Eyes wide shut

I was so scared about cataract surgery, but my friends were right: There’s really nothing to fear

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Cataract surgery: “They replace your old carburetor with a new one and you get your timing back,” is how a gearhead friend described it.

And, for sure, my visual “timing” was way off. Like a car with an engine knock, my eyes weren’t operating at full power.

Signs in the distance had become a blur. Lights from oncoming vehicles were blinding. While driving the freeway, the road ahead seemed slightly “cloudy.”

But the surgery terrified me. There would be two operations. The old lens would be removed and a new one inserted in its place, through — gulp! — an incision made alongside the eyeball.

I cower during blood draws; dental work is an ordeal. I didn’t want to know that much about the actual procedure: I just wanted to get it over with. So I reluctantly made an appointment for the right eye to be done first, and the left eye, two weeks later. Then I nervously began telling friends about it.

Their reassurance was overwhelming. Almost everyone who’d undergone the procedure praised it. Comments included “Cataract surgery is painless,” “It takes only about 15 minutes,” and “You’ll see clearly again almost right away.”

I began feeling a bit better. Yet, these were my eyes. What if something went wrong?

Doing a little research, I discovered the success rate for cataract surgery is phenomenal. The early Egyptians were doing a rudimentary procedure thousands of years ago using a sharp instrument to force the lens away from the field of vison. Even using these barbaric procedures, it must have worked to a degree — and set the stage for the successful modern advancement of such procedures.

Well, OK. Committed, but still edgy, I began prepping my eyes by squirting Vigamox antibiotic and Prednisone anti-inflammatory drops into my right eye. And, all too soon, the big day arrived and I found myself at the surgery center, being escorted into a holding area.

A nurse administered more eye drops and drew a large letter X above my right eye. The anesthesiologist appeared, describing the anesthesia as being similar to that used for a colonoscopy — a relaxant that wouldn’t totally knock me out.

As I was being wheeled into the operating room, the surgeon asked if I had any questions. “Nope, nope!” I replied. “Just do good work.”

Then the dreaded moment arrived. I lay staring at the ceiling, focusing on a large stainless steel light fixture as my head was positioned and the anesthesia started.

Then, ahhh: A wonderful euphoria came over me. I began floating, drifting; the light blurred. And then I woke up!

That’s all there was to it!

Two weeks later, after my left eye was done, I realized my friends’ positive comments were all true. The world was much brighter. It had more color. The freeway: all clear. My vision was up to full power again at 20/25.

Yup. I got my timing back!

Carol Hall lives in Woodbury. She’s a longtime freelance writer, a University of Minnesota graduate and a former Northwest Airlines stewardess. Send comments and questions to chall@mngoodage.com.