My newspaper column last week concerned my recent surgery for cataracts. I did some research on the Intraocular lens before writing the piece but since I try to hold my columns under 900 words, I left out a lot of stuff that I found interesting. It is amazing to me though, the amount of information that is available at the click of a mouse button.
Ladies and gentlemen, the story you are about to read is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent. If this line looks familiar, it’s because I borrowed it from Jack Friday (Note 1) because today is storytelling day in this space and I was looking for something dramatic to catch your interest before you wandered off to the police report.
The particular story I want to tell began a few weeks ago when I could not remove what I thought was a hair in my eye. I went to the Optometrist to see what was wrong and among other things, the Doctor said that I had catarac…….No, wait a minute. I have to stop because I’m wrong. This was not where this story began.
It really began about 4 years ago in the winter of 2008. My wife, Susie and I were holed up in Texas along the Rio Grande River on the Mexican border. We took a day to do some shopping in Progreso, a tiny, one horse Mexican town, where we passed by the offices of Dr. Eng, an ophthalmologist and Chinese immigrant who had moved to Mexico to practice. I knew from conversations with folks who know such things that I could get an inexpensive pair of new glasses on the Mexican side of the river and even though my memory was fuzzy, I knew it had been a long time since my glasses had been changed so I went inside and made an appointment for later in the day.
After having lunch and doing some shopping, I went back to Dr. Eng’s office where a few minutes later, I sat in his chair as he examined my eyes. He paused in his examination and looked at me.
“Did you know your eyes are suffering from the early stages of cataracts?” he said. I had no idea what he was talking about. Even though Dr. Eng spoke perfect English, it was almost impossible to understand the word ‘cataracts’ delivered in a heavily flavored Chinese accent that was further complicated by a Spanish inflection picked up from his years of living in Mexico. When I finally figured out what he said, I was shocked to the core of my being. Cataracts?? That’s old people stuff. I wasn’t old enough for cataracts. Good Lord, I was only sixty-eigh….., uhhh, wait a minute. Maybe I was old enough.
So now, here it is, 2012. The cataracts had 4 years to get worse and they have done just that. A harrowing, after dark drive through Atlanta, Georgia and the perpetual haze across my line of sight prompted me to do something about the problem so I made the decision to have them removed. Luckily, cataracts are not the big problem that they were as recently as the 1970’s. The operation used to require a lengthy hospital stay but advancements in the technology of cataract surgery have made it a relatively painless, out-patient procedure. In addition,for the past forty or so years, the removal of the filmy stuff is only the first step in the process………
Uh, Whoops. I just realized that actually, when you get right down to it, my visit to the Mexican Ophthalmologist should not have been the introduction to this story. The next step in the modern surgery is the real story. It started with a discovery made in 1946 when Sir Harold Ridley, a British eye doctor realized that shards of Plexiglas from a shattered Cockpit cover were in the eyes of a wounded airman and the amazing thing was that they were not being rejected by the body’s foreign objects mechanism.
Eventually, from this discovery, something called ‘intraocular lens implants’ were invented, allowing me to have my cataract-clouded crystalline lens removed and replaced by one made of plastic. (Note 2.) All this took place while I was semi-conscious thanks to an administered sedative.
I am two weeks into my new eyes and I am writing this without benefit of glasses, a first for me in at least forty years. There is much more I want to tell you but I have reached the end of my allotted space. Come back next week and we’ll finish up. In the meantime, if you have questions about this procedure, send me an e-mail @ firstname.lastname@example.org.
* * * * *
Note 1. I’m talking about a guy who existed (sort of) fifty odd years ago so I don’t really expect all of you to know who Jack Friday is; especially in light of the recently revealed fact that there are thousands of young folks who had no idea that the sinking of the Titanic was a true story. What’s worse, they are revealing their historical ignorance on Facebook and Twitter with surprising postings.
“Dude, you mean the Titanic was a real ship? Are you kidding me? Like I thought it was just a movie. You know, like Clash of the Titans or ummm, uh, .maybe like Avatar.”
Note 2. The bit of history about Plexiglas in the Second World War originated from my doing research on the lens implant. I’m only telling you this because I wanted you to know that I don’t always make this stuff up. Occasionally I’m telling the truth.