The Usual Disclaimer: This is absolutely not medical advice. It’s not a promotion for cataract surgery, driving in winter weather, writing on one’s arm in ink, or anything else. It is a promotion of Angelina, but in her own circle she was famous before she met me.
After Surgery 1, there was a followup exam one day later, then again one week later. Then one week after that, we had Surgery 2. For round 2, I knew more of what to expect; at least my hands didn’t start shaking a whole day in advance.
Another winter weather front was on the way. Angelina and I kept in touch with frequent weather updates about the advisability of driving. Angelina made the final executive decision on the day in the dark street while innocent ordinary rain fell softly on our heads. I threw my backup gear in her car in case we got stuck under some highway overpass for the night through my own fault. There was a knapsack and duffle with bottled water, bread and cheese, fruit and nuts, chocolate, blanket, raingear, two fluorescent vests, emergency whistle, torch flashlight, and my cell phone charger so we could charge our phones at the clinic in case the power went out that day.
We were off.
Angelina is a conversation artist. She will whip the life story out of you before you know it yourself. Now I understand that she probably did that to put me at ease. In any case, the rain only spit some sleet at us once, then settled back to rain again.
In the clinic a surgery team member approached to check my identity. As for the first surgery he handed me a whole roll of adhesive labels pre-printed with my name, patient number, and date of birth, so that I could verify the information. That might be the point when they attached the same label to a bracelet on my wrist. He asked Angelina “And will you be the Getaway Driver?” He asked her for her phone number, and I showed it to him written on my own forearm in heavy ink for good measure. (“You can write my number on your arm too,” I told Angelina. “Later we’ll get matching tattoos.”)
In the prep/recovery room, the team greeted me and ran through the same solid checklist. “And which eye?” they asked at three different points, before the surgeon drew on a faint confirming arrow on my forehead. After answering three times I suggested “Let’s do the one with the cataract in it.” They asked me for the pre-printed labels, but this time I’d made the mistake of tucking them in to my waist pack, and placing that in my knapsack. “I’ll get them!” I offered. But no no, they kept me sitting still for my blood pressure check, and assured me that they’d flag down Angelina and get the labels back. Angelina as it happened had taken a stroll next door for a fortifying cup of coffee, so the team cheerfully printed a new label set.
Finally the team waited at attention, poised to zip my wheeled chair into the OR across the hall. At that moment one of them noticed that outside the window, the heavens had opened with a thick fall of enormous snowflakes. (Fortunately the huge clumped flakes suggested that we had warm temperatures, and the snow might be short duration. I certainly hoped so.) Because I was already in place with heated blanket and electrodes, a nurse darted to the window with her cell phone. She made a little video of the dramatic snowfall, then darted in beaming to play the video so I could marvel at the snow too. Her thoughtful gesture was an extra cheering touch in those moments as they zipped me across the hall and into place.
In the OR a dear team member from the first surgery said “Why hello. Thank you for visiting. Fancy seeing you here.” I assured him that there was nowhere I’d rather be. “A nice place. I love what you’ve done with it.” Even our surgeon laughed.
This time during very gentle slow deep breaths, it dawned on me lying there that I’d never felt so vulnerable or open or trusting to anyone as I was to this surgical team. That was a poignant thought, but at least the moment happened in good hands. It was a remarkable feeling. My body settled down into such deep relaxation that there seemed no need to breathe at all. I did keep breathing though, very softly and evenly, to maintain steady pressure in the eye and to keep from disrupting the monitors or the team. After 77 gentle breaths our surgeon said “We’re done.” I felt sorry to bid them all goodbye (“I guess we’re all out of cataracts now.”) but gave them a heartfelt thanks.
The original team member walked me back to Angelina. Anxious about the weather, and anxious to not keep her waiting, I zeroed over and grabbed the straps of the knapsack and duffle. “Aaaaaaah No!” Both our nurse and Angelina (a nurse herself) grabbed the straps to keep from lifting them. “That stuff must weigh thirty pounds!” Angelina said. “I hauled it with me to get my coffee. YOU can’t lift anything heavy after your surgery!” I remembered that of course they were right. While I meekly and gratefully obeyed, she carried my gear to the car herself. At least this time I was clever enough to pay for our parking. “Look at you, Girl.” She opened the car door for me. “You walked out of that surgery like it was NOTHING.”
The snow had tapered off, but the temperature was falling fast. Angelina drove home carefully, and she carried my things upstairs before I got into bed. Then the sleet set in, but thank God we made it home safely.
Up next: Recovery round 2, and helping the mind adjust to a new visual world.
I enjoyed reading this and happy it went so well and that Angelina was there for you.
My husband had both eyes done last year so it brought back some memories of that experience.
Namaste and blessings,
Thank you! Maybe it’s a new rite of passage? And a very remarkable one too. It is very nice to see your message and to hear that your husband got through it too. On to your other message now. Blessings to you! Mary