I had never been told I had cataracts until a few months before my cataract surgeries. The surgeon was a Georgetown medical student graduate who had been in practice for 25 years. The day after my right lens was replace, I saw nothing but clouds. I was assured it was just a film and it would be fixed with a laser, but not until after the left eye was done. During the surgery for my left eye, I fought and squirmed as it was terribly painful, and the surgeon complained about all the squirming. I simply told him that it really hurt. The next day at the optometrist’s office, everything was dark in my left eye and there was a film, but I could see. As I walked out of the optometrist’s office everything I my left eye went gray. I could see nothing. I was in denial and thought it would be fine shortly. I returned to the doctor’s office and he examined me and told me that the top of my eye had collapsed and that he had never seen this. He called the surgeon and was informed that it was a difficult surgery and that a piece of the lens broke and was left in the eye and it was blocking my field of vision. The following day, I went to see the surgeon. He said he knew I was in a lot of pain but said the anesthetist didn’t give me enough anesthesia and that the anesthetist didn’t work for him. He told me the broken lens would dissolve on its own but if I wanted, he would laser a hole in it so that I could see. I opted to let it dissolve and it did so the same day. I then went in for treatment to rid my vsion of the film – one eye at a time. The laser did not remove the clouds at all, but I learned the vitreous humor had come apart. I then went to a retina specialist, who was a former engineer who graduate from and had worked at Bascom Palmer. He said that he had performed hundreds of vitrectomies and never had a problem. He did the left eye first, as it was the worst. I went back for the day one post op visit and everything was dark. The Sunday night before my one-week follow-up, I had terrible pain in my left eye. I called the retina center at 2:00am but got the answering machine as they had forgotten to connect to the answering service for the weekend. I had to wait until 9:00am. To see the surgeon. I had thrown up several times before seeing him, and my pressure was 52 during the exam. He did a tap to relieve the pressure and I went on some pressure lowering medication for several weeks and had many follow-ups. During the week after the vitrectomy, everything in my left eye was continuously dark and I never saw clearly. Following the tap, the darkness went away, but the field of view was skewed and has been to this day.
Seeing used to be a passive activity, but now seeing is very much an active thing for me and often tiring. To understand this, you would have to understand what I see all day. In my left eye, if you grabbed the center of your lens and pulled it inward you would see what I see. The center of the field is compressed, and it causes me to scan things to see them. While sitting in my car at a stop sign, I typically cannot see the stop sign while looking at it directly with my left eye (right eye closed). I must rotate my eye to see it. It is clear but compressed and for all intents and purposes I do not use the left eye to do much. Vision in my right eye is best compared to looking through a sheet of waxed paper that had been wrinkled and the wrinkles rotate in the field of vision. Every few days, I get a clear view through the right eye, but it only lasts until I blink. I hold the blink as long as I can, as I cherish the seconds of clear vision.
When I retired from the Air Force, I taught school. I used to be a registered nurse and had always kept my license active, but not practiced. After teaching school for several years, I decided to return to nursing. I had my eye surgeries after leaving my teaching position and before going back to nursing. However, things slowed down for me with the visual complications. I still enrolled in a nursing refresher class for one semester. A gentleman’s course – non-graded. All RNs who had been out of the practice for a while but wanting to re-enter the job field as a nurse. It was not an academic challenge. (I finished first in my class in my B.S.N. program and did not have difficulty with the material.) I dropped the REFRESHER class halfway through. It was obvious to me that this was not going to work. I was having vision difficulties. I had a hard time reading the board as it was too cloudy. I had a hard time reading the handouts as reading is very difficult and tiring for me. I knew I wouldn’t be able to read orders, read labels, chart, or do many of the requirements of a nurse. (I asked myself if I’d want me to be my nurse and the answer was obvious.) Going back to teaching was not an option as I wouldn’t be able to see the board, read the text, grade papers, enter grades, etc.
In activities of daily living, my vision impacts all that I do. I help around the house quite a bit, but when I clean anything, I have my wife go behind me because I often miss something. I can’t see small things. I miss crumbs when cleaning the counter and I miss spots if I clean a pot or a pan. I leave soap spots on things. I’ve always been very clean and meticulous and normally would have been offended if someone went behind me to see if I cleaned something. Now I ask for someone to follow behind me.
When I fold clothes, I can’t tell if they are inside out or not and usually must feel for seams when I’m folding. I sometimes put a shirt on inside out (I’d never done this before) and often have my wife check if I’m wearing my shirt correctly. I am not much of a reader anymore as it is a chore for me to read. I must have a lot of light to read and still must roll my eyes to do any reading. I do better on the computer with a bright background but get tired from rolling my eyes all the time. I feel like seeing is a job for me and must concentrate at everything that I do. I usually focus straight ahead and often miss things in the periphery. I bump things occasionally because I didn’t see them – they were too high or too low or on the side. If I spill something or drop something on my clothes, I cannot see it. (It reminds me of a nursing home when the patients had food on their clothes.) Doing things , I would normally do in a flash now takes much more time and often many attempts. I put so much emphasis on seeing that I often miss steps in doing things or forget to take a tool. I recently bought a self-assemble storage cabinet for the garage. I would normally lay things out in order, then read the directions to accomplish the task. I put everything out, but I had to have my wife read directions for me. I would typically assemble this with ease, but it was truly work for me.
We live in a rural area of Alabama. I drive to the convenience store by myself – about 2 miles. I feel comfortable driving and would not drive if I didn’t. But when I go anywhere other than the convenience store, I always make sure I have someone in the passenger seat. I can read the road signs, but they are cloudy. I feel safe driving but prefer having a backup set of eyes. I bought a large screen television so I could enjoy television. With the large screen I can read most of the print going across the screen on the news channels.
Ron I., RN
July 9, 2007