I measure my recovery from cataract surgery by four post-op exams and 207 eyedrops. On a morning two days ago, on the 26th, I reached the medical end of what seemed much longer than the actual 35 days. I squeezed one drop of the steroid Durezol into my left eye at 9:45, a perfect splashdown, followed by the brief, concluding 3-week exam less than an hour later at Barnet Dulaney Perkins Eye Center in Phoenix.
To be precise, there were two surgeries, both by Dr. Scott Perkins. One on my dominant right eye on April 21 followed two weeks later by the left eye, on May 5. The old clouded lenses were broken up and sucked away and new, synthetic standard ones implanted. And, despite missing three of the scheduled 210 eye drops and having yet another surgery for a macular hole on the right eye to deal with, the results ultimately pleased me beyond expectations.
In the beginning, as I wrote in Part I of my cataract journal, my goal was simply to pass the Arizona vision test so I could return to driving at night. Even if my eyes could see only the minimum, 20/40, that was fine with me. My current license is restricted to daytime-driving only, a daunting imposition on my lifestyle and independence. In fact, one eye specialist told me I probably shouldn’t be driving at all, so poor was my vision.
There was no lower point in the process than on the day of the first surgery when I signed a form saying it was understood there was a possibility even after the operation my vision would be no better than 20/50. The thought of never driving again at night and maybe never driving again, period, weighed on me as I was prepped and anesthetized for surgery.
Almost from the moment that first day when I pulled off the bandages that covered my right eye, a feeling of elation began to swell. Even in those first hours of blurriness and distortion I sensed something good was happening. There was a lot more light and detail. I recall lying on the sofa and looking out the living room window into a bright, blue sky with my right eye. The unrepaired left eye revealed a brownish sky and the same old fuzziness. The distortions vanished that first day and by the end of the third day so had the light haziness. With each passing day, the vision steadily improved. And the halos around lights, quite dramatic at the start, dissipated after several days.
All the time I continued to pound the three prescription eye drops. For the first week after each surgery I plopped in three drops of Vigamox, Nevanac and Durezol every day. That came to 63 drops for the week. At times I wondered if callouses were forming in the eyes. The second week was much easier, only 35 drops of Nevanac and Durezol, and by the third and final week only one drop of Durezol a day. Still, I came to resent the eye drops and the amount of time I spent administering them. With five minutes between drops, I computed it used up at least two hours and 45 minutes of whatever life I have left. But I got through it and felt upbeat at the end.
But no amount of optimism prepared me for the last exam on Thursday, even though I can read books and some newspapers unaided.
As I settled into a cushy chair in a darkened room, I was asked again to read the smallest line of letters I could on the eye chart using only my left eye. I was startled how far down I got. Line 5 was easy, and I read Line 6 with almost as much ease. “That’s 20/20,” said the technician, a 30ish man wearing eyeglasses. “That’s great.” I’m thinking my vision is probably better than his now. And to realize in just 15 days after an initial exam for macular hole, on May 11, my left eye had improved from 20/30, well, that was a rush I had not experienced in a long, long time.
My right eye tested only 20/40, but the optometrist, Dr. Pinkert, predicted it will be much better after the mac hole surgery on June 1. The center of everything thing I view is “wrinkled.” Looking at a light pole, say, the top and bottom are clear but there is a wave in the middle. That wave prevents me from seeing a full word or an entire line of letters on an eye chart.
In fact, Pinkert said, my overall vision is 20/20 because, he said, “the left eye is doing all the work.” As I left he gave me a reassuring smile and said, thinking no doubt of the macular hole, “You’re going to have very good results.” I not only hope he’s right. I believe it.