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A stressful day with a happy ending

May 8, 2010

Betty’s Cataract Surgery, Part 1

graphic of an eye by NCBetty had her first cataract surgery, on her right eye, earlier this week. It was one of the most nerve-wracking days of my life, but the surgery was a success and she can see again!

I’m phobic about my eyes. I can’t give myself eye drops or sit still for glaucoma tests. When I was 14, back in the mid-60s, my mother convinced me to get contact lenses because she couldn’t stand the way my eyeglasses made my myopic eyes look smaller. I spent three miserable years trying to put them in my eyes. It would take me hours, sometimes as long as three hours, to get them in with a lot of crying and distress. But they came out so easily! They were hard lenses and all I had to do was stretch my eye out and blink. Soft lenses became available a few years later and my mother wanted me to try again. I thought about it, until I saw someone take theirs out. They had to put their fingers in their eye and pull it out! That settled it for me, and I’ve been using glasses ever since.

Betty has needed cataract operations for several years. At first doctors in DC said her eyes weren’t ready, her natural lenses weren’t hard enough to remove safely. Then in Philly, the first eye doctor and I didn’t get along, because of my request for interpreters, and I didn’t like how his staff measured Betty’s eye. His technician had to run something over her eyeball and it took a long time. She answered the phone, talked with someone who came in the room, and changed hands on the equipment, all while running this thing over Betty’s eye while I was squirming in my chair trying not to look. (Three years later, the new doctor’s technician didn’t use the same technique, but we had an interpreter then so I could leave the room.) Betty’s new eye doctor is great! And he explained that the surgical techniques have improved so much in the past five years since we left DC, that cataracts can be removed earlier, without the need to become hard, almost blinding the patient.

I had asked the doctor’s office to contact the hospital and ask for an interpreter for the surgery. I told them the hospital already has procedures in place for interpreters, but I didn’t know what office to call, and asked that they make the request. When I followed up a week and a half before the surgery, they said they had a question. The doctor suggested that instead of using a local anesthesia, Betty be put under general anesthesia, and then she wouldn’t need an interpreter. Interesting idea, but no. She needs an interpreter before the surgery and after the surgery to know what’s going on and to understand instructions. I need the interpreter too. Even if Betty was hearing, I’d need an interpreter– suppose something happened during the surgery and they needed to communicate with me? And I needed to understand the post-op instructions because I’d be taking care of Betty.

They understood that and called the hospital. In the spirit of educating the doctor’s office, I put together a packet of information, including some fact sheets from the NAD, and dropped them off. All was taken care of. Or so I thought….

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One Comment leave one →
  1. -oo- permalink
    May 16, 2010 10:31 pm

    Wow! What a story! You’re a real trouper, Nancy! Big hugs!

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