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Monday, May 9, 2011

Cataracts And The Regain Of Sight

By Owen Jones

When I was about forty years of age, I could feel that I would soon require specs. I worked long hours in an office at a computer and most of my friends thought that this was the cause of my diminishing eyesight. I only put the spectacles on like everyone else does and got on with the job.

However, ten years later, my eyesight took an abrupt turn for the worse and I was diagnosed with premature senile cataracts, at least that is how they translated it into English from the Thai as I had by now married a Thai lady and moved to her village in rural northern Thailand. I went to a very decent hospital in Pattaya known as the Bangkok Pattaya Hospital and one of their senior eye surgeons examined me.

She confirmed the diagnosis and added that it was likely that the other eye would develop a cataract at some time in the future although there was no indication of it at that moment. The next day she carried out an operation to take out the lens from my eye and replace it with a plastic one.

The operation is quite painless although it can become a bit scary and lasts between thirty and sixty minutes. Mine was 'a long one', said the surgeon at forty minutes. After an hour's recovery, a nurse showed my wife and me how to care for my eye and I was permitted to go. My eye was taped up, so I could not see out of it until that evening when my wife put the drops in.

Everything was so bright and clear. It was really amazing. I had to keep going back for post-operative supervision for four weeks and then we went back to the village. I cannot convey how fantastic it was to be able to see clearly again without spectacles after what I realized was over a decade.

The eye or the brain or both take a a little time to modify to the new lens and your eyesight improves for a period of time which can be from six to twenty-four months. Within six months, my other eye started to pack up. It had borne the strain of two eyes for long enough and now that there was a working replacement, it decided to stop fighting the approaching cataract and gave up.

I was not back to square one because my plastic eye was far better that the other one had been in comparable circumstances. So, about six months later, I went back to Pattaya to get the other one done. The operation was the same with the same surgeon. I went back the next day for the check up, but it was a long wait for my turn and the time came around for my drops. My wife put them in but as I removed my protective eye-covering, I noticed the English-language newspaper on the table in front of me.

That was not unusual, but what was really unusual was that I could read it - without specs for the first time in fifteen years! I could see the look of revulsion on my fellow patients' faces as they looked into my eye so I put the covering back on. (After the operation the eye swells up and it as black as an eight-ball with a blood-red dot in the middle - it is very frightening).

When I went in to see the surgeon and told her about the newspaper, she smiled. "Yes", she said, "that was my surprise, I put a long-distance lens in last time and a reading lens in this time. Your brain will decide what you are looking at and use the correct eye".

She had not told me because a small percentage of brains cannot perform this trick, which is why some people cannot take to variofocals too.

That was a year ago and both plastic eyes and brain have 'bedded in' nicely. I can read a book and drive a car without spectacles and my world is so bright. I still wonder at the brightness everyday. I had not noticed the light getting gradually dimmer for fifteen years.

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