Hay’s Daze: Can you see what I see?

Have you ever tried typing something on your computer with the page adjusted so large it only has five words on it at a time? Have you ever had to carry around a magnifying glass just to see anything closer than your outstretched arm? Have you ever had your eyeballs poked with a sharp object? If you’ve answered “yes” to any or all of the above, I think I may know what’s going on. In a word: ‘cataract surgery’.

Well, that’s two words but what I’m rambling about is the fact that I had my second cataract surgery yesterday on account of I have two eyes and I had the other eye done in August, so now I’ve had all my eyes done. And I’m told I can’t get a new glasses prescription for six weeks because it takes that long for your stuff to heal and your new vision to settle. Well, I’m thinking – this will be interesting.

And speaking of interesting, it turns out that the word “cataract” has nothing to do with how a cat acts, it’s from Latin, which is where most medical and scientific words originate so that they sound very important. “Catarata” is Latin for “waterfall” and if you’ve ever had cataracts you know it’s like looking through a pesky blurry waterfall. Sort of like if someone scotch taped a sheet of Saran wrap over your eyes.

Our eyes are like a very expensive camera in that you don’t want to drop them, and I know from experience on account I’ve dropped my very expensive camera (more than once) and if you damage the lens, well, you won’t be very happy.

And that’s what a cataract is, if you follow my extremely clever analogy. Our eyes (human camera) have lenses (lenses) and when they sort of wear out (as opposed to getting dropped) they get cloudy and blurry and that’s called a “cataract”.

Nowadays the removal of cataracts is commonplace, and it’s been around for a surprisingly long time. The first recorded cataract surgery took place in 1750 BCE and involved a sharp rock, stone hammer and a hunk of glass from a broken mead mug. I made up that last part but I didn’t make up that according to Wikipedia, in India, in the 6th century cataracts were removed with a “curved needle” by pulling the “phlegm” out of the eye which was then “blown out of the nose”.

Thankfully, eye surgery has improved somewhat these days and it’s extremely fascinating. Before my first surgery I went on YouTube and watched an actual cataract operation. Well, I watched the first part but when they started slicing into the eyeball I decided to switch and watch the animated version which featured a cartoon eye instead of a real eye. I lasted through the whole thing although I did in fact have my eyes closed most of the time.

The actual surgery was even more fascinating. Especially the part where they wheeled me and my bed into the operating room, the doctor said “hello” and the next thing I knew they were wheeling me back out in a wheelchair to my Better Half who was waiting outside in the car as my CSDD (Cataract Surgery Designated Driver).

Now, a whole day without being able to read my book or the newspaper, or the labels on all three bottles of my eye drops. They say around Christmas I can get a new prescription and for now, I’m told the waterfall will gradually start to clear, At least for everything more that a meter away. For everything else? In a word: reading glasses.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker. You can send him column ideas to harleyhay1@hotmail.com