Innovator or Guinea Pig ?

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Well. What a week. We had been to Switzerland for meetings and arrived home on Saturday where we found an envelope from our local hospital, informing me that I had an appointment to see the eye consultant on Monday morning, and would be having a cataract operation on the Wednesday. ARGH !

Now, I hate anything to do with eyes … I am very very squeamish, so although I was delighted, as my right eye was heading for no sight at all, I was also feeling decidedly nervous. And I mean decidedly.

There was also the small matter of a significant dioptre difference between my left (good) eye and right(bad) eye, so despite a lack of cataract in my left eye it was still going to be necessary to do both, but not for a while.

However. However. When I went to the consultant on the Monday and asked how long it would be before I could get eye #2 done he said … well it looks as though I have a cancellation on Wednesday which means I could do both at once! He said that it would be very hard to tolerate the difference between the two eyes otherwise. O MI GOD. He asked if I was up for it and I took a very deep breath and said yes. We also discussed whether to go for mid-distance vision or, as he said “go for gold” and I thought what’s the point of a half-way house. Go for gold.

It was to be the first time this consultant had oen done a bi-lateral cataract operation at the Balfour, and it is quite rarely done anywhere. Normally they are done a few weeks, or even a year or more apart.

I was told to be at the hospital at 08.00 on the Wednesday – and those of you who know me will know how much grief getting up early causes me. But I was a good girl, and got up in time to have a shower and Mark drove me to the hospital (not far – only about 20 minutes).

Into the Day Surgery Unit and there was met by a lovely nurse, Lorna, who was so gentle and calming, and I started to shake a bit less. Eye drops were administered to both eyes every 15 minutes for an hour (oh I hate eye drops). Three lots in each eye each time – 1 to dilate the pupils, 1 to relax the eye and for the last two sets, anaesthetic ones.

Then they came to take me away – a wheel chair was used making me feel very silly but with the drops I really couldn’t see very well, so probably necessary for safety reasons. And I arrived in theatre.

The theatre staff were … amazing. They all came over to introduce themselves, especially the nurse who was going to hold my hand all the way through. Not for comfort (though it was incredibly comforting) but so that if I squeezed her hand she could tell them to stop so I could sneeze, scratch my nose or whatever as doing anything while they have instruments in your eye (eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek) is not good!

And so into the chair which became a table as it lay me down. And the consultant explained that he was going to put a mask over my face except for the eye he was going to operate on, but there would be a pipe bringing cool ventilation underneath so I didn’t feel too claustrophobic (and it worked like a dream).

I guess, but couldn’t see, that the mask, which had to be unstuck at the end, actually kind of stuck my eyelids open top and bottom but now I have been told that they actually use a metal spring clip rather than just the drapes, though I am not entirely sure I wanted to know that … but it’s better to be accurate i suppose (ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww).

So now he tells me that my only task is to look steadily at the very very very very (very) bright light and not move. He said he would tell me when he was going to do anything that I might feel in any way, but otherwise I should simply ignore him completely.

So deep breath, and zone out. Sort of. As much as possible. Well not really. Not there. Not then. Maybe another day.

He told me there would be some pressure at one point – well it was less than when I rub my eyes myself. No problem. He told me when he would start a machine that would buzz and hum. No problem but I was glad to know about it. He told his assistant when to drip (I assume water) into my eyes, and when to “flood” them. And I concentrated on the light very hard. But couldn’t see or feel anything else. Nothing. Zilch. Zappo.

He kept telling me I was doing brilliantly which made me feel good and feel I was doing the right things – really helps with the confidence I can tell you. The only discomfort if you can call it that was that I got a bit of the sort of headache you get with “brain freeze” when you take too big a mouthful of ice-cream but it soon went off.

And at one point, when my eye was being flooded with water, and I was gazing at the light … I saw a kaleidoscope of rainbows which was like nothing I have ever seen before or am likely to see every again (well I hope not … though maybe on my way to heaven eventually !!). It was absolutely beautiful and I hope I will always remember what it looked like. Imagine a child’s kaleidoscope filled with water and maybe oil. Gorgeous. Just gorgeous.

Then the words – there that’s done – were spoken, and they unstuck the mask asking me to be careful not to screw up my eyes while he did it. That’s when I realised it had probably stuck my eyelids open (still not thinking too hard about that bit)

And then they got to work again –  scrubbed up the theatre, double checked that I was still the same person, with the same date of birth, same name and hospital number, despite the fact that I hadn’t actually moved off the table (yes, I know it is absolutely essential to do that, but it did seem odd).

And repeated the process on the left eye. Seems that one was a lot easier – the consultant said that the cataract in my right eye was “very hard and required a lot of energy to break it up” … don’t really want to think too much about that bit either.

Following which they wheeled me merrily back to the day surgery unit, with very gritty and weepy eyes and gave me an extremely welcome coffee. Mark was waiting patiently and (I think) quite relieved to see me despite the tears pouring down my cheeks. They wouldn’t let me go until the consultant and come down to check everything, but we got home in time for a late lunch and to start the regime of three different drops in each eye four times a day … Mark has the patience of a SAINT let me tell you.

I met some lovely others in the Surgery Unit, nearly all having their second eye “done” including the mother, it seems, of a Facebook friend who said to her son that “there was a lass there having both eyes done at once” … I haven’t been called a lass for at least xxxxxxxxxxxx years !!! I was quite chuffed!

But the staff at the Balfour. What can I say – I will be sending them a copy of this blog because I want them to know just how wonderful I thought they were. Lorna said to me that, as the first bi-lateral she had been involved with, I had given her some confidence and knowledge of what to expect for future ones, so I hope I behaved myself properly !

And next blog I will tell you all about … the aftermath !


Thanks for sharing