by Arnold Nelson

Cataracts are defined as a clouding of the lens of the eye. You can have just a few cataracts and it will not bother you, or you can have a lot of cataracts and you will be blind in that eye. Cataracts usually come from old age but they can come from other sources too. Unfortunately the cataracts in my right eye were so bad that I was blind in that eye for a long time. I went around using only my left eye. I did not realize it until one day I saw a friend of mine covering up one eye and checking the other eye. He just had cataract surgery and apparently he was having some trouble with his eye, because right after that he called his doctor and made an appointment. After work that night just for fun I checked my eyes the way he had done, and to my surprise I could see almost nothing out of the right eye.

Shortly after that I contacted the local VA clinic and went through all their red tape and got an appointment to see a doctor. That doctor sent me to see an eye doctor. After several tests they decided that I needed cataract surgery. So I was put on a waiting list. They told me the waiting list was 8 months long. I was on the waiting list for over a year before I left Oklahoma and moved to North Carolina. After I moved I started getting notices from the Oklahoma VA Hospital in Oklahoma City. They wanted me to come in for a checkup. A checkup for what! I could not understand it because they never did anything for me. I called them a couple times to try to get it cleared up but never got anywhere so I finally gave up. They finally quit sending me messages.

After I moved to North Carolina I contacted the VA Hospital in Salisbury, North Carolina. I went through the paperwork again and got an appointment to see a doctor. After he saw how bad my right eye was he got me an appointment to see the eye doctor. After seeing several doctors they decided there was too much pressure in my right eye. So they gave me some drops to bring down the pressure. The drops were good. My eye started feeling better in just a couple of days. Then they scheduled me for surgery. I got lucky somebody canceled out and I got their day which was about two months off.

About a week before the surgery they called me in for some pre-op testing. First I saw one nurse she asked me some simple questions and check my pulse and heart rate and all that good stuff. Then I saw a Dr., he did a little more in-depth screening. He listened to my heart and asked me some more in-depth questions. Some about me and some about my family. After he was satisfied. I went to see another nurse. This nurse looked at my eye. She put all kinds of drops in my eye and took some pictures and measurements. Then I got to see the surgeon. The surgeon explain what the surgery was going to be. He said We will make two small cuts, one on each side of your eye. Then we will break up your lens and pull the pieces out. After we get all the pieces out we will put a new lens in and you will be able to see with that eye again. He said your vision should be almost 20/20 when we get done. Then he had me sign the consent papers. Then I had to see one more nurse in a different building. This nurse did an EKG, it surprised me how fast it went. She hooked up all the leads. Then she told me to take a deep breath. Then she told me to breathe normally. Then she took off the leads and said you're done you can go home now. The whole thing did even less 5 min.

The day of the surgery my brother took me to the hospital. The surgery was scheduled for 6:30 am we got there about six o'clock. They asked us to be a little early so we were. I tried to check in, there was no nurse in on duty then. I found the kiosk machine and tried to check in with that but for some reason that machine wasn't working right and nobody could check in. Finally just about 6:30 somebody came out and started telling us what would happen with the surgery and telling our drivers what was expected of them. I saw the nurse come in just then, so I tried to check in with her and as I was doing that, the man called us and took us into surgery. I believe there were six or eight of us that went in together. He showed us the recovery rooms and said That's what you will wake up after the surgery. Then he asked if anybody was having eye surgery. I said Yes. He said Your recovery room will be over on the other side. He pointed to the recovery rooms on the other wall. Then he took us into a big room full of gurneys. It was pre-op. They called off our name one by one and we went to our gurneys. Mine was the last gurney. When I got there the nurse was waiting for me. She gave me a gown. She told me to take off everything but my underwear and socks and put the gown on then put my things in a bag, and to call her back when I was ready. She closed the curtain as she left. After I got the gown on I called her back. She told me to lay down on the gurney. So I laid down on the gurney. Then she took my stuff and said it would be waiting for me in the recovery room when I got done with surgery. When she came back she started putting drops in my eye to dilate it.

When they decided my pupils were dilated enough they wheeled me into surgery. Then they put a blanket over me, that blanket covered everything except the eye were going to work on. Then they put some stuff in my eye to numb the eye. After that I did not feel a thing except some pressure. The only discomfort I had with someone was either leaning on my forehead or they had some equipment sitting on my forehead. Every time it got to a point where I was going to say something about it they removed the pressure on my forehead and the discomfort when away. It took longer than it was supposed to to get all the pieces of the lens out of my eye. They never did tell me why. After they got done they put the lens in and right away I could see better. Then they put this plastic thing over my eye and taped it up. I could not see anything through that cover. Then they wheeled me out of the surgery and the post-op.

In post-op the nurse told me that I was in there for a long time but she did not tell me why. She took all my vitals again. She told me she would stay with me until I left. Which she did. Then they went out and got my brother and brought him in. Then they explained to us that I was to leave that cape on my eye all night and in the morning I had a doctors appointment and they would take it off then. For the rest of the day I was to take it really easy and not do anything. Then they had my brother signed a release. They told them to go down and get his truck and wait by the door and they would bring me down in a few minutes. After he left the nurse told me to get dressed and leave all the stuff on the gurney and they would take care of it. Then she left and I got back into my clothes. Then I felt a lot better. When she came back she said I looked a lot better in my street clothes. Then she gave me a bag of stuff. She said the doctor will explain all the next morning. Then she got a wheelchair and told me to sit in it. Then she called somebody to push me outside where my brother was waiting. Then we left the hospital.

The next morning my brother took me back there for my appointment with the surgeon. When I went in they checked all my vitals signs again then they took that plastic thing off my eye. I could see pretty good with that eye. Then she put the plastic thing in the bag and started to put tape in there. I said There was already tape in there. She said This is better tape it won't stick so much to your face. Then I went in to see the surgeon. The surgeon check my vision and then he looked at my eye and check the work they did the day before. He said everything looked good. He said my vision would get better when the eye healed. Then he told me about all the stuff in the bag. There was one type of drops I had to used six times a day another type I had to used four times a day along with the other drops that I was already using two times a day. That is 12 drops a day that is a lot of drops. And at night I had a put some cream on my lower eyelid and put that plastic thing back on my eye. It was hard sleeping with that plastic thing on my eye. He said after week I could quit using the second drops and cut the first drops down from 6 to 4 times a day. There was also dark glasses in the bag. He said use them if the light bothers you. I was to be on light duty for the next month. Then I left his office.

For two weeks I did everything exactly as he told me. After one week I could tell there was a lot of improvement in that eye. It was healing nicely. Two weeks later I went back for my second appointment. I saw the nurse first and she gave me an eye test. She said I was doing real good my vision was almost 20/20. Then I saw the doctor again and he checked everything out and said everything was fine. Then he gave me some more orders. He said I could cut out the cream and I did not have to have the plastic thing on my eye at night anymore. I was sure happy to hear that. Then he said I had to taper down on the other drops. Go down to 3 a day for a week, and then two a day for a week, then one a day for a week then I could quit using those drops. Then I would be back to only two drops a day. The drops that I started with, that controls the pressure in my eye. That made me very happy. So that is what I'm doing now. Instead of a week I'm going four days then cutting the drops down. I want to get done with these drops as soon as possible. It does not seem to bother me so why not. I have one more appointment with the surgeon. That one is in about two more weeks. I don't expect any problems at all because things are going real good now. It is nice to be able to used two eyes again.

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