I’m back from cataract exile

I’m back.

All appears to have gone well (knock on wood) with my cataract surgery last Thursday night. Even though it could take weeks or months before I know my final prescription, as it currently stands my distance vision rocks.

Though it’s come at the price of my near vision – I was incredibly near-sighted, and I’m now terribly far-sighted. Can’t focus on anything under six feet, possibly 8 feet, with my left (post-cataract) eye. Which is annoying. I expected the surgery to leave me presbyopic, but didn’t expect to be THIS presbyopic. It’s been a big adjustment. Again, I know this was going to happen, but I guess I didn’t realize the extent of the far-sightedness. It’s tempered my elation a bit.

Then in a few weeks we do eye number two, and that’s when I’m really not going to be able to see my dinner.

Another odd development is how I see color in the post-operative eye. I knew, from reading other’s stories, that people always talk about how amazing colors are after their cataracts are removed. My colors aren’t amazing. They’re just different. Whites are now actually white, while in my not-yet-operated-on eye the whites are, I now know, cream colored. In fact, everything with my right eye has a creamy overtone to it. While my left borg implant now sees the world tinged slightly blue.

In part, or perhaps in whole, this is due to the fact that your natural lens in your eye starts out clear but becomes more yellow as you age. It’s so gradual that you don’t notice that the world is becoming more yellow around you. Not until you have a cataract and a new clear lens goes in, and suddenly the yellow is no longer blocking the blue (that’s the way the color wheel works), so everything seems to have a bluish tint. I’m not sure I like the bluish world I now live in, though cream-land now feels like a bit of a lie.

I’ve suddenly lost all faith in colors all together. When I edit my photos in the future, will they look funny to any of you pre-cataract people (for lack of a better word, we’ll simply refer to you as the pre-assimilated), since they’ll be edited for a post-assimilation eye? I’d never expected to have an existential crisis over color.

Things are also somewhat brighter with my borg eye.

Now a word about the surgery. Don’t let them fool you with all the talk of it being “out-patient.” I’ve had out-patient surgery before. This was different. My previous outpatient surgery involved things like sitting in a chair and have my retina zapped with a laser in order to cauterize a small hole or a large tear. I wasn’t supposed to feel a thing. It was excruciating. But at least I was sitting in a chair, in my own clothes, and pretty soon it was all over.

Not so much with the cataract surgery.

You start fasting around noon. Get to the hospital around 6pm (I was late due to NATO/Occupy traffic backup from Chicago). And then wait until 9pm for your surgery. In the meantime, you have to go downstairs and be admitted, and get one of those funky wristbands with your name on it (in case they accidentally kill you, and then lose your body, I guess). Then you go back upstairs, talk through all your current medications with a nurse, and then go back into what looks like an emergency room with lots of people wearing surgical gear, and patients wearing those nasty little gowns they make you wear for surgery.

The entire experience felt very very surgery-like. And not very out-patient like.

Now, all of this is to make sure the area is sterile – bacterial infections post cataract surgery can be very serious, and ultimately blind you. So I’m not knocking the whole operation-room chic of the experience. But I wasn’t expecting it. I honestly thought I was gonna sit in some guy’s office and he was going to sit me back and zap my eye like he might a wart.

Two funny moments pre-surgery. The first was when I asked the nurse if I could keep my iPad with me (the hospital has free wifi) in case the surgery was going to be a while. She looked at me, in total seriousness, put her hand to her eye, and said “why do you have an eye pad, you’re going to put it against your eye?” We both got a chuckle when I very politely explained what an iPad was, just in case she was from Mars.

The second somewhat humorous moment was when the anesthesiologist asked me, in front of my mother, “do you drink?” Not really. “Do you smoke?” No. (Though I did think it odd she was asking me this in front of mom – I know people who aren’t out to their parents about smoking.) Then, sensing what was coming next, I jumped in and said to her, “are you seriously going to ask me if I do drugs in front of my mom?” Not without cause – these were the three questions the other nurse asked me when we were going through my list of medications.

All in all, I’m pleased the surgery appears to have gone well, and so far I don’t seem to have an of the dreaded complications. But I’m honestly still a bit freaked about my near vision now being this bad (though, as I mentioned, it still may get better as my eye heals, though I’m doubtful). I’m not sure what I was expecting – maybe that I’d be able to focus two feet away from my eyes, which is pretty much what I can do with my contacts. But with my generation, and younger, we spend so much time with our gadgets, and at our desks, that I worry about needing glasses for every little thing.

Then again, I’ve been wearing glasses (or contacts) full time since I was 6. So it’s not like wearing glasses is a new thing. Still, it’s a bit unsettling. And I’m not entirely sure why.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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