Beginning in about April 2014 I started to experience the sensation that there was something in my right eye. I examined the eye in a magnifying mirror but nothing was visible. The feeling persisted. I wasn’t having any other symptoms so I just went about my business. By the summer the right eye was definitely different than the left eye. I attributed it to the prescription for my reading glasses. I am stoic. If I get a rare ache or pain, I debate so long about taking something for it that it usually goes away. The eye problem wasn’t going away, but I had many other things to attend to so I resized the text and moved on. I even bought an iPhone 6 Plus so I could get the text large enough. Note to site developers that don’t allow text resizing: I try to resize text and if resizing is disabled I immediately leave. I’m not reading your content out of solidarity with those who need this basic accommodation.
“Cataract is the leading cause of blindness worldwide, and there are more than 24 million Americans age 40 and older who have cataract in the United States alone.”Leading Cause of Blindness Affects Millions by Prevent Blindness
I have a habit of seeing an eye doctor in November each year and by that time things were getting dimmer in addition to out of focus. In fact, by that time I couldn’t see any of the letters on the eye chart at all. With my left eye covered all I could see was a blur. The best correction could only get me to 20/50 in the right eye. I was diagnosed with cataract and got a referral to a surgeon.
When looking for a doctor I generally look for what I call a “mad scientist.” This is someone who is brilliant and can use techniques that no one else seems to know about, but is down to earth and probably a bit quirky. I have a brilliant periodontist who performed micro surgery under one tooth, saving it for another ten years. She competes worldwide with her agility dogs. My foot doctor takes his six dogs to the office every day but seems to come up with interesting new ways to keep my feet feeling great. Both of them have modest offices. So that’s what I was looking for when I fetched up at this very slick double-door-entryway suite with the two hundred thousand dollar interior. My eyes were immediately drawn to the black-clad hard-bodied staff all lined up behind the counter with perfect broad smiles each saying welcome in their turn. I was reminded of the siren scenes in “Ice Age: Continental Drift” which scored very low on the tomato meter but which my daughter loves.
The intake questionnaire was a brilliant piece of user experience chicanery. It was designed to funnel you down to the most expensive eye experience you could ever imagine. If it had one more question it would have been perfect: would you like your eyes to glow like Satan? After five minutes with the doctor I concluded that this was probably not the practice for me. On a break from the ordeal while he checked on my wallet biopsy I could see a patent award framed on the wall for something to do with lasers. With a broad grin at the results of the wallet biopsy he came back for the kill. The laser treatment was sure enough on his mind. I opted out. The look he gave me reminded me of the Taiwanese movie producer I held the movie negative on, forcing him to pay me. Joe, he said, what’s wrong? I thought we were one big happy family. I seem to remember that none of the other family members got paid, by the way. Anyway, when I opted out of the laser treatment and he agreed to use the ultrasound lens liquefaction method I could see the avidity die in him. Then, since the fancy interocular lenses were astronomically priced I opted out of all but a basic lens. When I arrived at scheduling I was told that because the ultrasound technique takes so long and is so involved that they only schedule it at the end of the day. This is unworkable for me since I’d have to be fasting all day. I was so done with them that I don’t think I had the opportunity to ungreet each and every smiley faced staff member on my way out.
After this I was at my periodontist for a cleaning and happened to mention that I was in need of cataract surgery. She produced a card for an eye doctor she uses. Aha! I made an appointment. There I learned that the ultrasound liquefaction surgery and lens implant procedure takes five minutes. I also learned that the top of the line Tecnis Multifocal interocular lens implant was far less than previously quoted. Plus, I suspected that this obviously smart woman was probably a mad scientist. I suspected this because she was personable and extremely capable and instead of having an assistant do it like at the Institute, she did the exam herself. She also explained what was going on.
She explained that the lens sits behind the cornea and the iris and is made of water and cleverly arranged protein to keep the lens clear but which can become clumped together causing cloudiness. Yellow-brown pigment is also deposited in the lens which will ultimately turn black causing blindness. My lens was dark honey colored, making it an advanced cataract. The doctor told me that years ago the only surgical technique was to remove the lens, letting unfocused light in. This happened to her mother, who was very incapacitated despite very thick glasses. Is this why she became an eye doctor? I find that many accessibility practitioners have family members or friends with disabilities and that’s why they got into the field. Fascinating.
Yesterday morning I reported for surgery. I found the procedure interesting. They put numbing drops in my eye and sedated me just enough so I didn’t feel anything but could still see. Then came the interesting part. I assisted at various times by looking at a gray spot in the center of a ring of light that surrounded the microscope they used to do the operation. I felt nothing. They were done in a few minutes. Old lens out, new lens in, and then back to recovery. I went home with an outsized bandage on the right eye with many instructions.
Today I saw the doctor at her office where she took off the bandage. The difference in vision in the eye is startling. Before the surgery I could only see a blur where the eye chart was, today I tested at 20/25 on the same chart. I can see clear bluish light whereas before, everything was cloudy and warm toned. My left eye, which was my good eye, is developing cataract and is now revealed to be very obviously cloudy and warm toned. Vision in my right eye will probably improve. There is a one month recovery time with many drops of three different prescriptions all day long. I probably won’t be skydiving at the CSUN conference, but then you knew that already, didn’t you?
You can talk with me about this or anything that happens to cross your brain on Twitter at @AccessibleJoe.