EYE SURGERY

     It’s Thursday morning, I’m in the shower. My service dog, Elphie, a fifty-pound ginger lab pokes her head around the pulled shower curtain. She alerts me the phone is ringing. I run, but they’ve hung up. I climb back into the shower, again Elphie pokes her head around the corner, dripping wet, I answer the phone.

     “Is that Rose? This is Dr. Mac, I just got the report from Dr. Tass, and he suggests we do glaucoma surgery on Monday along with the cataract surgery. There is added risk, but the benefit outweighs the risk. The only thing is, are you willing to have no movement for seven days after surgery?   Aghast, I look over at Elphie who is lying beside me, and I say, “As you know, I have a service dog.  Does that mean I cannot walk her?”  He repeats, “Correct, no movement, no walking for a week.”

     I move to sit in my rocking chair. I stare numbly out the living room window.  I’m in a daze. I’ve been stalling cataract surgery for six years because of my severe dry eye. Now, a phone call saying it’s not only cataract surgery, as well, it’s going to be glaucoma surgery. I rock back and forth, and recall my brain surgery forty years ago; the residual effect leaving my left eye tearless and painful. The glaucoma drop is drying my already dry eye. Dr. Mac’s words repeat themselves in my head, the benefit outweighs the risk.    O.K, then, let’s do it.  I take a deep breath and call my friend. 

     I ask if she will look after Elphie for a week?  She asks, “Who’s going to look after you?” I fall dead silent thinking what a silly question, and think, well of course, I’m going look after myself, but I say nothing.  She says, “I will come and stay with you, and I’ll look after you both.”

     Monday, four days later, 7:55 a.m., I arrive at Clinic 6. A pleasant woman with a hair net covering her hair, and a face mask sits behind a plexiglass barrier.  She asks, and records my address, emergency contact, and birthday.

     A soft spoken, rotund, senior appearing nurse leads me to a locker where I place my purse and scarf. She comments, “Beautiful scarf”, and clicks the lock closed.  She leads me to a room where six other people sit in push-back, feet-up, head-rest, comfy chairs. I tell her I’m deaf in my left ear.  She points to her ear, and says, “I had a small tumor and lost the hearing in one ear.” I ask her how she lost her hearing? She responds, “I had an acoustic neuroma.” I tell her, “Me too, I had a fifteen-and-a-half-hour surgery to remove a three-and-a-half-centimeter tumor. How long was your surgery?” She says she didn’t have surgery, just radiation. I ask, “So you had Gamma Knife?”  She doesn’t know. I ask when she had the procedure done, she can’t remember.  I ask her name? She responds, “I’m sorry, I thought I told you, my name is Sue”.

     “Ouch, ohhh, ouch, ohhh, ouch, that is really hurting.” Nurse Sue takes the needle out, and tries another vein. “Ouch, ohhh, ouch, ohhh, ouch, that is still hurting.” She says, “I can’t keep hurting you. I’m going to ask someone else to do it.”  A young nurse, with a pep in her step and in her voice says, “O.K. let’s try again to get the I.V. set up for the anesthetic”. She feels for another vein in my right arm, zip it’s in, no pain, just a tiny prick. All done! She then explains, Dr. Mac will not be putting a needle in my eye, the O.R. is booked for twenty minutes, you will not feel any pain, only water spraying in your eye. She tells me, if I breath deep, and relax my head and shoulders, the surgery will go better.

Nurse Sue is sitting on a stool beside the counter.  She comes over and asks if I would like an Ativan. “Yes please, I’ve never had one, but I’ll have ten” We laugh.  She says, “Don’t worry God is good, it will be O.K., and I will hold your hand.”  I respond, “Oh, you’re a believer, me too, we’re a team. An acoustic neuroma and we believe God is good”.

   It is 9:10 a.m. Dr. Mac stands before me in his face mask, large black rimmed glasses, and green cap. His baggy ‘greens’ make him look even younger than he is, and thinner. He says, “Are you willing to do this?” I nod and say, “Yes.”  He looks over at nurse Sue sitting on her stool.  She doesn’t move.  Then he looks at me and says, “O.K. follow me”.

     Dr. Mac, usually a man of few words, surprises me by telling me absolutely everything. I feel Sue’s warm hand holding mine. I remember what the young nurse said.  I breath deep, and relax my neck and head.  Dr. Mac says, “I’m going to start with the glaucoma surgery. I’m taping a mask on your face, look straight at the bright lights, you are going to feel cold water.  Good, you are doing really good, great, perfect.  We’re finished.  Now, I’m going to do the cataract surgery, I want you to look to your right.  Great, nicely done, you’re doing a good job.”  I could feel massive amounts of cold water running down my cheeks and dripping into my left ear.  My worry about the water damaging my hearing aid is a good distraction that he is slicing into my eye.

     Dr. Mac says, “All done, you did great, I’m going to remove your mask now.”  I say, “I think it was you who did a great job.”  Sue is still holding my hand until I reach for my hearing aid and say, “I’m worried about my hearing aide.”  Dr. Mac in utter surprise says, “You have hearing aids in, they should be removed before the surgery”.  Oooops, nurse Sue is mortified and grabs some gauze and tells me to wrap my hearing aide in the gauze to dry it out.  She says, “Take my arm”, and leads me back to the outer room.  She dries me off with many blue wash clothes.  Another nurse walks by laughing and says, “You had a spa.”

     Nurse Sue gives me a print out with directions of when to apply the surgery eye drops. It says discontinue the Monoprost in my left eye, and to use it only in my right eye. Yahoo! Monoprost is the drops that dries my already dry left eye. I’m given three bottles of drops, with my other drops for dry eye, I count the amount of drop applications – fourteen a day.  I’m wearing a see-through clear eye shield that I can remove when I get home from the hospital, but I must wear it at night. As Sue removes the anesthetic I.V. needle, she looks at me and says, “I didn’t run the anesthetic, you were doing so well, I didn’t need to.” What? I didn’t even have any anesthetic; I only had freezing in my eye?  Wow, how good is that! Another nurse comes, and says my ride is here.

     Nurse Sue insists I take her arm as we walk to the hallway where Karey waits to drive me home.  Nurse Sue emphases, “Make sure she takes your arm.”

     I’m home by noon. Karey insists on walking me up to my apartment. My friend Lorry and Elphie are waiting. I leave Lorry and Karey chatting at the door; I go and sit in my rocking chair and pet Elphie. Karey leaves, Lorry comes in, and sits on the couch, she says, “Karey said you were running down the hall and to the car.  You’re hyper”.  I don’t think I’m hyper, but maybe, I just feel so happy and so relieved.  The long-awaited fearful surgery is over and behind me.

     I eat a bowl of soup for lunch, then I cozy up in my bed with the stacked pillows at forty-five-degree angle.  Ooops – I find Sue’s forgotten blue wash cloth in my blouse. I wake at 2:30 p.m., my left eye is hurting. I take a Tylenol; the pain is gone within fifteen minutes. Supper time, my energy is depleted, I feel like a wet rag, food is unappealing.  I pick at the stew that I took it out of the freezer in the morning.  I push it aside. I go back to bed.  To my surprise, I sleep well sitting up at the forty-five-degree angle. 

     I wake at 5:00 a.m. Karey is at my door at 7:30 a.m., my appointment with Dr. Mass is at 8:10 a.m. A technician tests my eyesight and says, “It is the same today as it was before with your glasses on.” My pressure, is eleven. Three weeks ago, it was sixteen.  It’s lower than ever. Dr. Mac comes in and examines my eye and says, “It looks really, really, good.” I say, “What does that mean?” He tells me he will talk to me later. When he finishes the exam, he stands up, washes his hands and leaves.  As he walks out the door, he turns and says, “No movement, and I will see you in a week.” A man of few words.

    Today is day six post-surgery. I’m finally eating again, taking my vitamins, and drinking six glasses of water a day.  All week, friends have walked Elphie. Yesterday I felt like myself again, not as tired, and started writing again and answering emails. 

    Day eight, it feels so good to be behind the wheel.  I’m excited, and looking forward to getting the green light from Dr. Mac, giving me the good news that the pressure is good, and my eye is looking really great. Elphie is in the back seat, it like freedom for us to be out and about again. I give myself lots of time, but a municipal workman appears holding up a sign that says, “stop, road construction”.  Oh, no, I’m going to be late. I could kick and scream, but what good would that do?  I wait.

     I walk into Dr. Mac’s office at 8:00 a.m. on the dot. Elphie sits under my chair. The tech checks my vision and my pressure.  I ask her what the pressure is? She says, “It’s a bit high, but Dr. Mac will talk to you about it.”

     Dr. Mac examines my eye, then says he is going to write some notes. A man of few words. He turns to his computer and, with a clickity-click, he types away. Then he turns to me and says, “The pressure is nineteen, a bit high, and your eye is very dry.  The ongoing problem!  The after-surgery drops can dry your eye, so we’ll taper them. I want to see you in two weeks”. I ask if he will know if the surgery worked in two weeks.  He says, “No, we won’t know for six weeks.”

     I’m back in my car, it’s 8:30 a.m., I could kick and scream, but what good would that do? I wait.

      I put the car in reverse and head for the country where strawberries are ripe and ready, a summer treat.                                       

© R.f.c. June 23, 2021