Opinion

Surgery is an eye-opening experience | Wally's World

So, I found myself sitting in the office of ophthalmologist Robert Tester, M.D., while he held a model of the human eye in his lap and clarified my rather foreboding situation. He said my vision was going to hell because I had cataracts. Apparently, these damned things result from the ultra-violet light we're exposed to during the course of our lives and, consequently, most of us can look forward to getting them if we live long enough.

I'd always heard the standard treatment dissolved the cataracts with a laser but, instead, Tester explained that the entire lens is destroyed and a new, synthetic lens is put in your eye.Needless to say, after your natural lens is decimated, you're blind for all practical purposes and, if some problem develops with the new, artificial lens, that poses a major problem – which is why surgery is only done on one eye at a time.

Though the procedure works 99 percent of the time, the slim possibility of failure is enough to set you back a few steps. Even several steps. I know I had to pause for a moment to think things over.Still, a month later I was laying on a gurney in the surgical ward at Enumclaw Hospital, clothed in a funny hospital gown, a hair net (which in my case seems a bit unnecessary), shoe covers and a blood pressure cuff, while five or six nurses scurried around me tending to this and that, dropping chemicals in my eye and detailing my life history, while another monitored my vital signs and, if I'm not mistaken, yet another nurse assisted Tester---whose masked face suddenly appeared above me.

As I would find out later, he cut an eighth-of-a-inch slit in my eye and, moments later, I listened to my lens being pulverized by some high-powered, state-of-the-art sonic technology. (Though I was awake throughout the whole procedure, I didn't really feel much of anything.) There was a rather colorful "light show" that some patients claim resembles an acid trip but, obviously, these people have never experienced actual acid. Then the dust and particles that had been my lens were vacuumed out – the entire process is quite astounding – and the new lens was inserted through the tiny slit. Once inside, it expands and "pops" into place. The whole procedure didn't take more than 10 minutes.

But the most amazing experience occurred during the next couple of days, as the sight in my "new" eye gradually congealed. Holy smokes, what a truly awesome and transcendental episode that was! It seemed like some kind of gray, translucent veal was lifted, as though a fog was miraculously cleared from my vision. Colors grew increasingly vivid. There was a rush of clarity. (Talk about a psychedelic episode!)

For much of this surprising change, I happened to be in the Muckleshoot casino and the incredibly bright neon and thecolorful flash of the machines simply blew me away. It's as though my vision had been gradually fading for the last 50 or 60 years and suddenly, once again, I had the sight of a child. I could abruptly discard my glasses because I could see much better without them.

And, as this goes to press, I've only had the surgery on one eye!

Understandably, if you're contemplating this procedure, you may be a bit apprehensive about the whole thing. Of course, the decision is entirely yours. I've simply related my experience.

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