Eye News #9 – Nothing But A Burning Light

You may recall that I had had pretty darn good vision after my recent cataract surgery, and I was (exceedingly) happy. But my vision gradually degraded, as 50% of all cataract surgeries do, due to a clouding of the membrane that separates the lens from the back of the eye. It was a gradual, but in the end, quite noticeable decline in acuity.

Well, I just got back from a quick outpatient procedure to correct this, and it couldn’t have been more trouble-free.

To destroy the errant membrane, they shine multiple laser picobursts into your eye (about 20 to 30 of them), each one of which causes a pressure wave that punches a hole through the membrane.

Actually, a great metaphor that the surgeon used is that you should imagine a tightly-stretched film of Saran Wrap. If you take a pin and pop a hole in the film, you’ll get far more destruction than just a little hole, because the film is stretched so tightly.

So, I sat down, and he aimed his laser this way and that, popping the film with his laser bursts, until the membrane was essentially destroyed. It was slightly startling, because I could FEEL the shock wave in the eye (like throwing a stone into a calm pond). It took about three to five minutes – I didn’t have to change out of my street clothes, even.

Many have asked, “Don’t you need all of your various body parts? Wasn’t that part there for some reason?” Well, it does more or less hold your lens in place, but the artificial lens that they put in during the cataract operation is sufficiently anchored down after 6 to 8 weeks that they can proceed with the destruction of the membrane.

And the results? Amazing. Using my evil eye, I after the operation, I could read the little badges on the cars with the brand name spelled out (“Mercury”) from a distance of several car lengths.

And, for actual before-and-after comparison, I had put a large book (The Way To Cook, Julia Child, hardcover) against the piano and had seen how many paces away from the book I had to be before I couldn’t read its title any more. All tests were made with the evil eye open, and the excellent eye shut. Before the operation, WITH my glasses, I could just read the book title from about 8 feet away. After the operation, WITHOUT my glasses, I could read the book from 10 feet away, and WITH my glasses, I could still read it from 23 feet away. I might have been able to do a little better, but I ran out of living room. So, almost a three-fold improvement in acuity, like going from 20/90 to 20/30. Naturally, I’m thrilled. (Even as I’m writing this just now, I can’t help being tickled at how sharp everything looks).

I’m pretty confident now that even should my excellent eye suddenly have some horrible mishap, I would still easily qualify to drive with just my evil eye, especially if they would consent to clearing the freeways every morning and evening for my convenience. And it’s clearly good enough for me to be able to depend on it for reading and working, even should the other one fail.

The evil eye still has the dread macular pucker (the scar tissue on the retina, which makes things a bit wavy), and I’m still taking eye drops every day to prevent the retina from swelling, and my eye still LOOKS a little evil, but from the inside looking out, I’m deeply satisfied. The retinal surgeon has no intention of operating on the macular pucker any time soon, so hopefully you won’t hear from me about my dopey eye for a long, long time.

-Tom