Wagner: I waited way too long to have cataract surgery | Opinion

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More than a few years ago my wife, Connie, had cataract surgery on her eyes. I remember it as a difficult surgery followed by endless days of eye drops as well as covering her eyes to protect them from the brightness of the sun and any unexpected external pressure.

For most of the last 10 years my optometrist has told me, at each annual checkup, that although I had the early stages of cataracts they were not to the point where I needed removal. I was delighted to hear that since I don’t like anybody poking in my eye and I’ve never done well with eye drops.

Then, just before COVID hit us last spring, the positive report changed. There was no discussion about it. I needed cataract surgery. There was nothing more that wearing glasses could do to improve my vision.

Dutifully, I scheduled the surgery. But then I had my heart attack and was unable to keep my cataract appointments.

Since then, it has been one thing or another, with simply being scared the leading factor, that has kept me from rescheduling the needed procedures.

Fortunately, like all good wives, Connie kept pestering me, pushing me to face the music and the medical procedure.

Friends, especially those in my Old Testament Bible Study, also urged me to take the leap. Most of them had already had the procedure and claimed it was all but painless and that they could see so much better and enjoyed seeing more vivid color then before.

Two weeks ago, Connie drove me to Jones Eye Clinic to have the cataract removed from my right eye. I had slept surprisingly well the night before but was nervous during the one-hour drive. Connie said she knew I was worried because I kept humming under my breath the entire trip. It didn’t help that I wasn’t allowed any food after 6 that morning or anything to drink — not even water — after 10 o’clock.

Soon after checking in at the clinic, I found myself in a pre-op room with two other candidates preparing for surgery. A nurse quickly introduced herself and said she would be responsible for administrating a series of pre-surgery eye drops.

“I don’t do eye drops very well,” I told her.

“I do,” she replied, “and we’ll get those in without any trouble.”

She was correct. Holding my eyelids open with one hand she neatly dropped one drop after another into the center of my eye.

But she had to call for assistance with the final application of something she and the nurse helping her referred to as a “jelly.”

“Just relax for a few minutes,” she told me, “and we’ll move to the operating room when the doctor is ready for you.”

I got so relaxed I often nearly fell asleep. But then, Connie will tell you, I can nearly fall asleep standing up. It probably helped that when I first arrived the nurse had given me some sort of sedative.

My time with the eye surgeon went quickly and smoothly. Early on I thought I heard a small electric tool close to my eye and then later the doctor telling me he was about to insert the new artificial lens. I had been warned to be very still when the lens was put into my eye.

Just minutes later I was back in recovery, quickly checked over and allowed, at last, to leave the clinic for an hour to have lunch. By then it was shortly after 3 p.m. and I was very hungry.

Connie drove. I had earlier signed a paper that I would not drive for 12 hours. On the way to the restaurant, I commented to Connie how bright the colors were. I didn’t remember plants and grass to be so green.

Lunch was followed by a quick checkup to see that everything had turned out as expected. It all went so well I wished I had done it sooner.

Once home I glanced out the front window at the house across the street. We’ve lived at our current address for 16 years and I always thought the neighbor’s house was yellowish green. It is, I discovered, a lovely gray.

Connie has been the perfect nurse, putting drops in my eyes four times a day. She has been faced with double duty since I had my second eye, the left one done on Thursday.

Doing my eye drops has been a difficult process for Connie since I too often shut my eyelids before the drop reaches the target. But I’m getting better and so is she. I’m thankful she is helping since I learned from another patient she must put her twice-daily drops into her own eyes. She told me she sometimes has to attempt it up to six times to hit the eyeball before her eyelid automatically closes.


Peter W. Wagner lives in Sibley. He is the founder/publisher of The N’West Iowa REVIEW and may be reached at [email protected].



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