Better Than A Fork In Your Eye, But Only Just — Part Deux

When we last saw our heroine, she was at the end of her patience with a surgical scheduler who had clearly been mainlining Perky Pills.

It gets better.

You may or may not know the cataract drill. They come in and drench your eye with three rounds of five drops, so that after a half hour or so your pupil is dilated to roughly the diameter of a basketball hoop. Then they stick in an IV line, and then you wait behind the curtain, in this case listening to another patient narrating a lengthy, inane anecdote at just enough volume to upend your thought processes and hearing the nurses at the end of the waiting area asking if there have been any “sightings” of your surgeon (quotha).

The anesthesiologist warned me that I might be more aware of things this time. I need to find him and have a talk.

Remember the redheads and anesthesia thing? We need more and it’s slower to take? Wait for it: This time the pain drug didn’t kick in. AT ALL.

The first eye, while not the “mini-vacation” I was promised, was a painless, intriguing little adventure. I actually prefer to be as aware as practical during a surgery; I don’t trust doctors. And I didn’t really mind being aware this time of having my head duct-taped to the table (that peeling sound), or my eyelids taped, although when it came to the kind of rubber frammis they insert to keep your eye definitively open, I could have given it a miss. “You’re going to see colors and shapes,” said the surgeon.

Then he cut.

And I felt every bit of it.

I can state with confidence that I recall the point which represented the corneal border incision, the pressure involved in macerating the spoiled lens and the frantic spasming of all my eye-related muscles saying GET THE FUCK OUT OF THERE, the squicky feeling that was probably the tissue being hydraulically flushed out, and the bruising sensation which I imagine was the prosthetic lens going in (another nasty cramp). “That actually hurts a lot,” I heard myself say distinctly with eerie equanimity, because while I was not numb, I was at least sort of sedated. It was like having cramps in the days before Ibuprofen. “Antibiotic,” said the surgeon without responding to me. And I’m pretty sure he shot it right into my eyeball.

The pain stopped about twenty minutes after they wheeled me down to the car. I don’t know if that was just because it stopped or possibly the drug started to finally kick in.

We had three hours to kill before an in-office check fifteen minutes away. The Engineer found a park on the local map on his phone, and propped me up for a rubber-kneed slow walk up and down a short loop trail, trying to blow off the goofy juice.

At the end of the trail we emerged from scrub vegetation and beheld this:

Three vultures. I think that was a rabbit carcass.

“What the fuck,” I said. “Any day the vultures aren’t interested in you is a good day.”

We drove over to the office and an optometrist peered in my eye and pronounced it good, then put in some numbing drops to test the pressure. She waited for the drug to take effect.

How’s your week going?

Better Than A Fork In Your Eye, But Only Just

So they did my left eye yesterday, after an orgy of administrative disorganization that would make Camp Runamuck look like the Prussian Army.

This, mind you, is the office that didn’t practically put me on a conveyor belt, ask a blind woman to sign in on a touchscreen situated for maximum glare, or drive to the end of Creation to get to their surgical facility. No, this is the place I turfed up after I got rid of he obvious assholes and had a medically qualified veteran of eye surgery help me with my homework.

The surgeon is apparently a Big Noise. He lectures on corneal disease and like that. Gee, You’re Wonderful, Professor. Everyone was courteous, sharp, had immediate answers, ducks in a row. I should have looked under the bed.

First eye went great, aside from the pesky nuisance of no longer having glasses that worked for either eye — something about getting one eye clear meant that even my old prescription didn’t correct the remaining eye. But I had an old pair of reading glasses (calibrated for merely legal blindness from nearsightedness; look at it this way, if your +2 reading glasses from CVS are on one side of a line, mine are the same distance on the other and would make you have to prop your book up on Mars). They kind of worked.

Nothing really works at the moment. But I get ahead of myself.

So they scheduled eye #2 for the first Wednesday in October. Before they even did eye #1, I got a call: oh they need me to come back in, the surgeon looked at the imaging that Dr. Frammis signed off on and wants it redone (they use some pretty Star Trek tech to map the inner eye, like a laser camera that realizes all ten cellular layer of the retina; mine was pronounced fabulous, which was comforting, at least one structure in there isn’t fucked up). Great shuffle and panic. Scheduling of a return visit. The phone tag that ensued would have done credit to Abbott and Costello; first the Engineer, who has to drive me to all this shit, had to ask me to reschedule because of work. We find a time. In an hour some other asshole calls back. The first asshole I talked to “doesn’t understand their schedule” and we have to look for another date. Three hours later I’ve lost track of the assholes, but it has to be rescheduled again.

Two days later I play back a message on my answering machine after work hours on a Friday. Surprise! The surgeon looked at my photos (didn’t he already?) and said it’s fine, no need to come in, but oh, he has a professional obligation and they will need to reschedule the second surgery.

Of course I can’t do shit about this till Monday. I get a twerp who coos in her Customer Voice that “we’d reached out to you a couple of times” (memo to Dante Alighieri: in what circle of hell do you put people who say “reach out” in this context?). “Yeah, in the last hours of Friday,” I said. “I don’t break out of patient appointments to take calls any more than your doctors do.” I find I get a little more respect if I refer to “patients” instead of clients. And by this time, I’m over being nice.

She offers me a time two weeks later than the one on my book. At this point I have just about had it and say “May I point out that [gives narration of past five days of phone tag clusterfuck] and now this, and [voice starting to break] is there anyone there who gives a crap?”

Like I said, done being nice.

Chirpy Asshole finally comes clean that the doctor who did my second pre-op check (measure twice, cut once) has “left the practice suddenly” and that accounts for some of the rescheduling, since she would also be doing followups (you get two for each eye, then a final one a month later). The sudden leaving was not explained, but a week later someone ELSE called to “go over the visit you had with Dr. Frammis” and ask searchingly if I FULLY UNDERSTOOD the surgery and the type of replacement lens I had asked for.

Dr. Frammis must have seriously fucked up. But Dr. Frammis is not my surgeon or even a surgeon at all, so I persevere.

A week before the reset surgical date, Chirpy Asshole calls to say they have to reschedule again because the surgeon has another “professional obligation” but can do it Friday instead of Wednesday of the same week. FINE. “You’ll have to come in for your followup the same day of course because it’s Friday.” (Narrator’s voice. Mama Sled, whose clients do not depend on her for life or vision, would fucking come in on a weekend if she had to jerk someone around this much, but then if she jerked people around this much, she wouldn’t have a practice.) “Thank you for understanding.”

“Actually, I don’t understand how Dr. Wonderful can be this out of control of his own schedule,” I said. “What the hell is going on?” So I get another tidbit of honesty: he’s doing this project with Johnson and Johnson and blather blether… You know, no matter how much moola some pharma giant offered me, I think I’d call my surgery day (clearly, with this guy, it’s Wednesday) SACRED. But that’s just me.

“Anyway, we appreciate your being flexible!”

“Honey,” I said, “what are my options?”

to be continued….

Like This

The purple has faded to a purer white. And the surgical eye drags the other eye along with it, so with both open I see about the same thing as I see with the right alone. But just to give you an idea what it’s like to lose a cataract:

Before
After

I’m still kinda processing this.

Better Than A Fork In Your Eye (II)

But only just. When I said that to the ophthalmic surgeon, she said “Oh yeah! I’ve taken out a few of those! Fish hooks, too.”

It’s nice to know your doctor shares your perspective.

Unlike my f**king hips, which blindsided me (every other joint in my body seems to be about half my age, but they were around eighty-seven when they got replaced with hardware last winter), my eyes have always been headed for, well, something. I have zero memory of a time when I could see anything further than a few inches from my face well enough to read (and yes, that means I have zero memory of a time when I couldn’t read). When I was still in short pants (okay, they don’t put anyone in short pants any more, but you get me) an ophthalmologist cheerfully told my parents I might go blind because I was getting more nearsighted at such a headlong clip that you could take me for a  refraction, get the glasses made and my eyes would be worse by the time they came back and we’d have to do it over again. Something about puberty arrested this, which I suppose disproves the old saw about what you’ll go blind if you don’t stop.

Everyone expects to get a little farsighted when they get past forty, so now the reading prescription at the bottom of my lenses is only about the lower limit for nearsighted legal blindness, instead of three times that. (This has led to perplexity when I show up at Costco and tell them I’ve come to pick up my reading glasses.) What I didn’t expect was, right about the time my marriage broke up (I don’t think there was any connection), to have my right eye refuse to focus even with a spanking new prescription; to start seeing double and triple images of anything luminous or contrasty (like highway signs and traffic signals), and to have my eyeball feel like it had been doing pushups.

This is something called map-dot corneal dystrophy, which is the commonest form of a rare condition apparently, and which my optometrist (who could eat all the MD opthalmologists I’ve ever had for lunch) had spotted several years before that, even though it wasn’t affecting me at the time. Now I was seeing double and I hadn’t had anything to drink that day. Yet.

What it is, is the cornea, which is sort of your window glass, doesn’t hold fluid evenly, so that you get an astigmatism (I already had the ordinary kind that comes from an irregular corneal surface, damn, forgot to mention that) which changes on a daily basis, depending on which cells are holding water. Meaning that you get a pair of glasses made, and by the time they come back, they make it worse, and instead of proper window glass you are looking through the wavy stuff they used to put in the windows of the restrooms back in high school.

Just like old times.

This left me at about 20/70. Newsprint was out. Giant movie-screen sized monitors and enlarged browser pages were in. I am typing this on a 27-inch screen in about an 18-point font. Today only some of the letters in my field of vision are double, like what you see when you turn a calcite crystal over a page of print.

It sucks, is what.

Then I got cataracts. The only way I can hold my head up here is to note that the Engineer already had his done, and he’s fifteen years younger than I am. I was so impressed at his being able to read a digital clock in the next room without glasses (which he began to do regularly, just to be snarky) that I said, “gee, I almost look forward to having that done some day.” Never wish for anything.

Last year I developed Fuchs’ corneal dystrophy, which is the other layer of the cornea. It looks like dandelion fluff is constantly floating around in front of me.

Amazingly, I can drive. I just can’t read a lot of signs, so I stick to places where I already know where I’m going.

So: first they take out the right cataract. Then after five Hellish days of no lifting and a little more recuperation, they pop some dead person’s cornea in my eye. This squicks me out even though I know it’s done all the time. Then wait for it all to heal up before doing the same thing on the left. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I could do it any time (Dr. Fishhook looked ready to do it right there in her consulting room, using an X-acto knife and with the Engineer holding a flashlight) but I am damned if someone is sticking a sharp thing in me twice in a calendar year. Shooting for March.

She does seem very confident, even though she looks about seventeen, but at this point, so does everybody. I could shot-put her, and I had to explain what I meant about working out (no, we are not talking about the cardio pump class with a pair of five pound dumbbells) but anyone who sounds that damn gleeful about tinkering sharp things out of people’s eyeballs strikes me as likely to know her stuff. I know how I sound when people come in dithering about I have this pain right here and I don’t know if I slept wrong (is there a wrong way to sleep?) and it feels funny here and maybe I’m going to have a stroke and then I feel it when I do this and when I can shut them up for two seconds I stick my finger on the spot I know is the problem, grin fiendishly when they lift three inches into the air, and shout “Eureka!”  Like that.

Nonetheless, can everyone yell the F word for me right about now? I need it.