Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Whiter Whites

When we stopped at the red light there was a panel truck in front of us. Its rear end was a big white square in the afternoon sun. Very white. I shut my right eye. The truck was white. I opened the right and shut the left eye. Same. The truck was white.

“Why am I doing this?” I asked myself and my driver (John) for the billionth time that morning. I was about to have a cataract surgically removed from my right eye and a Toric lense put in that would reduce my astigmatism

I had already signed the lawyer induced paperwork. The night before I made the big mistake of actually reading the disclaimer form from the doctor’s office. So now I knew that possible blindness could occur immediately or at any time in the next year. 

Here I want to point out that you should never read disclaimers or listen to the disclaimers on TV commercials. First they woo you with the miraculous things some medication can do for you. Then a voice-over mumbles—at ninety words a minute—everything that can go wrong. If you have low testosterone—LOW T—the medication you roll in your armpit will give your wife pimples. That desperately needed pain killing medication for rheumatoid arthritis can cause a sore tongue, rash, high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, liver problems, diarrhea and death. Do not read or listen to that stuff. The lawyers want you to know all those bad things, so if the bad thing happens they can say, “Told you so,” and you can’t sue.

My friend Pat is wintering in her condo in Florida and needs cataract surgery. Cataract and condo—a sure sign of old age, she says. Her cataract is so bad she’s having trouble reading. My glasses make a dent in my nose that will probably turn into cancer, but the cataract wasn’t affecting my reading. Why was I doing this?

For Pat and Katie and anyone else reading this who has a cataract, the surgery went fine. Easy. The anesthesiologist told me I’d be awake and comfortable during the procedure.  She put some happiness chemical into the IV in my hand. While the doctor worked on my eye, I saw two bright white spots about the size and shape of an oval pill. I felt nothing, no pain. For a while there was a tiny red dot (probably a laser). At times there were colors, pinks and yellows, it was interesting and very pretty. Someone should paint it, I thought.
When they wheeled me into the recovery room, John was waiting. The nurse explained about the drops...three drops three time a day for a week, then two drops twice a day for the rest of the month. There is an eye shield (clear plastic with holes) that you wear at night for a week to keep from rubbing or scratching your eye.

After the surgery the only discomfort I had was a growling stomach, since I’d had no food or water since midnight and it was nearly four o’clock. The nurse gave me a cookie and juice and even brewed a fresh pot of decaf coffee. Then John took me out to eat spaghetti.

The next morning I was still questioning—did I really need to have this done? I went down to our living room and was startled. Our walls are white, bright white. Hey, we don’t need to paint these walls after all. 

I went into the bathroom to put the drops in my eye and looked in the mirror. My hair was WHITE! Wow. I shut my left eye (the one that didn’t have surgery), my hair was brilliant white! I shut my right eye and looked at myself with eye that still needs cataract surgery...beige hair. Several years ago my hair was bright white, but gradually it had been getting dingy looking. My hair was getting so dull, I thought I should change shampoo. 

Then I started to put on some lipstick, and there I was—prune face. Deep wrinkles around my mouth, a hundred tiny lines in my cheeks when I smile. I didn’t know it was that bad. I stared at my face for a long time. Shutting one eye and then the other. Winking at me. 

Next August I will turn seventy. Seventy. Yikes! I have wrinkles. I earned them. They are mine. Now I can see them, own them. For my friends who will have their cataracts removed, I’m glad that your whites will be whiter, and it’s okay if you suddenly notice my wrinkles.

It’s been thirteen days since the surgery. Because of the Toric lense, I’m writing this blog without glasses. In mid-March I’ll get the other eye done. 

Note: Last week on 60 minutes there was a segment called Africa Mercy: Hospital of Hope. Watch it here: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50141230n. 

Near the end of this segment you’ll see blind people boarding the hospital ship. They were cured in half an hour by the simple procedure of removing cataracts. I wonder if they signed a disclaimer? This surgery could cause blindness...but without it, you could eventually become blind. Hmm.

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  1. As usual, I loved your blog. Just your writing which expresses your personality. Then the story. I love the ending, tying it to those in Africa who go blind BECAUSE of cataracts. And I feel reassured about the whole eventual, inevitable, if you're lucky to live long enough, surgery.

  2. Thanks, Joy. I think there are probably lots of old people who never get cataracts.
    I never wore contacts or had lasik surgery, so writing this without glasses is really cool.


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