Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

February 22, 2009


Another old man qualified to talk about his cataract surgery


          Routinely I turn to Google for information. I “Googlize” most every subject. It is a quick and reliable way to verify the truth and to learn other opinions about a given topic.

          Last month, after my annual eye exam, I went online for information about cataract surgery. Roy Hager, my ophthalmologist, was ready to operate on my right eye.

          The good doctor had his capable assistants show me a video, lecture me about eyedrops, and provide me with a brochure. All this was helpful but I wanted to know more.

On Google I was relieved to learn that cataract surgery is the most commonly performed type of surgery in the United States. Nearly two million people have cataract surgery each year in our nation. The good news is that more than 95 per cent of these surgeries are performed with no problems.

It helped to discover what the word cataract means. A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye that limits clear vision. The lens of the eye is no longer completely transparent. It is not, as I thought, a growth over the eye. The literal meaning of cataract is “waterfall.” Until the mid 1700s it was believed that a cataract was formed by opaque material flowing, like a waterfall, into the eye.

Since surgery is always risky, I wanted to know the risks of cataract surgery. Again my fears were relieved when I learned that the most common risk is infection and this can be successfully prevented by the use of antibiotic eyedrops. A week after my surgery I am using three kinds of eyedrops three times a day. The use of eyedrops, I am told, will continue for some time.

My surgery last week went as smoothly as the good doctor had promised. The anesthesia had the effect on me that they hoped for; I was awake but calm and unconcerned as Doctor Hager worked on my eye. After making a small incision in my eye, he removed my cloudy lens and replaced it with a clear plastic lens implant. The implant had been carefully designed to provide the optical power needed by my eye.

When the patch over my eye was removed the next day, I could see very clearly through the new lens. I soon discovered that with or without my glasses I seemed a bit unbalanced. While my vision was no longer blurred in my right eye I had trouble coordinating the vision of both eyes.

I learned why from my daughter-in-law Tammy, wife of our son Matt. She worked for several years with a respected ophthalmologist in Florida. Tammy shared with me what Doctor Copeland told his patients, at least those who were near-sighted as I have been.

After performing cataract surgery Copeland offered his patients a clever explanation of the balancing problem. “Your new eye is like a horse and your old eye is like a pony. So you have a horse and a pony trying to pull the same load.” That insight helped me understand the situation with my eyes.

The solution hopefully will be cataract surgery on my left eye. As soon as my doctor is ready I will be ready to have him replace my pony with a horse that can team up with the horse in my right eye.

My wife is not as certain as I am that surgery on my left eye will alleviate my balancing problem. She says I have been unbalanced my whole life. That proves, I reckon, that more surgery will not solve all my problems.

At least now I am ready to rattle on and on about my cataract surgery. And I must say, now that I can see more clearly, some people are not as handsome as I once thought. Can it be that some folks are better looking when seen through blurry eyes? I will let you decide after you have your own cataract surgery. Then we can talk. + + +