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Wide-eyed wonder after cataract surgery

By JAY HORNING

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 26, 2001


One of my earliest memories revolves around the death of one of my grandmothers. I'm not sure how old I was at the time, maybe around 4, but the night she died stands out in my memory. It was a summer evening. About dusk, I became aware of frantic activity involving my parents and some of our neighbors. Then I heard people talking about what had happened.

My grandmother had fallen down the basement stairs at her home, and she died shortly afterward. I also remember, or perhaps I just think I do from hearing the story repeated over the years, how she had been urged to switch on the basement light before going down those stairs. And how she tended to ignore that advice, thinking she might save a few pennies on her electric bill.

I remember that she had cataracts, and there had been some discussion about surgery. The consensus arrived at by the family, after medical advice, was that the surgery probably was not advisable at her age.

All these memories came back to me recently when cataracts became a problem for me. My optometrist first apprised me of this several years ago. Then, he said they had not reached the point that called for action. But when I had an appointment with him early this year, he said the time had come.

The optometrist himself only recently had had the same experience, he told me, and he recommended that I see the ophthalmologist he had consulted. The upshot was that he had undergone surgery and came out of it with a much better outlook on life, so to speak.

I made an appointment, but there was no snap decision. After a thorough examination, I was sent to see a retina specialist, who would determine whether I was likely to benefit enough from the surgery to make it worthwhile. Again, a thorough examination, and then the answer: Yes, have the surgery.

Today, both of my eyes are free of cataracts. The left eye was done first, on a Wednesday morning. The surgery was surprisingly quick, with no discomfort.

With the surgeon's permission, I went to the Devil Rays' game that night. I wore the same glasses I always have worn to the Rays' games, and, unfortunately, the team didn't look any better than it had in earlier games this year. But after I got home, I noticed that our television picture looked much better. For a moment, I wondered: Did we buy a new TV? The colors were remarkably vivid. And then I realized that this was a result of the surgery.

Two nights later, I went to see them Rays again . (You can tell I'm not a fair-weather fan). Same story. There was no improvement in what I was seeing on the field, until the third inning. For some reason, I removed my glasses, and the view was stunning. I remember saying to my wife: "My God, I can see!"

What I meant was that I could see far more than I ever had seen before at Tropicana Field. I could read all the Major League scores posted in the outfield. Previously, I had to strain my eyes to even make a good guess about them. Now, they were as plain as day. I learned for the first time that there were red dots on each team's list of batters to inform us us of where we were in the order. I could even follow the ball as it left the bat -- most of the time. I'm sure I bored the fans around me with my constant comments about what I was seeing.

I drove home that night without glasses, after determining that I could see better without them. A week later, I had surgery on the second eye. The results have not been so dramatic. I need glasses to read, but so far I am using just drugstore magnifying glasses.

The surgeon says that when he wraps this up, I may need glasses with a very slight correction for reading, and perhaps for night driving. I'll buy that.

Some say, now that I have two "good eyes," I may be drawn to Tropicana Field less frequently. They are wrong. I'm going to keep watching the Rays -- in the flesh, and in vivid color on television. As I said, I'm not a fair-weather fan. When you spend most of your life being a Chicago Cubs fan -- well, you get the idea.

- You can write to Jay Horning c/o Seniority, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Or send e-mail to jayhorning@aol.com.

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