Guess what everyone? My mom now has two cataract-free eyes! She had surgery on her left eye yesterday and now she just continues with the very, very, very rigorous eye drop process and cataracts will be a distant, yet dramatic memory!
Get it? The mystical third eye?
Well anyway, everything was great, thanks to me listening to my own advice from the first eye. In case you missed it, here is the "What to Expect with Cataract Surgery (Lessons from the Frontlines for Caregivers" blog. I don't typically listen to my own advice--I don't listen to anyone's advice--which is why I am frequently in "trouble" or "a situation" or "up shit's creek without a paddle." But, this is a new year, new me, so I am taking advice!
While the original guide is very complete, there are a few lessons I neglected to include, as well as some summary experiences that I think will be helpful to anyone who is managing the care of a cataract patient.
According to a variety of very, very scientific publications, over half the population will develop cataracts, so friends your time will come! Here are the lessons you need (and should print out and shove in your glove box) for when you are a cataract caregiver:
1. There will be several "Praise Jesus" moments.
This was not that unexpected given the fact that just yesterday my mother shouted "Praise Jesus" when I was able to open a jar of marinated artichokes for her. It takes very little for her to go from quiet old lady to the lead vocalist at a revival. Apparently cataract surgery is very transformative (makes you wonder just how visually impaired they were before surgery) and the sudden gift of sight is very religious.
My Mom said Praise Jesus 47 times in the 15 minute drive home. And she told 7 people at Trader Joes that her "sight had been restored. Praise Jesus. Also, can someone help me find the golden raisins?"
2. You need a friend on the inside.
Look, you might not believe me, but checking in on Cataract surgery day is a little like waiting in line at the new hot club (is this how cool club people speak? probably not). There is confusion and anger and lots of mask fashion judgement. Critical documents will be missing. No one will have an email address. It will suddenly be 1987 and faxing is the only solution; but no one has a fax machine because it is 2021.
So, you need a friend on the inside, who can jump you to the start of the line, has a working email address and some authority to update medical records.
How do you make this friend? Well, beyond stalking the employees like a psychopath, I recommend calling in advance and getting the name of the center manager, as well as an email address. Upon arrival for surgery on the first eye, we had to endure a 47 minute COVID test review process. During that process, I demanded to see "a manager with an email address and a business card!" I complimented her on her hair (it was nondescript), her scrubs (they were blue) and her mask (blue surgical). Then, I friend requested her on Facebook (she did not accept.). The second time around, I emailed my new bestie, asked her to pre-review the COVID test, asked when the center was the least busy and got my mom in at an 11 am time slot!
When we arrived, my mom went right to the front of line and got to get her premium seat in the eye operating room.
3. Never involve yourself in the drops.
Last night, I made the mistake of asking how it was going with the eye drops. DO NOT DO THIS. I lost 25 minutes of my life, have developed a post-traumatic anxiety disorder and I am still confused. Let them handle their own eye drops. They can do it! You cannot! Remember you have NETFLIX!
4.Their eye sight will improve, but they will still be unable to hear.
Despite my mother's claims that "Praise Jesus, I can see and hear now!" The surgery has nothing to do with their hearing. They, of course, will NOT want to have a hearing loss conversation after their miraculous healing. And really, if they are like mom, they cannot hear you anyway. So, be prepared for 25 years of shouting. Or embrace their good vision and begin communicating in writing, only.
5. They will be able to drive nearly immediately after surgery.
I found this surprising, but within 24 hours, they can be back to driving! I really thought my mother was lying; but alas, she is back on the road going slow, making wide right turns and parking poorly. It's nice to know that while they took away her cataracts, they did not take away her "I'll park however I want to, I am 76 years old" spirit.
I am not sure what medical procedures are next for mom--I think there is a colposcopy on the books for June, so stay tuned for more caregiver tips and tricks!