Cataracts: We All Got ‘Em..or We Will Soon
I was so fortunate that I never needed glasses until about 5 years ago. My ex-wife and all three of my sons wear glasses (or contacts)..or at least they should wear them. My parents and sister all wore glasses.
I was in Navy Flight and the optometrist told me that part of the reason I was selected to be a Naval Aviator was my great vision. Then he said, “Your right eye will go straight downhill when you turn 64”. I was 21. Like every other 21-year old, I knew everything, so that meant nothing, but also anything happening at 64 seem like an eternity. (Paul McCartney wrote a song about that, didn’t he?). I actually laughed at him.
He missed it by less than a year. The guy knew his stuff. But this is a great example of Baby Boomer Health Issues.
So, I had to get an eye exam for my driver’s license and I failed it. Reluctantly I went to the eyeglass store. They tested my eyes and gave me a prescription. I ended up paying $2,000 for 3 pairs of prescription glasses. (I’ll tell you why they were so expensive later, but let’s just say I am picky about my frames, and evidently more vain that I thought.)
Two years later I failed another eye test (another long story). I went back to the optomotrist. He said I should get a cataract operation. With insurance, it would cost the same as new glasses.
So, I researched ophthalmologists all over Denver where I live. I was so ignorant, I couldn’t make a choice. They all say they are the best. Duh! My primary care physician, Dr. David Palmquist, came to the rescue. He had sent both of his parents to Dr. Jason Jacobs at Colorado Ophthalmology Associates here in Denver and swore by him. He gave me great confidence. He also said this is a problem for anyone over 60, that our lenses age and deteriorate and need to be replaced. It wasn’t something I wanted to hear, but I knew it was inevitable…and necessary.
My doctor said that he would bet that Dr. Jacobs would tell me that he graduated 1st in his class at Harvard within the first 30 minutes of our initial meeting. It took him about 20 minutes, but I had already researched him and I knew not only was he number one at Harvard, he had gone on to become a major expert and leading international ophthalmologist. That was enough for me. I try not to be impressed by “Harvard grads”, but these are my eyes!
Everything about this experience was awesome. Not just “great”. Not just “fantastic”. AWESOME! From the first introductory analysis, through a couple of “preparatory” sessions, Dr. Jacobs and his team were professional, caring, educational, informative, thoughtful and efficient. Dr. Jacobs in particular was consistently the person you want to operate on your eyes.
I don’t know about you, but I can lose a leg or an arm or an ear. Don’t mess with my eyes.
Dr. Jacobs’ team gave me a comprehensive packet of information. The perfect balance of optimism about what I could expect and insurance-obligatory “worst case” warnings. Even with all of that, I was comfortable.
One major point here was that the packet, as well as Dr. Jacobs plus his team, described the options I had in selecting lenses to replace my cataract that would be destroyed and vacuumed out by a laser.
First, the insurance-covered lens that would still require glasses but was included in my $295 insurance price.
Second, the intermediate choice of lenses that would allow me to see up close, reading distance, but I would need glasses for distance. Or a lens for distance but I would need glasses for reading. Those cost $1,000 for either choice.
Third, Symfony lenses from Tecnis that would give me 20X20 vision in whichever eye I got replaced. Fortunately I only needed my right eye done.
I took a week to decide. But I finally splurged on the Symfony lens. Hey, again, it’s my eyes. YOLO! Right?
I scheduled the cataractectomy (not sure that’s the right name for it). The day before, Dr. Jacobs scheduled one final session to make sure I was good to go. I was ready and willing and excited. “Let’s do this.”
I got a lot of support from friends and others who had gotten the surgery. They corroborated my primary physician’s and Dr. Jacobs’ predictions that it was easy and awesome. Even the Lyft driver who delivered me to the surgery center said she had just had the surgery so she could drive for Lyft and it was a life changing decision.
Starting the procedure. the Harvard Park Surgery Center was great. Harvard Very supportive, very warm (literally). The nurses explained everything they were doing. The first thing that surprised me was no “local” anesthetics…meaning “no shots” from my expectation. Just several eyedrops and a salve on my eyelids. That was a major step forward for me. I immediately relaxed.
Then there was sedation. And the anesthesiologist, Dr. Bruce Immerman, from US Anesthesia Partners, was also great. He explained that Dr. Jacobs needed my “somewhat awake” for the surgery, by that I would be “calm”. He delivered that. I was definitely calm.
Into surgery. Dr. Jacobs was there to assure me. That was a huge step for me. But by that time the anesthetic was kicking in…I guess it was…I was “calm.”
But the biggest positive of all of this was the actual procedure. There were 3 little lights in a triangle. They looked like tiny, bright white macaroons with bright blue auras around them. They floated in my vision, but always in their triangle shape. Dr. Jacobs told me to focus on the center of the triangle.
That was it. Seriously that was it. I can’t explain it. It wasn’t the anesthetic. That was it. 15 minutes later, they wheeled me out of the operating room, my son was there, and then the nurse and my son took me out to his car. They put a clear plastic guard over my eye so I wouldn’t rub my eye. Then they gave me some “Ray Charles” sunglasses because the plastic guard didn’t fit under my regular (expensive prescription) sunglasses.
We went out to breakfast and I already knew this was one of the best decisions and experiences of my life. I could already read the menu on the wall through my plastic guard and my Ray Charles sunglasses and the residual medication and salves and drops. I knew it then.
The rest of the week was amazing. I kept on the plastic guard and the sunglasses (dilation is tough). I read the next morning that I could have lost the guard earlier, but what the hell?
I had to wear the plastic guard every night for a week so I wouldn’t rub my eye…which I definitely would have. It’s one of my habits.
I had to do eyedrops every night for two weeks. Simple. And worth whatever trouble that was worth.
I drove myself to the ophthalmologist the next morning…seeing traffic signs I hadn’t been able to read for years…and wouldn’t have admitted to. I had to wear my Navy flight sunglasses because my prescription glasses were horrible.
All was good according to Dr. Jacobs, which was much more important than my layman’s opinion. I left there very excited and very validated.
Made it through the week of wearing the plastic guard every night to avoid rubbing my eyes in my sleep. Made it through my 2 weeks of eyedrops. Made it through my follow-up meeting with Dr. Jacobs.
The upshot is the most excited about anything I have done in my life. Seriously, folks. I won’t bring up any other categories of my life that offered and delivered anything this great…sex, drugs or rock and roll. Well, maybe the birth of my 3 sons. But all but those last 3 compared to how beautiful and clear the world is after this operation.
Thanks you, Dr. Jacobs.Tags: Cataracts, ophthalmologists, vision