4 Things I Learned About Eye Surgery (by Having it Done to Both Eyes)   18 comments

Greetings, Faithful Followers!

I’m sorry this post has been so long in coming.  I’ve had a lot to process since the surgery (read on!), so I’ve been slowly working on this for the past couple of months.  Now, here it is:

As many of you are well aware, I recently underwent eye surgery to remove cataracts from both of my eyes.  I’m only 39 (well, closer to 40), but I was told I had the eyes of a 70 year old man!  Of course, this was little surprise to me, as I am no stranger to the “mutant eye club.”  I have astigmatism in both eyes, the right eye is lazy, I’m an ocular albino, and I’ve worn glasses my entire life – since the first grade, anyway.


Not me - but the resemblance is uncanny...

Not me – but that was pretty much the look on my face…


In the end, it was the ocular albinism that got me.  Somehow, it made me more susceptible to getting cataracts; and, in fact, I should have developed them in my 20s.  Thanks to healthy living and lots of vitamins, I didn’t start having serious issues until just last year.  By the time I was able to get the problem fixed, I was already legally blind in my right eye and the left one was quickly following suit.  If it hadn’t been for the kindness of all of you, I would have been completely blind by my 40th birthday.

Now it’s all over and done, and I have a brand new set of cyborg eyes to see through.


Now I can see in all spectrums of light, including infrared and ultra violet.  And X-ray... ladies.

Now I can see in all spectrums of light, including infrared and ultra violet. And X-ray… ladies.


To be honest, I was kind of floored by the entire process.  At first, I was told by the doctors (and pretty much everyone else) that this kind of surgery was a piece of cake – no more difficult than getting a cavity filled.  Just five minutes (per eye) and I’m out of there, and I’ll suddenly be looking at a whole new world of visual input I never had before.

But that didn’t happen.  In fact, no one even slightly prepared me for some of the realities of eye surgery…

Now, before we get on with all the funny stuff, let me make one thing perfectly clear:  the surgery was an astounding success.  I’m not blind!  Cataracts were nixed.  That was the main goal, and it was met.  Plus, I do actually see better now than I ever have before.  Unless I have to read, I don’t even wear glasses now.  So that’s a win as well.  Have no doubt whatsoever that I am thrilled by and thankful for the results of the procedures.  However, that doesn’t mean there weren’t some details involved that no one thought to mention, such as:


1. The Surgery Wasn’t the Cakewalk They Promised

Don’t get me wrong, having eye surgery doesn’t even make it into the ballpark with the worst torture I’ve endured.  Plus, it really did take them about 5 minutes, so the ordeal was brief regardless of how it felt.  But, well, take a look at what eye surgery actually looks like:


Ever been to a Saw movie...?

Ever been to a Saw movie…?


Yep, that’s pretty much what it looked like.  Except here you don’t see the instruments being shoved under the pupil!  And, yes, you get to be awake for the whole ride.  You are given an IV sedative, but you have to be awake so they can tell you where to point your eyeball during the procedure.  Fortunately, from where I lay I couldn’t see the torture porn I was suddenly starring in.  I could only feel it – which was basically like getting poked in the eye real hard for several minutes.


This is actually what the surgery felt like...

This is actually what the surgery felt like…


But that wasn’t the hardest part, at all.  In fact it was really quite bearable when compared to the real torture device:  a set of three small lights, each one about as bright as the sun.  Those lights are inside the laser cannon they aim at your eyeball, and you have to stare directly into them – unable to blink or look away, throughout the entire surgery!


Like this, only times three.

Like this, only times three.


Most of what I remember of the surgery is the doctor telling me, repeatedly, to look back into the bright lights.  It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever forced my body to do.  (Remember I’m light sensitive to begin with!)  I squirmed around so much on the table they had to double up the sedative!

As far as the actual surgery went, that was pretty much the worst of it.  I don’t want to ever have to do that again – but I’d take it in a heartbeat over something like, say, a kidney stone!

When I went back for the second surgery (my left eye), they doubled up on the sedative right at the start.  (They told me the older patients they usually work on are knocked loopy by just one dose, but my being a younger guy means I needed more drugs.  Hallelujah!)  I was told afterward that they gave me another dose during the procedure too.  It must have done the trick:  I have one memory of the doctor telling me to look back into those accursed lights, and the next thing I can remember is getting out of bed in the recovery room.  LOL


This oughta do it!

This oughta do it!


But, then there were some things I didn’t expect about the aftermath either:


2.  After Surgery, I Didn’t See a Whole New World

The first surgery (on my right eye) was just about removing the cataract.  Afterward I could see through the eye again, but not any better than I had before the cataract.  It was my left eye that got the super high-tech cyborg lens to correct my astigmatism and negate my need for glasses.  I was sure I would open that eye after the procedure and see a whole new detail-filled world for the first time ever.  I was frankly nervous at the prospect of seeing things like I never had before – and so was my wife.


Good morning, swee...oh dear God!!!

Good morning, swee…oh dear God!!!


However, in one of the most anti-climactic moments of my life, I discovered that the surgery had not given me any kind of super-vision.  In fact, it didn’t really enhance what I can see at all.  I would say that I’m seeing the world about as well now without glasses as I was seeing with them before.  That’s pretty much the definition of success, but it doesn’t result in having 20/20 vision.

But I do get to go out without wearing glasses now.  Scratch that, I get to go out wearing sunglasses now!  That’s a big deal to someone as light sensitive as myself.  Before, I had “transition” prescription lenses – and let me tell you transition lenses suck out loud.  And I couldn’t afford to have prescription sunglasses, especially not when they are more likely to get lost.  So, I usually just went outside, squinted a lot and got headaches from the sunlight.  Now I can wear shades – which is both good for my poor eyeballs and makes me cool.



Hey Baby… how ’bout that Spuds Mackinzie?


But there is one exception to this “need no glasses” experience:


3.   I Still Need Glasses to Do Anything Up Close – Which Means I Still Need Glasses for Everything…

Yep, even after the whole ordeal, I still have to wear reading glasses.  And not just for reading!  If I want to see any details of anything at all – reading and writing (and how often do you think an author does either of those things?!), working on the computer, using my smartphone, eating food, etc, etc – I have to get up close and put on the “cheaters” (as some folks call them).  It’s like I’ve assumed the archetype of an old guy before my time.


Hey Baby... How 'bout that Sputnik?

Hey Baby… how ’bout that Sputnik?


And what does everyone invariably say when I tell them about this condition?  They say it’s because I’m “getting old!”  As if I hadn’t just come from the lab of a mad scientist who waged a Star Wars laser battle against my retinas.  And now I have to carry around a set of glasses – constantly worried about losing them, forgetting to take them out with me, and constantly juggling them out of my pocket and onto my face when it comes time to look at….  anything.  Then, of course, they have to come off anytime I look up from my work, or the whole world is blurry.  Frankly, it was much easier when I just put the damned things on my face in the morning and took them off again at night.

And that leads me to my final thought:


4. Going Without My Glasses is Not as Wonderful as I Thought it Would Be

When you tell a person who has been stuck with glasses his entire life that he can finally live without them, he’s going to dance and rejoice.  At first.  Then as he tries to go on with his daily life sans glasses, he’s going to find himself facing all sorts of psychological hurdles he never saw coming.

That’s what happened to me!  I have worn glasses since the first grade, and that means I’ve had a lifetime to develop habits and unspoken assumptions about my life as a glasses wearer.  Suddenly take the glasses away, and a little kid inside me starts to panic and scream “where are my glasses??  I’ve lost my glasses!!”


What I feel like every morning...

What I feel like every morning…


Years of getting in serious trouble if I lost them, years of waking up and immediately reaching for them, years of protecting them from rain, from scratches, from falling off…  all of that indoctrination just runs screaming into a brick wall.  And there is nothing you can do to calm that inner little kid down!  So, it is pretty psychologically taxing to go through this change.

And it seems to affect those around you, too.  More than one person told me it wasn’t easy to get used to seeing me without glasses.  My family said that every time they looked at me they thought I was getting ready to lay down and go to sleep!

Thankfully, this part of the experience has gotten easier over time.  New habits are starting to replace the old ones, and my inner child has stopped throwing a tantrum.  But every now and then I still reach for glasses that aren’t on my face.  Or, even more fun, I catch myself wearing my reading glasses around, wondering why the hell everything is suddenly so blurry!

On one of my follow-up visits, I had the doctor write me a prescription for bifocals.  That way I can just wear the damned things when I’m working and not have to worry about the constant on-and-off, or setting them down and forgetting where they are, etc.  I haven’t got the bifocals yet – so that’s still on the agenda.


And so, as with many things, this experience has not been exactly what I expected – it has downs as well as ups.  But let’s not allow that to distract from the basic truth:  You guys saved me from going blind.  You saved my writing and teaching career.  You kept a modern-day wizard on active duty.  And for that, I will be eternally grateful.


The Sorcerer Supreme

Now where the hell did I put those cheaters…?





Posted May 25, 2014 by kheph777 in social commentary

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18 responses to “4 Things I Learned About Eye Surgery (by Having it Done to Both Eyes)

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  1. And there I was feeling sorry for ME ! My mum was near enough blind at 63 I’m 61 and have had a glaucoma operation in the left eye , the right eye isn’t far behind… I’m knackered without my glasses , for reading , etching talismans and just seeing if it’s a rainy day or not. This is Britain so it’s usually raining. Aaron , I wish you well I really do , your missive tugged at the heartstrings quite a bit.!!


    Charles Topham
  2. Man, that made me laugh. I am so glad it worked and you can see…and I’m selfishly glad we haven’t lost one of our most valued scribes.
    All the best mate.


  3. That’ great and also because when we do such changes, as you commented, somethings appears very different. About the bifocals, as an user, you need to take care walking with it in the first two or three days. The reason is the distance you see of the ground, using a diferent part of the lens. So may be you “step in the air” sometimes. Soon your eyes will adapt to do this in an automatic way. 😀


  4. The 20/20 vision… yes it’s nice to know your glasses _were_ properly prescribed 🙂
    The reading thing… that’s normally a function of the training of muscles around your eyes. You’ve had a lifetime of them having your old glasses to take care of much of the focal distance issues. Your body is still trying to repeat its old “close up” behaviours, which since you no longer have glasses any more, just makes things more blurry. Your body hasn’t got the message that Change creates _change_, and is still doing the old things (silly rabbit).

    And hahaha…yes you can no longer get up and view the whole world through the safety of your own personal TV screen. It’s all up front and fresh blowing your face real….. we’re driving without the windshield, raw, top down, bugs in your eyes 3D smell-o-vision real… ain’t it amazing how a simple prop, a simple tool like a set of glasses on your face, can affect your entire psychological posture…. who woulda thought….LOLOLOLOL!


  5. You see so many things clearly with and without your glasses. I treasure that you will be able to see you children’s face and the faces of those you love and who love you. I am forever a Aaron and family fan!!


  6. Thank you for your update and the laugh. The world needed a seeing Aaron. :)

    I have a pair of glasses I wear to see the computer, but can’t read the mail with them. That requires an entirely different pair. Sometimes I rock them both; I have one on my head and one on my face. Bifocals would spare me that winning fashion statement. I guess it is time. LVX


    • VH Soror B and Aaron both, thank you for the laugh. I suppose I will have to participate in the cheater and bifocal fashion statement soon. At least I know there are other magickians who have survived it 🙂


  7. So happy for the great news! I would imagine you may need to do eye exercises and that herbal eyewash and stuff when you are allowed in order to keep your eyes up. Many people need glasses again after a surgery because there are other things going on that did not get addressed with surgery, which I am sure you are already aware of hehe! Wonderful to hear about your progress, and will stay tuned! 🙂 Lisa


  8. I love this article! Glad everything turn out great for you. I think you’ve handled the surgery quite well, because if you cannot stare at a fixed object for at least 60 seconds, you may not be a good candidate for this surgery. Start slow and gently at first, it may feel uncomfortable but it improves with time. Some of our patients who had been wearing glasses for 40 years, needs a lot of getting use to w/o it. Most of them still reach for glasses at times when they wake up, or feel like they’re missing something. I know that this experience is life changing, now you can see your wife, kids and friends are so much better looking than you ever thought. lol!


    • Thanks, Susan!

      And, yes, I do still reach for the glasses when I wake up sometimes, and often feel like I’m missing something. But, as you said, these things are getting easier and new habits are forming. The vision is getting better, too, as my eyes (brain) adjusts to the new way of seeing. 🙂


  9. I’m definitely relieved that things went well and that you aren’t blind. The world is a much better place with you in it.

    There are freakish things about surgery of any type they don’t talk about. It is a morbidly fascinating field to work in.


  10. I had cataract surgery last year and will have another in about the next 15 months so I know what you have gone through..I only need glasses at present for small print but that will change at the cataract in the next eye gets larger. .Paying for this is another story initself.


  11. About glasses after. This is ALL IME only! Just a data point, that’s me.

    I was “fitted” for bifocals. One, the astigmatism remains managed to screw with lights–I can see stars, but they’re all bars of light instead of points. Two, the primary prescription did squat to help me see the words on street signs, esp. in the dark, from far enough away to make a turn safely: didn’t matter whether my glasses were on or not, couldn’t see the blasted things, and it helps no one that you have to GUESS which corner has the street sign on a pole. Grrr. I requested a single prescription for readers. Got argument, but I argued back–she may have the degree, but I have the legal 20/40 eyes (I’m older and have better insurance?) and the responsibility.

    Well, I learned. For a few months when I was working in a mall, I had to keep my glasses on a chain, because I kept having to flip them off and on. Drove me nuts. I hadn’t realized how often I would actually need to use the close-up sight. This year, I asked for bifocals. I had to use drugstore readers while waiting for the new lenses.

    For the close-up part, they goofed on the measuring. I told them at the time that I don’t read 6-9″ away (I’m not nearsighted!), and I certainly don’t have my nose that close to the screen! So I got a pair of lenses that did me no good, went back, said I told you so, and got the new script. You see, the screen is usually about te length of my arm away, and most of the time when I’m reading w/o electronics, the print is out almost that far. I’m sitting in bed, reading a book. The book is resting on my stomach, out beyond the swell of my breasts.

    When I get up, I never did immediately reach for my glasses, and I don’t now. There’s a problem with being able to see well enough walking around: you can forget your glasses when you leave the house. Easily. I don’t take them off at the cinema, but I don’t dance with them. I don’t do ritual in them.

    I still use the $10 (price went up) toy goggles, which ARE UV blocking. I’d lose prescription sunners, and I rather figured the transitional lenses aren’t what I need them to be. Where are NASA scientists when you need them? (Yes, alas, I do know the answer to that).

    Sorry that your surgical experience was rougher than I’d depicted. The eyes and the area around them are so vairable in terms of pain nerves. I have more pain receptors in my mouth than most, and apparently, fewer in my “lady parts” than most women: I need topical gel for dental cleanings, and more frequent boosters of ‘caine during surgical work there. Gyn exams are never a problem–unless the speculum has been in the cooler.

    Best of luck to you, your vision, and all that.


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