“I’m nervous about this.”
“I’ll give you a pill to calm you and drops to numb your eye.”
But what if the pill didn’t work? What if I felt the incision in my cornea and screamed out in pain? As it turned out, that scenario was no more realistic than the stories my grade school friends and I told while camping in my backyard, the ones about spider mothers laying eggs under our skin, then watching us scratch ourselves to death as the eggs hatched.
Friends who preceded me in undergoing cataract surgery assured me it would go fast and be both painless and effective. Still, I had to experience it to believe it. The operation took about fifteen minutes. During that time, I could hear the surgeon and other operating room staff talking. The only added sounds were mechanical; they reminded me of symphony members attempting to tune their instruments, but failing because they never agreed on the pitch. The noises were helpful distractors from the bright, white lights, and the blue and magenta colors that flashed before me. Soon, someone wheeled me to recovery — a recliner near the coffee maker — where a nurse offered me a cup of tea and, before I’d taken a sip, told my husband it was time to get the car and pick me up. I was back home in less than two hours.
That same day we took a walk through the neighborhood. Despite having a dilated pupil so big I must have looked like a heavy marijuana user, every few feet, sounding like an excerpt from a Dick and Jane reader, I announced, “I can see that sign. I can see that tree. I can see the sidewalk.” I experienced no discomfort, except when it was time to sleep and I had to tape on an eye guard that looked like a large tea strainer.
My vision improves a little every day. In public I’m wearing some hand-me-down shop safety glasses, which friends tell me look very cool. I had the optician pop out one lens in my regular glasses, which I wear to drive and do closeup work.
I’ve worn glasses since I was in third grade, have been nearly blind without them. So there was never a waking moment I didn’t know where to find them. They were always on my face. Now I scurry from room to room asking my husband if he’s seen any of my temporary glasses.
When the technician was measuring my eyes for the new lenses, she said, “This is the one procedure that truly defies aging.” Now that I can see myself clearly in the mirror, I wish there were more.