I’m seeing the world differently these days.
I haven’t taken up yoga, converted to Buddhism, changed political parties, or even changed my too-caloric diet. But a week ago today, while I lay drugged but awake beneath the diamonds on the operating room ceiling, a surgeon pulverized the lens of my right eye with ultrasound and, in layman’s terms, sucked out pieces of an awful white cloud that has blocked my vision for a year in the better of my two somewhat compromised eyes.
Then he somehow slipped a new synthetic lens through an incision the size of a pinhole. A day later I could read without glasses.
Odds are some of you reading this have cataracts right now. Many of us start getting them in our 40s and 50s and, of those lucky enough to reach 80, more than half either have a ctaract or have had one removed, the National Eye Institute says. What causes the visual fog they bring on are “clumps of protein [that] reduce the sharpness of the image reaching the retina,” the NEI says.
Cataract surgery is commonplace, too. Still, the idea of someone blowing up the lens of my eye seemed pretty scary to me when I first learned this summer that it was time to operate. As a hypochondriac from birth, what caught my attention was not the millions upon millions of successful surgeries but the relatively slight risk (was it one in a thousand or one in 10,000?) of being the unlucky fellow who ended up blind in the eye being operated on.
When it comes to health issues, I never passed that glass half-empty/glass half-full test all parents pull on their kids. And so I was proud of myself for actually showing up at Boston’s Beth Israel Hospital a week ago today to go through with the surgery. (I did spend about an hour staring into the darkness late the night before trying to figure out whether there was some graceful escape.)
Now I’ve become the poster boy for cataract surgery. Even with underlying retinal problems, which I’ve had for a dozen years, this operation is all upside. Oh, my eye still itches. I’m getting eight hours sleep for a change. And I’m pouring three different eyedrops into my eye each day. No big deal.
The tradeoff? I’m able to read lying down, something because of those underlying retinal problems that I haven’t been able to do for about 10 years. And the best part is that I’m seeing the world differently. It’s brighter, more three dimensional, more colorful. And that affects mindset as much as perception. The world is more exciting.
So if you’re heading into that delicate age when the doctor starts suggesting bionic parts, opt for that new lens first. (Knees and hips are a lot bigger deal, I’ve heard.) The downside risks are really small — even if you are a hypochondriac and it is weird to hear your surgeon talking about your new lens as he’s putting it in.
Just pick a surgeon who blows up cataracts for a living. Then, enjoy the view.