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I was sitting comfortably in the pre-op suite of the McGee Eye Surgery Center in Oklahoma City’s Harold Hamm Diabetes Center, awaiting what I hoped would be the final stage of a four-month odyssey to restore my vision.
The area was divided in thirds, each separated by a curtain that enveloped a cushioned patient’s chair, a visitor’s chair, a moveable table and a variety of instruments and equipment. My procedure, technically a Yttrium Aluminum Garnet Laser Capsulotomy or, in English., laser work to remove a hazy membrane, seemed simple compared to the Express Shunt with Mitomycin C (shunt under the eyeball) or the Phacoemulsification with intraocular lens implant combined with an Endoscopic Cyclophotocoagulation (cataract) I had experienced earlier.
I was happy to have healed from the preliminary work, alert, upbeat, optimistic and anxious to proceed.
But the wait of nearly an hour grabbed my attention and taught me much.
Another patient in my suite had obviously had a difficult time. I listened as nurses and doctors attended his needs and prepared him for surgery.
He was in a mechanized wheelchair, unable to stand. A green oxygen tank was strapped to the chair, helping him breathe and combat the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that caused his breathing to be uneven and heavy, spiked by constant hacking and even required an on-site treatment to clear his passageway.
He had suffered a heart attack and had six stents placed in vital parts of his chest. It took two people to move him from the chair to a gurney, both exercising great care to keep him upright.
He was scheduled to have an eyelid tightened, repeating a relatively recent procedure that apparently didn’t work/
He was accompanied, first, by a woman who drove the public transportation van from their southeastern Oklahoma home, rearranging the travel schedule of others because of his unexpected delays. Later, his wife, a busy rural woman, arrived, coming from another doctor where she learned she had glaucoma, got a new prescription for her glasses and paid the $150 down payment that seemed a challenge.
Though she was proud of managing the tasks, she seemed tired and hungry. She told her husband, she was only going to get a soft drink because the last time she ate on campus, it cost nearly $20.
She offered him what I interpreted as a gentle “I love you” and “Good luck,” said she’d be in the waiting room until his procedure was finished and they were re-united. She chatted with a couple of nurses and left.
I watched as she walked away, counting my blessings.
Then, I entered a closet-sized room, stared down the barrel of a laser device, grateful to be in the hands of a skilled, caring professional and anxious to see, literally, what progress has occurred since September.
The verdict is still out, I hope.
My problems began more than a decade ago when an anticipated routine cataract procedure was botched, essentially eliminating vision in my left eye.
Glaucoma was discovered later and the path since has been filled with monitoring exams, preventive procedures and occasional surgery on the right eye.
Moderately high pressure and a cataract in that eye surfaced during an August exam. When medication didn’t lower the pressure, conservative cataract surgery was performed. Vision was restored, but the pressure went up instead of down. dramatically so.
Again, medication failed. A drainage device was inserted under my eyeball and the pressure dropped. But my vision seemed worse than ever.
A cellophane-like membrane on the lens was causing the blur. The latest procedure removed that.
My vision has since improved and though challenges remain, I am again functional and better able to appreciate the little things of life I took for granted.
Life without sight can be frightening. It can be downright scary.
Not reading a newspaper or magazine for months has seemed strange. So has relying on family and friends for transportation. Being unable to recognize faces has been embarrassing.
Things like ordering food from a menu, cutting my fingernails, reading my own notes, gauging my shaving success in a mirror, telling time on a watch, reading a schedule in an airport or simply finding things on a desk or counter has been an experience.
Whether my vision will continue to improve I don’t know. But I am grateful my dilemma has subsided, that I can again enjoy sunrises and sunsets and that I understand better words like adaptation, adjustments and patience.
Life is good. The world is pretty. And I am blessed.
I have been reminded of much by a man in a wheelchair, whose every breath is a struggle, whose damaged heart continues to pump, whose spirit remains high and whose life is shared by others.
Thanks for your calls, cards, comments, concern and, most of all, your prayers.
I hope to see you soon.
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