Friday, May 7, 2010

On losing my vision

Today is Friday.  On Monday, I will have the cataract in my right eye removed.  In its place, a plastic lens will be placed in my eye.  The surgeon tells me she will be correcting me as close to perfect vision as possible.  The left eye will be done two weeks later.

There are hitches.  Without additional surgery (slitting the cornea, ugh) I have to choose between correcting my astigmatism and correcting my nearsightedness.  High school classmate Judy Burke Kraynak warned me that the plastic lens does not adjust between near and not-so-near.  If you don't choose a correction that, say, lets you read your watch, you will need to wear glasses for watch-reading.  Choosing a correction for close-up vision means no astigmatism correction.  Which to do?

(Left: An autumn hillside at Storm King mountain.)

I agonized over this for a couple days, then I realized that seeing clearly into the faces of people I love is really important to me.  Imagine, holding a baby up close and not being able to focus on its face.  (Reminder: babies are fascinated by glasses and  want to grab them.)  So I am going for the near vision.  (Continues below.)

There's another hitch that nobody ever thinks of.  I have worn glasses for 57 years.  About 45 years ago my prescription moved me into the category of  legally blind or, as my then-ophthalmologist said, "I could get you out of the army."  But it's not that I don't see anything without my glasses -- it's just that I don't see what you see.

Without my glasses I live in a world nobody knows but me.  Among other things, it's a world of shimmer and of melded moving colors.  Light and shade have different meanings in this world.  What I see as areas of light or shade may actually be the same color as their surroundings but a different unseen texture.  Movement is different in this world; a train moving across the far valley doesn't penetrate it at all.  A car moving toward me could be a tank, or a buffalo.  Sun glittering on waters of a flowing creek is dazzling -- there's nothing like it!

So I've been playing with images trying to approximate some of the things I now see that I will no longer see.  The image to the right is something of an approximation -- although now that I look closely, the trunks of the young trees are far too clear -- I probably shouldn't show them at all.  But I wanted to show how astigmatism works too.  At least in my case, it's almost double vision, or a shadow vision with a similar image adjoining the stronger image.

So, by a month from now, this singular, personal, private world will be gone from me, never to return.  Surely this visual world has helped make me who I am!  Who is to say that the nearsighted kid who gets called weird isn't really walking in a completely different world?


Karen said...

This lower picture looks very familiar to me, with my near-sighted astigmatic eyes. You're right, the smaller trunks shouldn't show at all.

I've always thought that Monet was nearsighted.

I'll be thinking of you on Monday!

Anonymous said...

I have similar vision problems, though no cataracts yet. Ophthalmologist says I'm beginning to get one though. What bothers me the most about that is color vision. I'm an artist and quilter, and I remember from my mother's experience that her color vision went all out of whack--she bought a lavender chair, thinking it was beige. We argued for years till she had her cataracts removed and had to admit I'd been right all along. She hated lavender, too!

My real challenge came in 1980 with a detached retina. I caught in early because it made print seem to swim on the page, and I kept seeing peculiar "floaters" streaming by. Those are still there, but the strangest thing is the nail-paring of true blindness I now have in the upper range of my right eye. It isn't blackness, it's NOTHING. Just NOTHING. In between vision and nothing is a curtain of mist.

My doctor won't even attempt the surgical correction of my nearsightedness because I have only one usable eye, and that's over 20/400 and astigmatic as well.

I understand what you mean about that nice shimmery impressionistic view you get without glasses. Restful sometimes.
Jennifer (Moody) Centric

Anonymous said...

Hi Diggitt,
Interesting and timely post for me. I have worn glasses and/or contacts for over 40 years and I know what you mean about the shimmery, blurry melding of colors and images. (Its one of the reasons my bathtub is rarely clean-without my glasses on in the shower, I never notice the build-up! Ha!). I am struggling right now with my contact lens. Went to the optometrist for a routine exam. He ordered new contacts (not a surprise). However, 3 months, 2 doctors and 5 sets of contacts later, they have yet to find the right prescription. The problem might be due to a large floater, but they don't seem to know for sure. Will pick up the latest set of contacts tomorrow. Good luck with your treatments!

Anonymous said...

I've tried many times to explain what being that near-sighted is like. I don't think I even knew how much I relied on that fuzzy world being there until I couldn't get my contacts out one time. You really nailed it.

deb said...

I so relate to what you are saying. I have been told that I have the same problem including the astigmatism and cataracts. They won't do surgury yet, but I can see that in my future. Let me know how it goes. Cheers! Deb

McLaughlin said...

I know the feeling - all of Grandma McLaughlin's kids and grandkids probably do. I was talking about the fact that I wake up early now since the sun is up earlier. When asked why I don't look at the time and go back to bed if it is too early. I said that I can't see the clock. So why don't you move the clock, silly. Physically, I can see the clock and I know that it is there. I can even see the red of the digital numbers. I just can't see those numbers.
Such are the Mac's.

SEH said...

I had cataract surgery about 14 years ago. I was stunned when the first one was removed, and I could compare the new "good eye" versus the "bad eye." You'll be shocked to see what that cataract has been doing to colors for who knows how long? I was amazed at how brilliant colors actually were! But I also realized I HAVE to wear sunglasses in the sun because my built-in sunglasses were gone.

The implants I have allow me to see mid-range (like the car dashboard or a grocery store shelf) and distance (liike driving) without glasses, at better than 2/020. I still need glasses for reading, though, and because I read ALL the time for work and otherwise, I have taken to wearing glasses around my neck on cords I bead myself. I have bead loops to match all my outfits and can even make earrings to match. They are now taking the place of necklaces.

Good luck! Mine was pain-free and I was able to walk out of surgery seeing in my "new" eye.

Glenn Pfeifer said...

Sympathies and shared concerns from me to you. You will survive through this and perhaps many more traumas with your vision. Personally, I have had seven eye surgeries -- two cataracts removed, two cornea transplants, two surgeries to repair one failed cornea transplant, one Grauveldt implant -- and I have survived. An opthalmologist friend noted, for my edification, that techniques being used on me had just been invented recently, i.e., be thankful that there are techniques available to alleviate your problems. My latest is the requirement to wear so-called RGP's (rigid gas permeable contact lenses) since ordinary lenses can no longer improve my vision enough to be usable. Currently my hardest problem is adjusting to NOT wearing standard ordinary glasses after 67 years.