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Going More Bionic

In less than a week my view of the world will be changing. Specifically, it will be losing the frame, becoming clearer and gaining a color.

I’ve had crappy eyes for as long as I can remember. When I was six I walked smack into a truck’s lowered tailgate hard enough to require stitches. That clued my parents in that maybe the boy couldn’t see, so they took me in to see the ophthalmologist. I already knew my letters and numbers, so the testing was easy enough. (In fact I was already quite the Jules Verne fan – my older brother and sister had enjoyed playing school with me, so I arrived in the school system already quite proficient in reading and arithmetic). I got glasses to correct my myopia and was able to see tolerably well with them after that.

Unfortunately I also had quite a good memory, and when the doctor switched to my left eye I rattled off the same letters I’d seen with my right eye, delaying the diagnosis of my amblyopia or ‘lazy eye’ beyond the point of being able to fix it with a patch over the good eye; I wore one for a solid year, but the damage was done and those nerves never developed. It might well have been too late even if they had caught it on the first go, but the extra six months delay certainly didn’t help matters.

After that there was always either that frame around what I could see, or else the blur. I did flirt with contact lenses in my teens but I also have astigmatism, which could only be corrected using hard lenses at the time, and they caused some corneal wear so I quit using them.

Over the last couple of years, though, they went from crappy to *really* crappy. I began to have difficulty focusing at close range and also seeing heavy ‘floaters’ – shadowy blotches that drift about and sometimes got stuck right in the center of my field of vision. Since my job involves a lot of peering at fine little scales and such, as well as a deal of computer work, and my free time is mostly taken up with reading and more computer work, this is a slow-rolling disaster. I knew I’d had a couple of tiny cataracts forming, so I got a more thorough exam than the usual and found that yes, the cataracts were growing, at a somewhat alarming rate. I’m still able to do my job, drive, read and everything else, but with increasing difficulty. Something has to be done.

So something is; next Tuesday I will have the first of several surgeries. Well, technically the second – as a preliminary I had my retinas examined by a specialist, and he used a laser to tack the right one down around a small hole he’d found. On Tuesday I’ll be having my cornea sliced open with a laser, my lens vibrated into mush and sucked out, and a new artificial lens put in instead. Depending on exactly where the cataract had spread to a follow-up may be needed to polish it off the last tiny bit with a laser, and because the fluid pumps in my eyes aren’t terribly good (I have a condition called Fuch’s dystrophy) it may also be necessary to have yet another operation to replace them with a graft if they can’t handle the swelling from the lens replacement. All of which also applies to the left eye, since it has a similar cataract in just about the same place (but they don’t ever do both eyes at once, just in case).

If all goes well (and despite my “complex” eyes there’s every reason to think it will, I have a very well qualified surgeon doing the work) I will only need glasses for reading. There are more complex lens types that can completely eliminate glasses but my eyes are too elongated for that type to be recommended. I’m not complaining anyway; it’s a marvelous thing that this kind of surgery is even a possibility, and I’m looking forward to losing the frame for when I’m driving or walking about. It will be a tremendous improvement in my life.

The one thing that never has been wrong with my eyes is that I have perfect color vision, and it seems even that will be improved. The S cells in the human retina are sensitive to near ultraviolet, but never actually see it because the natural human lens is opaque to UV (that in fact is part of what makes cataracts form). The artificial ones are transparent to UV, so I will be able to see a little further into the ultraviolet – a new color! It’ll be like gaining a token-level superpower.

Don’t worry, though, I shall use it only for good, never for evil!

~ by BT Murtagh on November 20, 2013.

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