Tuesday, April 28, 2009

THE HATEFUL EYE CHART

My high-risk surgery on 4/20/09, for removal of a despicable cataract in my left eye, went well.

My thoughtful best friend, Gail, took me to UCLA Jules Stein Eye Center, where Dr. Caprioli did the surgery. After a wonderful cocktail of magical potions, I drifted off to LA-LA land, and awoke, prone, watching the surgeon’s shadow while he was mid-suture with 9-0 nylon. I wanted to tell him to take an extra stitch to keep everything in place, but my mouth wouldn’t form the words and my voice was nowhere to be found.

After surgery, with very limited vision in the surgical eye (which was covered with a metal patch with tiny holes), and no vision in the other (due to amblyopia), Gail led me (steered me) to the car. As I’d had no food since 6 p.m. the night before, my intestines were doing the macarena. After a short nap at our hotel, Gail led (pushed) me across the street to Ralphs, where they had an incredible bakery, which I just knew would improve my vision after ingesting a gooey sweet and some coffee.

I only walked into two walls and three people, so I felt reasonably sure I could drive soon. But, while we stood in line to check out, I was having a very gut level talk with Gail about losing my eyesight. In the middle of my gut-wrenching tale, without my knowledge, she left me for a second to grab something from another aisle. Of course, I babbled on, talking very animatedly (I later learned) to a shelf of canned, pitted olives and artichokes canned in oil. Very embarrassing! I could hear passers-by comment on the poor homeless person talking to herself, and debating whether they should help me or report me to the manager.

The next day I removed the patch from my left eye and was delighted that the world around me looked a little brighter and much clearer than before surgery. Alright, I admit it, I’m a cockeyed optimist. After a hospital cafeteria breakfast of powdered eggs and very tired bacon, Gail packed the car and drove us back to her house in Orange County.

The next day, three days post-op, I was sure I was ready to drive back to my winter home in Palm Desert, CA., a trip of only 121 miles. Gail, ever the realist, suggested we go to Wal-Mart and see if they would give me a quick eye test.

Now, according to the State of Washington DMV, I can only get my license renewed if I can read 20/40. Last September, after trying desperately to read 20/40, I was told I would have to take another eye test before my birthday in September of this year. If I couldn't pass the test, they'd yank my license. So you can see why I was desperate for 20/40 vision.

When the Wal-Mart optometrist put up the lighted chart and told me to put my hand over my right eye, I could read so many lines I expected her to cheer. However, I later learned they most assuredly were lines extemporaneously placed there by the guy who made the chart to fool people into believing they had good vision, or else proof that they knew the alphabet.

But then the optometrist scrolled down a line and asked, “Good, okay, now what do you see?” I faltered.

“Ummm, I can’t read that line.” And so it went for three more lines. Okay, but hey, I did read four lines, isn’t anyone excited about that besides me? “What’s the vision line that I read without a hitch?” I asked the optometrist.

“You were just below 20/40,” she replied, “but you were close on a couple of the letters.”

I was devastated. How could that be? I had my cataract removed; I was ready to take on the DMV. Then she asked when my surgery had taken place. When told it had only been three days, she giggled with her hand over her mouth, as if not to offend the idiot sitting in her chair.

I was disappointed that my distance vision had not changed after the surgery. But, she said it would take a month to really see if it was a success. If it was not, then I will have to undergo another surgery to remove a retinal growth; that's where the danger of swelling comes in. So, in three more weeks I’ll know whether I’ll be home free or back to UCLA.

Wish me luck!

1 comment:

GutsyWriter said...

I've been thinking about you and e-mailed you. I do hope they give you the French vision test next time. Can you spot the good-looking men? You should request that one at DMV.
Please keep in touch, and I'll call you very soon.