good qualities for being a writer and an artist. Not so good for getting older.
I just had another birthday, my 63rd. I’m proud that I am active and vibrant at that age, though my damaged knees from years of abuse have slowed me down a bit. But now, this eye thing has given me pause. I’ve known for some time that there are adjustments I must make as I age. Mind you, I intend to be active well into my late nineties. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been learning to be careful (with riding horses and climbing ladders to do house renovations, I never really was before), to move with intention, to use my time wisely, and to kick my feet up a little more just to relax. I know my eyes will get better. And if they aren’t just perfect, I will adjust. That is the wisdom that age brings. The knowledge that I will get through it, because I have so many times before.