Under the Knife Again

Yesterday I was out with the BNHS (Bedfordshire Natural History Society) chasing dragonflies with one and a half eyeballs for what I hoped would be the last time ‘cos today I was due in surgery for cataract removal and a new lens implant. One of the things Miss Consultant had mentioned that I should think about, in addition to choosing my preferred kens type (long-distance/short distance/multifocal), was the choice between having the procedure performed under local anaesthetic (the norm) or general anaesthetic. She’d suggested I tell the Optometrist when he measured my eyeball to order the lens. In fretting about which lens to choose, Muggins forgot the bit about the anaesthetic and Mr Optometrist didn’t ask. Yesterday I got a phone call telling me it would be general anaesthetic which was noticeably more expensive but probably no bad thing. In truth, I’d probably have picked local but I didn’t fancy squirming about conscious while Miss Consultant was messing with my eye.

Today Carol drove me to the Chiltern hospital at Great Missenden to have my nice new long-distance lens fitted. I was handed some paperwork about a “fixed price package”, the fixed price in question being £3385.00. For some reason, I read all the writing and panicked slightly when seeing something about the procedure being to “fit a multifocal lens” which I had specifically rejected. Miss Consultant assured me that she was in fact, fitting a toric long-distance lens and that the paperwork was just designed to get the price right. Hmm, apparently there aren’t enough options in their computer system. Toric lenses (to correct astigmatism) have to be oriented precisely so I got a little local anaesthetic and Miss Consultant set about marking up my eyeball with something like a felt tip pen (odd sensation) and a sharp pointy thing (worse sensation). She the drew a big red arrow above my right eye to make sure she cut open the correct eyeball when she next saw me in the operating theatre! Very reassuring! The price list for this operation mentions “from £2700.” Maybe the toric lenses are more expensive but I think most of the price difference was down to the general anaesthetic. Well, better a pain in the bank account than a pain in my eye.

Up to the ward to be prepared. Preparation including trying to fill out a lengthy health questionnaire while a constant stream of folks came in asking other questions, explaining where my theatre gown and knockers were, etc. Had I finished the questionnaire yet? “Well, no, people keep distracting me.” Then a nurse appeared to administer three typed of eye drop to dilate my pupil and Darwin knows what else. Had I finished the questionnaire yet? “Well, no, I’ve been being given three sets of eye drops four times each at 10-minute intervals.” The male nurse with the questionnaire decided to sit with me a fill it out for me in a question and answer session. The time concern was because I had a theatre slot to make. It’s a bit like aircraft and their take off slot at Heathrow airport. Miss it and you’re stuck.

At last, time to don one of those weird gap-all-the-way-down-the-back theatre gowns and some even weirder disposable underwear. How do you do those gowns up? I couldn’t reach either of the two tapes. When a nurse returned I got her to assist in fastening my high-fashion couture.

When I had my prostatectomy which is major surgery, I was a little surprised to have to walk all the way to the operating theatre. I thought I’d be wheeled along on a trolley but not a bit of it. This time, with what is really minor surgery, a trolley came to collect me and I was wheeled along to the theatre. Go figure! Was this because I was paying for this? Well, no, I think it was because my eyeball was now dilated and wide open, set to something like f1.4 in photography terms. They didn’t want me tripping because I had no depth of field.

In the wings of the theatre the medical team began putting masks and monitoring devices on me. The monitoring device caused a problem, mainly because I’d had nursey fasten my theatre gown at the neck for me. Mr. Monitor expressed surprise and undid it again. Whoops, maybe that’s why they’re impossible to do up yourself.

I lost an hour. The next thing I knew, I was in the recovery room with a Long John Silver eye patch.

I got another trolley ride back to my room where my frequent visits continued to monitor my vital signs and make sure I was recovering sufficiently to be sent home. Carol , my ambulance driver, turned up to sit with me. My oxygen saturation level was a little low for a while, only 94%, but stopping talking to Carol so I could do a few deep breathing exercises stuffed it back up to 96% and, once I’d peed – hospitals are very keen on bodily waste functions, I’ve noticed – I was allowed out. A nice nurse told me, “keep the eye patch on overnight and just take it easy tomorrow”. I gesticulated, turning my right hand round and round vertically in circles. Quick on the uptake, the delightful nurse added, “and for the following week”. What a lovely lady. 😀

The eyeball felt a little scratchy on the way home. I wondered if this was because I was looking around at the scenery. I shut my eyes to avoid looking and things got more comfortable.

Sleeping with the eye patch might be interesting.

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