Arrived at the day hospital reception at 11.50 in a state of abject terror to find the fire alarm sounding and staff and patients pouring out of the doors. My first thought was "Oh no they'll cancel the op". Once you've got yourself keyed up for something like this not having it is worse then getting it over with. Anyway they didn't cancel so down to the waiting lounge (yes really) to meet my fellow victims. There I met eighty year old Sheila a lovely up beat ex-publican who had one eye done six weeks ago and assured us all that it was:
- A doddle
- Had excellent results which made any minor discomfort more than worth it.
- Most important it was excellent value for money as it would cost £4000 to have two eyes done privately (I suspect from her other attitudes that she was a life long Tory which probably goes to show that people don't let ideology get in the way of a bargain).
Anyway Sheila was a support to the other five non-veterans for the rest of the day.
Register checked by Nurse Rita to make sure we were all present and then a cup of tea. I was informed I was last on the list. Not where I wanted to be. Plenty of time to stew and imagine the worst (or even worse).
Nurse Rita began dishing out the first of sixteen doses of eye drops. She informed each recipient that some would sting, Sheila told me she had "hit the roof" on the last occasion. I sat watching my fellow patients stoically wince as the drops went in. By the time Nurse Rita got to me I was tense to say the least. In go the drops and ............nothing. I relaxed. But not for long, my innate pessimissm soon reasserted itself and it was not long before I had convinced myself that the medication I had been given must have been the wrong stuff, maybe even just water. Mental image of myself writhing about on the operating table as the surgeon makes the first incision.
Off we all go down to theatre where we sit in the order that we are to be "done". Jovial theatre technicians, friendly nursing staff and anaesthetists, and post operative patients returning to their seats saying " it's not to bad" did not seem to lift my mood. All I could seem to do was note ( and with hindsight misinterpret) the sights and sounds around me:
- "They stick a blunt needle round behind your eye" I heard someone say. Aargh I'm off home.
- I knew that they removed the old lens with the cataract by emulsifying it with sound waves. Every so often I could hear this dreadful loud noise like a jack hammer in the building which seemed to coincide with the time the last patient went in. "I'll leap off the table when they start that up" I thought.
My turn came and I slipped the backless nighty over my clothes. Not very fetching, and no turning back now. Into the preparation room, for the blunt needle and later the jack hammer?
What really happened? I will tell you what I can remember.
The (impeccably polite) surgeon and anaesthetist asked me to get on a trolley and make myself comfortable. I was wired for monitors. The anaesthetist explained what he was going to do and as far as I can remember he:
- Put some drops in my eye which I presume offered some anaesthasia.
- He inserted a device which held my eyelids open.
- He administered anaesthetic in and around my eye.
- He did inject something from a curved needle. He informed me that this would entail various sensations including pressure behind the eye. It was not painful and at worst might be described as a little uncomfortable.
- Pressure was then applied to my eye (by a band round my head) "to assist the medication to work". This band was left on for five minutes.
- When the band was removed I could not see out of the anaesthetised eye and I presume I could not move it as this was checked by the anaesthetist.
I was then wheeled into the adjoining theatre and:
- I was positioned under the light/binoculars used by the surgeon.
- I was given an oxygen vent to hold. This is because your face (apart from the eye being treated) is covered during the operation. I have to say I did not feel claustrophobic in this situation.
- During the procedure I felt absolutely nothing except occasional small amounts of water on my face.
- You can see a bright light and the vaguest outlines of some of what is going on.
- Staff chatted, music played and one of the theatre technicians sang (not well and not the same song).
- The lens emulsifying machine emitted a low hum, and also told you in a female voice what part of the process it was carrying out. I found this helpful though I appreciate it is not for the patients benefit.
- The whole procedure lasted probably ten to twenty minutes (time goes quickly when you are enjoying yourself).
- Out of theatre, short rest, checkover by surgeon to see that the lens implant is ok and then off for a cup of tea and instructions from the nurse on post operative care.
- No walking or driving home.
At about 9.30pm last night the anaesthetic had worn off sufficiently for my drooping eyelid to come to life which it did slowly. The eye muscles weren't quite so quick so for a period of time I had one eye looking straight ahead and one somewhere to the right (strange place for my other computer...hang on I only own the one!). This had more or less righted itself (and back to the one computer)by the time I went to bed with plastic eyecover on to protect the healing organ.
When I woke up this morning, having had no post operative pain, I found the vision in the operated eye was brighter than it had been but was blurred. My literature from the hospital tells me that this is not abnormal. I now start on the regime of ten lots of antibiotic and anti-inflammatory eye drops per day. Just had two, two more at teatime.
I will let you know how things progress.