What to Expect with Cataract Surgery: Lessons from the Frontlines for Caregivers (Day 12)

Let me tell you all: Cataract Surgery has been an EPIC adventure in this house. I thought I'd share my experience in the time of COVID-19 to help others understand what to expect and how much to drink during Cataract Surgery Week. 

As some backstory: I am not particularly close to my mother--except for physically (she lives in her own self sufficient apartment off of my kitchen)--but at the same time, we have a pretty open relationship (consisting of my mother requesting insane things and me refusing and then my husband getting mad at us and then us both looking at him like the monster of rationality he is). 

And while my mother drives me absolutely INSANE, I'd do anything for her (I mean I will complain the entire time. but I'll do it. I am her daughter!) 

So enter the Cataract Surgery.  She's been talking about her cataracts and their "ripening" (vomit. BTW, cataracts don't really need to ripen anymore.) for approximately 2 years. It has been like the most anticipated event of the century. 

Here's what to expect when your mother who lives with you needs Cataract Surgery:

1. She will absolutely wait to schedule the Cataract Surgery, until there is a global pandemic. 

2. The surgery, without a doubt will be scheduled on Monday, which in turn creates a nail-biting wait for the required COVID test results that might be delayed by the weekend. 

3. The surgical testing center will strongly suggest the COVID test be administered by a very specific testing location, approximately 58 minutes away on an unnamed road in a tiny plaza near the Jersey Shore. You will refuse and spend one week refreshing the available COVID test appointments at a variety of testing sites. Then you will spend the weekend refreshing your phone for the COVID test results. 

4. When the COVID test results miraculously arrive in your inbox on a Sunday, do not expect your parent to be happy that they are cleared for surgery. Instead, they will be praising Jesus that they received a negative result. And when you asked why they thought it was positive, they will clam and up and deny ever going to 17 different Dollar Stores in search of the "right" tape.

5.  On surgery day, expect the patient to be waiting in your kitchen 3 hours before you need to leave. Also, expect them to not believe you when you show them the map to the surgical center and share the actual travel time. 

6.  At the surgical center, the patient WILL NOT be allowed in until the COVID test results have been reviewed by 17 people. During that review process, you will most likely wait outside in the cold. You will see people come in off the street and run in "just to use the restroom." BUT stay strong, the COVID review process only takes like 47 minutes. (Bring a coat and hand warmers). 

7. You will encounter many other caregivers and patients. Note: everyone is angry, everyone is scared, most are masked, some are not masked properly, and one will have a cane. Note: Do not anger the one with the cane. 

8. You will wait in your car during the surgery, which takes anywhere from 20 minutes to 17 hours. Since, most of us never leave our homes, I found this time to be like a little mini vacation. 

9. When you get the call to pick up your patient from their procedure, don't be surprised if they bully you into parking in Handicap parking and repeatedly tell you "It is fine." It is NOT FINE, because the parking lot security will harass you and accuse you of taking away parking from disabled people.  You will wish the one with the cane from number 7 was your mother. 

10. Depending on the drama level of your patient/loved one, don't be surprised if they come out in a wheelchair. BUT understand they are not blind nor are they suddenly unable to walk. They just like to be pushed around by muscular male nurses. 

11. You loved one will have a clear patch/shield over their eye. Your children might start talking to them like they are pirates. My mother enjoyed this. Others might be offended. 

12. There is a very, very extensive eye drop schedule. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES OFFER TO HELP WITH THE EYE DROPS BECAUSE THEN YOU CANNOT LIVE A NORMAL LIFE. They need the drops about 4-17 times a day. You cannot commit to that. You have work and Netflix to manage. 

13. They will be fine! And have their eye sight, but using medical tape to reattach their patch/shield will allude them and they will revert to using the clear tape they found when they went on their pandemic trips to the Dollar Store. You will call them a "hobo," at least 19 times under your breath and once to their face. They will not cry, because they are now hardened by their surgical experience. 

14. There will be several surprise appointments that they've known about for 2 years, but disclose at the last minute. You will drive them to surprise appointments, but you will drive "a way" they "are not familiar with," and "too aggressively" and "not how" they "taught you." As a result, they will be gripping the armrest and praying to Jesus "Save me like you restored my sight." I recommend turning up NPR really loud for the car ride. 

15. No one will say Thank you. Which if you are a mother, you are probably totally used to.

16. The bottom line: your patient/loved one/mother who lives with you has two eyes. So you repeat all of this in two weeks. BUT it is all worth it to restore their vision, so they can see well enough to drive safely and to be able to criticize your hair. 

17. Wine.com delivers in most states, but be sure to pre-order on the same day you book the COVID test. You can place your order in-between refreshing for appointments. 

I hope these tips helped! Happy Cataract Surgery-ing!