Goodbye anxiety

Anxiety plagued me days before my eye cataract surgery.  My left eye progressed over the years to what the eye doctor called “cloudy”.  The clouds needed to be rid of with a new lens to be implanted. Not a rare case, so I received much encouragement for the procedure from those who had it. Yet, I was anxious.

Details of the pre-op and post-op were well explained, including fasting eight hours before procedure, and the regimen of eye drops to ensure healing. Eye dropping on a rigid schedule for weeks was intimidating, I admit. But nothing really to worry about, right? I was anxious anyway. Would I be able to follow the schedule of every few hours? What if I forget – would that delay the healing of the eye, I wondered.

So, you see, hard to shake off anxiety. What really is it? The equally formidable term is worry.

Now, the day of the surgery. Sitting with my friend Connie who drove me to the hospital, I nervously waited in the lobby for my name to be called.  Carefully, I watched every patient that came out of the eye surgery recovery room, looked intently at the face for any sign of pain or discomfort. I noted the transparent plastic shield over the operated eye for protection, and checked if that eye was open or not. To my surprise, that eye was open; but for some swelling, it looked normal. The eyeball was there, the retina showed, and the eye was actually in place!  My anxiety drove me to boldly ask some patients as they were wheeled out, ”How’re you doing?”  — until my friend blinked her eyes furtively at me to make me stop asking. Of course, my impromptu interview was ignored.

Then, my turn. I tried to be calm, but anxiety didn’t leave me.  The prep session brought a parade of nurses and attendants who checked my vitals, asked a long list of questions, worked at several attempts at finding a good vein for the ivy needles. They let out victorious sighs when one vein finally surged. I asked if the anesthesia would put me to sleep. The answer was no, because I had to participate in the procedure. I was intrigued; I wondered how.

Then came the doctors and more assistant nurses. I tensed. With the anesthesia working, I distinctly felt tugs at my left eye lids but no pain. Conversation ensued between doctor and nurses and I heard every bit of instructions some of which were for me – look sideways, up, down, to the left, etc.  More interesting were the steps detailed by the doctor about sliding off the old lens and inserting and positioning the new one – of course, she was talking to the nurses. Very strange, I realized during that moment, my anxiety was in absencia, and instead was my great curiosity about the medical hands and tools fussing over my eye, while very much aware of the conversation above me.

In a little over 15 minutes, I heard the doctor say, “We’re done.” Done? I thought, is my left eye all there?  Probably, because I could see through it, only somewhat blurry. A round transparent shield was immediately plastered over my left eye, and I was good to go.  Except – I started to throw up. The nausea stayed for hours after, my body’s reaction to the anesthesia, I guess. But in the evening, I was fine.

I know of many who are anxious about their pending eye cataract surgery – I say, don’t be. Just think of it as an interesting short adventure where you hear everything going on, and even participate in the procedure by merely following instructions to look to the right, look to the left, upwards, downwards.

It’s been just two weeks after the surgery – and my left eye’s doing much better, in case you’re wondering. So, goodbye anxiety.

[Thank God for the doctor and nurses who performed the procedure on my eye – and for my friend Connie who drove me to and from the hospital and who, by the way, laid out my rigid schedule of eye dropping for me to follow. She even brought me, right after eye surgery, to the dough nut store for the ever popular soft curlers. My reward, I guess.]

Linda P. Jacob