First, the right eye…

Yesterday morning I had the first of two operations to replace the cataract-ridden lenses of my eyes with synthetic replacements. Everything went smoothly, and I now have 20/20 distance vision in my right eye.
We got to the surgery center at 6:15am,and the worst part of the morning – having an IV inserted less smoothly than usual – was soon over. I’m used to having eye drops to dilate my eyes for examinations, but for the operation we went a bit further. After the usual drops, the nurse placed a tiny drug-soaked sponge (about the size of a grain of rice) under my eyelid, and taped my eyes shut for 20 minutes. The result was suitably impressive. (Iris? What iris?) I spoke briefly to the anesthesiologist, who had previously handled one of my kidney stone treatments, and then I was whisked off to the operating room.
Although I was awake for the procedure, I don’t remember many details. The staff spoke very little, so I couldn’t even cue off their interactions. It seemed to go very much the same as the videos that I linked to in my previous blog piece on the subject. From my side of the eyeball, it was a spectacular light show: mostly pulsating yellows, reds, and cyans, with occasional periods of intense blue and green. There was no discomfort at all. And suddenly I found myself being wheeled into the recovery room, and given a drink of apple juice.
The following morning, I was back at the doctor’s for a post-op check. The pressure in my eye was slightly elevated, which is not unusual, and the doctor applied some eye drops to help to reduce it. As for reading the eye chart, I rattled off the 20/20 line with little difficulty. So now I simply have to keep taking the eye drops until all three bottles are finished, protect the eye against water and rubbing (I sleep with a shield taped over the eye), and show up for another check-up next week. And then in October, after I get back from the OpenStack summit in Boston, we’ll go through the whole procedure again for the left eye.
So what’s it like? Well, the clarity is amazing. I spent most of yesterday with my left eye taped shut, so I could concentrate on the new lens. (I keep wanting to call it my “new eye”.) Things are in focus down to about two feet; closer than that I need reading glasses. I’ve tried a couple of different strengths from the local pharmacy, but I still haven’t got used to them.
Without the clouding of the cataracts, everything looks much brighter, cleaner, and less yellow. At first it was quite amazing, particularly as I tried blocking first one eye and then the other. A chair which I had always thought was olive green now appears simply grey, while a wall that I had seen as cream-colored is now bone-white. However 36 hours later I’m starting to take the brightness and color shift for granted. (This may also be due to the return of my eye to its usual size.)
With my “old eye” patched, I obviously lost depth perception, so I’ve been trying to work with both eyes open. At distance, or when watching TV, my brain seems to take the clear image from my right eye and ignore the fuzzy data from my left, although I do get some slight sensation of depth. Reading or working with the computer is tougher. I use a pair of reading glasses, but the visual sensations are quite inconsistent as I move my eyes across the screen or from the screen to the keyboard. It’s quite a strain, and I can’t do it for long without getting a headache; if that doesn’t improve, I may have to revert to an eye-patch. Obviously I’m not going to be driving for a couple of days, but on Sunday I hope to be back behind the wheel. I’ll let you know how that goes.
Perhaps the biggest change, and one that I didn’t anticipate, is the result of a lifetime of myopia. Ever since I was a very small boy, when anything was visually unclear, or required careful attention, my instinct has been to bring it close to my eyes. If I was trying to disentangle a knot, or thread a needle, I would remove my glasses and peer at the object as close as possible. Suddenly, my world has been turned upside down: the closer I bring things, the less clearly I can see them. For some reason, this simple inversion affected me quite profoundly.
Overall, I’m simply delighted. The next couple of weeks, with one “new” and one “old” eye, are going to be a bit weird, but I don’t anticipate any problems. And I can’t wait for the next operation….

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