Double or Nothing

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A funny thing happened to me on the way to writing about what a piece of cake my cataract surgery was: I started seeing double out of the cataract eye.

We’re staying in Santa Barbara for two weeks so I thought it was a perfect time to do the cataract surgery. Our ophthalmologist here is world renown–as a matter of fact, he’d just returned from India where he’d done thirty retinal implants.

The cottage we’re staying at is on the golf course. I knew my husband was playing with our son and grandson so I kept watching for them. When they came by, I went out to say hello. The only thing strange was that it looked like they were playing with two golf balls instead of one.

Oh well, I thought. I’m only day 3 from the surgery.

The next day, my husband and I took a walk by the ocean.

“How many buoys do you see out there?” I asked him.

He looked at me strangely. “What do you mean? I see six.”

“Well, I see twelve.” (I’d show you the image, but only I can see it.)

The following morning I mentioned to my sister what was going on.

“You’re going to talk to the doctor, right?” she said.

“Sure, I’ll text him this morning,” I assured her.

There’s a lot of sures in that sentence because I was sure the doc would say it was normal. But, instead he said it wasn’t.

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The actual cataract surgery was a breeze. I was in by 6:30 and out by 8:30.

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The nurse had me get into a gown and took my vitals. Then she started the IV. She had just moved to Santa Barbara from Tennessee and was new to the Surgical Hospital. “But I’ve been doing this for 35 years,” she said.

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The surgical nurse came to wheel my gurney into the operating room. We passed storage rooms in the rather crowded hall, but other than bumping into a wall, it was a smooth ride.

I don’t think the surgery itself took more than fifteen minutes.

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You’re not put to sleep so you can respond to their direction to move your eye as they put in the lens. But, happy juice is pumped into your system via an IV so all is well. As the anesthesiologist had explained, “Being in a very cold operating room where you know someone is going to be cutting your eye can be extremely anxiety producing. We don’t want that.”

“No we don’t,” I said. “Count me in.”

I don’t know how long I was in recovery because the happy juice was still flowing through my skinny veins even if it was cut off at the source. I was impressed by the mix of professionalism and caring nature of everyone.

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Soon I was dressed, in the car and on the way to breakfast at The Pharmacy in Montecito. My eye shield made me a fashion sensation but I was so busy admiring how yellow the hibiscus flowers were that I didn’t notice. I did make some new friends as I heard their cataract stories.

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When we got home, I was tired. I always put a lot of energy into being anxious before events like this. I also eat like there may be no tomorrow. When I had uterine cancer and had to have a hysterectomy, I won’t say I was hysterical, but I did eat a donut. The cataract surgery really was no big deal, but French fries became a staple for a week. As did pancakes.

So all was well except for me being tired—which may be a part of being in my seventies anyway. Your sight is not perfect, of course, because it takes a few weeks for the lens to settle in. But at my afternoon post-op, all looked fantastic. So much so, that my husband took over, as usual, and got a check up too.

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It took two days for my natural disaster karma to set in. It turns out I have monocular diplopia. It’s very rare—it occurs in maybe 1 out of 100,000 cases. I always did say I was unique. My friend, Earl, put it another way: “Do you ever feel like you’re a magnet for trouble?”

Now I’ve been back to my ophthalmologist for a very thorough exam. He even tested for macular degeneration. While I waited for him, I looked at the charts on the all the computer screens in the examining room.

IMG_0818Not being able to interpret any of them, I immediately imagined myself with a white cane and seeing-eye dog by my side in the near future. Fortunately, all those tests came out super-duper.

To be safe, the doctor also sent me to a specialist for a second opinion and another thorough exam.

“Wow, your lens is positioned perfectly,” the specialist said. “That all looks great.”

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I smiled and gave a thumbs up in my head.

“But yes,” he continued, “you do have monocular diplopia.”

My smile turned upside down.

“But that’s better than binocular double vision.”

“Better?” I didn’t sound sure.

He nodded. “It could resolve itself. Probably will.”

That sounded good and concurred with my ophthalmologist’s opinion.

“You also have SPK,” this doctor added.

“What is that? I asked, my poor stomach’s knots getting even tighter.

 

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(A brief hopeful thought that it could be a consonant Words With Friends word flitted through my mind, but then I was back to fear.)

“It’s nothing to worry about. Just a surface inflammation of the cornea. But since you’ve seen some flashes of light, I’m going to have you see a retina specialist.”

What? Another specialist? I was beginning to feel I’d fallen down the rabbit hole.

I could barely see anything when I drove back to Montecito.

My eyes were dilated to such an extreme that my iris was almost completely eclipsed. You could only see the black pupil and a sliver of blue. Although I am partial to that particular blue which signaled my particular eyes, I didn’t think of that. I just thought I was permanently blind.

I probably should have stayed a while in the waiting room, but I’d already been there for two and a half hours. It was already 12:30 and I had a manicure appointment at 1:00. (There are priorities, you know.)

So I Mr. Magoo’ed it along the freeway in the slow lane, making my way to the Nail Shop. I’d never been there before but had a general idea where it was. I only missed by three blocks—not bad since I still could barely see a thing.

I was, to put it mildly, a nervous wreck.

“Take an Uber home,” my wise older brother advised me over the phone.

“I don’t have Uber,” I said.

“Then take a cab. You don’t want to have an accident on top of all of this.”

We talked for a few more minutes until I said, “You know I’m going to drive home.”

“Yeah, I know,” he said.

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By the time my manicure was finished, an hour had passed and my eyesight was returning. Driving home was barely a challenge.

My eyes were almost as tired as I was. I dropped into bed and slept for two hours.

When I woke, my eyes were still very dilated and things were fuzzy, but improving.

Today, things are much better. I have blue eyes again and my sense of humor is returning along with some energy.

I’m also feeling grateful. What’s a little monocular diplopia? Nothing, my friends, as long as I can basically see.

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