I get that plain old-aging is bad enough – but now there are “medical procedures” that herald the right of passage – I am anot just talking about heart transplants, stents, knee and hip replacements, dental implants or even face and boob lifts (hearing aids don’t count). It seems that cataract surgeries (NOT eye lifts) are the most common.
In 2015 more than 3.6 million cataract procedures were performed in the United States. For many the procedure is covered by insurance. The American Academy of Ophthalmology estimates that more than 24.4 million Americans have cataracts – and half of those are over 70 years old.
It seems I had the typical “buildup of protein” in my eyes for a long time that made my world look sepia toned. I was far from blind, but between my stigmatism and my world looking dim I started to consider the double operation. Since most of my friends and relatives raved about the surgery being “an instant life changer” and a “no brainer,” I picked this year to get it “won and done.” I chose the new year month of January – new eyes – new vision of hope! Why not!
I realized that most of my friends were busy getting new husbands and wives, fresh face lifts and new condos. I decided that cataract surgery would be my version of a new lease on life and it seemed the easiest elective. With my new lenses to reboot my vision, I would have youth restored – I wouldn’t need anything else “done” (pray to God no hip fractures).
I’d much rather do cataracts than the latest trend of geriatric orthodontic work with all those Invisalign aligner trays. Although, I do believe as you get older there is nothing better than a great smile with straight great teeth. Not big choppers, but a “sensible set.” For now, I will settle for just whitening my own crooked line-up and call it a day. Two years of wires, wax and bite plates is too long and irritating a commitment for me.
I have a wonderful ophthalmologist in Scottsdale, Randall Tozer, who assured me doing eyes from January to March would be relatively “easy.” Easy for him since he does 4,000 cataract surgeries a year and his popular Tozer Eye Center keeps everyone on the path of recovery as quick and easy as a carwash. Or so I thought! I figured I’d have eyeliner and mascara on by my birthday March 5th.
Let’s get one thing clear – don’t listen to anyone who says any surgery is “easy peasy.” What does that even mean? Surgery is surgery. A hangnail for me is a big deal. When I ran the “no brainer” comment by Dr. Tozer he was careful and correct to say, “never listen to anybody as every person is different and every eye is unique.”
I GET IT!! My first eye was done at 7 am Jan 30th and I arrived “jaunty jolly” (properly fasted and dehydrated) to the surgical center for the eight-minute procedure. Carwashes actually take longer. So did the paperwork and sitting in the waiting room (I know a few older women who long to spend their days in doctors waiting rooms – I guess it gives them a feeling of being “of attention.” For me it is anxiety provoking no matter the wait).
The actual experience was efficient though I felt a whiff of panic right before the anesthesiologist put me in a twilight haze of Propofol. I remember saying to him “give me the Michael Jackson cocktail.” He did and the next thing I vaguely remember was “seeing” some kind of color abstract display that reminded me of the Fillmore East’s Joshua Light Show in 1969.
I was done, released, in the back seat of an Execucar, and home by 9 a.m. Yes, I had to wear a plastic eye cup for a few days. I drowned myself in a two-week regimen of pricey eye drops (I had to get a friend to administer the drops as I have horrific aim and each drop is about $10 – It becomes costly sliding down the side of my face). Eye drops are the Hermes bag of Ophthalmology.
I could see incredibly and immediately but felt woozy for days. I was disturbingly disoriented and did things like put my laundry in the microwave and had trouble remembering my mother and dog’s names. Did I get too much of the Michael Jackson cocktail? After all, anesthesia can be any surgery’s dirty little secret for many post-operative crazy behaviors.
Tozer and his team saw me weekly as I kept complaining of feeling nauseated and seasick and stopped driving for a month between the left and right eye procedures (thank God I only have two eyes!) since my reflexes felt delayed. All my friends were surprised at my struggles – again they kept saying “it is such a No Brainer.” If I heard that expression one more time, I would have to say that indeed I had lost my own brain through the experience. Again, “every eye is different” became my diehard mantra and “blow off” response to all this commentary.
But it was also assured that once I got the 2ndeye “done”, it would all even out. No more cockeyed POV.
So, on Feb 28thI returned to the same waiting room at 7 am – the nurses knew me, and I was whisked on through. This time I took two Ativan for waiting room anxiety and reminded the anesthesiologist to go easy on the “MJ Cocktail” – in fact maybe he should give me a “Cher-light” since she is still alive and has had everything done.
No light shows this time, and again – I got home in record time. However, I remained foggy lensed for three days which made me concerned. But the Tozer team kept me dosed in drops and hopeful. It cleared in three days (remember – every eye is different).
I wouldn’t say I felt balanced or bright-eyed and bushy tailed instantly. In fact, now that both eyes were corrected, it felt like getting a brand-new pair of prescription glasses. Suddenly I was seeing TOO MUCH of life. The world became too digital HD for me. Talk about “up close and personal!” I suddenly missed my hazy yellowed view of the world. I could see every pebble on my distant desert mountain range. The layer of dust on my furniture looked like a giant snow frosting. I stopped reading for a while and I had to settle for the audio news of Robert Kraft and his Orchids of Asia Spa “happy endings”; reports of Jeff Bezos dick pics, and who the hell is Jussie Smollett? None of this made me want to “see” again.
I bought more wrap-around Ray Charles sunglasses and lived encased in my own darkness for close to three weeks. I guess I craved a new world order – not just new eyes.
To say my eye and my brain are now aligned would be an understatement. Time takes time. Apparently, it takes a while for your brain to catch up the 20/20 eyesight of a ten-year-old. At least I am not confused anymore. Or maybe I am. I can only imagine what having a boob job must be like – going from a 32 B to a 38 DDD overnight. How does your brain and back (and equilibrium) adjust to all THAT!!!
I am sure I will come to appreciate the incredible sharpness and overwhelming brightness. I have a new love for the color white – talk about “white-out.” But so far, the only gift out of this whole experience was that my friend Lateash Deloney, who assists my mother through the homecare service we use, decided to “bedazzle” my Ray Charles $15 glasses.
I wear them constantly and now everyone wants a pair. Now that that makes it all worth it – Imagine a fashion trend is born …
Photographs by Patrick Halbe