After completing my cataract surgery in November, I wanted to share with all of you my journey with this eye surgery for the older generation that I didn’t know much about until I experienced it for myself. It really is a great thing to get if you’re like me and have worn contacts for 50 years. I’m so thrilled with the outcome of my new eyes that I’m shouting it from the rooftops. I sure didn’t know that much about it until I got involved in the process myself, but today I’m sharing everything I learned about cataract surgery.
It all started for me back in May when we returned from our cruise to Hawaii and Alaska. As I mentioned, I’ve been wearing contacts for 50 years. Gas perm hard contacts to be exact. I was 17 when I got them and before that I wore glasses since 4th grade. For some reason, my sister and my niece, Lauren, all 3 of us have really bad near-sightedness and we were all 3 in glasses at a young age. We don’t know why, because our parents didn’t have severe eyesight issues, but we sure did. I’m talking thick coke bottle glasses for me when I was in grade school and before they slimmed down the lens in glasses.
By the time I got to high school, I was ready to try contacts, so hard lens it was. I was always told that hard lens would correct my vision so much better than soft ones would, so I never even tried soft contacts at all. I stuck with hard lens, then gas perm hard lens for the whole 50 years I wore them. The good thing about hard lens is that you can keep the same pair of contacts for many years, which I did. My eyesight didn’t change much over the years, it stayed pretty stable, so I had contacts for day and glasses at night. I would keep the same pair for at least 5 years and even had them polished a few times. That’s the good thing about hard lens. But, on the other hand they had started bothering my eyes more and more. By the end of the day or even before the end of the day, they would start to feel like sand in my eyes. Pollen was a killer for hard lens and that really would hurt when the pollen was flying around. I learned at a young age how to pop those hard lens out and put them in my mouth to clear off anything that was hurting and I popped them back in just as quick. Probably not the most sanitary thing to do, but that was life with hard contacts.
So, after that trip, I knew it was time for me to get my eyes checked and to get new contacts ordered. It had been about 5 years since I had my eyes examined, so don’t follow my lead. We all probably need to do that more often now. When I went and got my eye exam, I fully expected that I would just order a new pair of hard lens and go from there, but the doctor told me I was just over the edge of being a candidate for cataract surgery now and if I wanted to get it done, I was ready.
Yes! I sure was ready to do it, so they sent me to a local eye clinic (Milan Eye Clinic in Marietta) to start the process of cataract surgery. I didn’t know it would take so long then, but it ended up being much more drawn out than I expected and I’ll explain that part too. I was sent to Dr. Vira at Milan Eye Clinic in Marietta, so I made the appointment for many weeks out to get my first consultation and start the process. I found out that first day that I would need to be out of my hard contact lens for about 8 to 9 weeks since I had been wearing those hard lens for so many years. My eyes would need to readjust to their original shape. I put on my glasses from that day forward and waited out the 8 weeks or more before I could get my first consultation. That put my first appointment into July. Then I got a call that the doctor who I was meeting with had just had a baby (his wife, that is) and so needed to push my appointment out 2 more weeks, into August. Soooo, that was one delay, but that went by fast and finally I met with the doctor. They do all sorts of analysis on the eyes when you’re getting cataract surgery and I went through all those tests on my first appointment. They measure and look at everything. It was then discovered that I have something called a macular wrinkle on the back of my left eye (which happens to be my worst eye), so the doctor wanted to send me to a retina specialist, which is in Cartersville, if you’re local. I got that appointment set up as quickly as I could and mid-August saw the retina specialist. He told me that he didn’t see a problem with me getting the cataract surgery, but said that multi-focal lens options were out and I would need to get a Toric lens, which is the upgraded lens for distance only. It wouldn’t correct my close vision and I would need to wear readers, which I had been wearing for some reading anyway. Now after my surgery, I am way more dependent on readers, but I’m OK with that, since my distance vision is now almost 20/20. I can live with readers!
In the meantime, I went in the following week for my final measurements before surgery was scheduled and then found out that because I have a Medicare HMO plan that I had to get my eye surgery in an outpatient hospital in Woodstock. And the doctor I was using only does cataract surgeries one day a month! Well, that was a bummer, but I was already in this far, so I had to just wait it out. And I missed the opportunity to get it done in August because I had scheduled a trip to Louisiana to see my sister. So, end of September it was scheduled for my right eye. See, I told you it was long and drawn out, but it was worth the wait, I’ll tell you that!
Finally, the day came, September 26, and we went bright and early to the Woodstock outpatient hospital for the surgery. They do use anesthesia for the surgery, but you’re not completely asleep, it just relaxes you. I couldn’t feel a thing, because they put drops in your eye to numb you up before surgery. It was over in about 10 minutes and I was wheeled back in my room with Mark and we were ready to go home soon after. It was a very easy surgery as many of you told me it would be.
I had gotten a bag from Milan with several things in there before the surgery, including this chart for my right eye and left eye. I also purchased this bottle of one-drop eye drops from them that you have to use after surgery for 4 weeks. The first week, you do 4 drops a day, then down to 3 drops, 2 drops and finally one drop a day for the 4th week. That part wasn’t too bad at all and I stayed on track with it all. I did the exact same thing for the second eye and all went so well.
When I came out of surgery for the first eye, I could see so well right off the bat. Everything was so sharp and clear and yes, even color was brighter, like the white balance had been turned up. You might want to know this question. What do you do about your other eye while you’re waiting for the second surgery to be done? Normally, it’s about 2 weeks between surgeries, but because of my insurance and my travel schedule it ended up being 2 months between my 2 surgeries, which again was a bummer, but now that it’s over it wasn’t that big of a deal. I planned ahead and took one of my 2 pairs of glasses into the eye doctor’s office and asked them to put in a clear lens on my right eye. I thought I’d be able to wear those glasses while I waited for the second eye to be done, but for some reason it didn’t work for me. I could close each eye and see fine out of each side with that clear glass in place, but when I opened both eyes, it was distorted, so I couldn’t wear them. Sigh! So I asked them what I could do and they told me to just wear one contact until my second surgery. My second surgery could have been done in October, but guess what, we had already planned our New England trip during the time the surgery would have to take place, so one more month had to be skipped. See how long and drawn out this gets?
Wearing one contact was fine to do and it would not mess up the surgery at all. So I did that for the first few weeks. We went on our trip to New England and came back and after that I decided to just take out the contact and see how I did without it and I could even drive without it being in. So that was a relief to just leave it out and adjust to not having it in. I did way better than I thought I would. Your good eye does compensate a lot for a bad one, I found out. If your eyes are not as bad as mine, you would probably do fine with one good eye.
My second surgery was November 28th and all went well with the second eye too. They scheduled me to go back to my original eye doctor the day after each surgery and a week after each surgery so they could look at my eyes and make sure everything was healing and looked good. It all went well and they told me my eyes look great and they are healing up just fine.
I can’t tell you how happy I am to have this surgery done and over with! Every night when I get ready to go to bed, I have to remind myself that I don’t have to take contacts out anymore. Mark has a clock with temperature that shines on the ceiling at night in red and I could not see it before my surgery. It was just a blur. Now I can! I can see all the time now and no more blurry vision (except without my readers up close). I have readers everywhere now and I do rely on them more, with my phone and computer and reading books, but I am just fine with that. To have such great vision now for distance is a dream come true after having such bad eyesight for all these years. I can even see great at night so I don’t think I’ll have an issue driving at night. I didn’t even know they replaced your lens on cataract surgery until just a few years ago. It wasn’t even on my radar and when I found this out a few years ago, I couldn’t wait to get there myself and have this done! It’s so worth it. So if you are looking to have cataract surgery too, I’ll tell you it’s great. I had no issues at all and I’m thrilled with the outcome.
Here are the basics of what you will need to know about cataract surgery and after you have it:
- You’ll go through testing and measuring by the eye clinic to determine what type lens is best for you.
- They will give you a breakdown of costs that you’ll be expected to pay out of pocket. Mine was right on target.
- Medicare pays for the basic lens, but anything above that is extra out of pocket.
- Most surgeries are done 2 weeks apart, so hopefully that will happen for you. Mine was the exception.
- You can’t wear makeup for 1 week after surgery. That wasn’t too fun for me as I had a women’s conference to go to 3 days after my first eye was done. No eye makeup for me and I hated that part, but I got through it!
- You will need to bring someone with you on surgery days to drive you home.
- You need to be diligent about using those drops as they tell you to use them, making sure your eye heals up on schedule.
- They will advise you to tape an eye shield over your eye at night that they provide (see blue eye shield in picture above) for a week. I only did it about 3 days and felt like I was not going to scratch or hit my eye while sleeping.
- They will tell you not to bend over from the waist at least for the first week and do not pick up anything heavier than 20 lbs. That was a little bit of a challenge for me especially since I flew on a plane 3 days after my first eye was done.
- Healing is fast and you’ll be so happy with how well you can see after cataract surgery. It was an immediate change for me and my eyes healed up great.
Here’s a breakdown of how much I paid out of pocket with Medicare covering most of it:
Milan Eye Clinic: $2190 per eye
Hospital co-pay: $350
Toric Lens: $395
Eye Drops: $60
Grand Total for both eyes: $5990
This is going to be different I’m sure with whoever you go with and I heard some that paid up to $7K or $8K for both eyes if they got the multi-focal lens, which are more expensive. There are 4 types of lenses that are implanted during cataract surgery: Monofocal, Toric, Multifocal, and light adjustable. It was recommended by my doctor that I get Toric lens for my eyes so that’s what I did. The multifocal lenses are more expensive and I wasn’t a candidate for those anyway since I have a macular wrinkle and astigmatism. Here’s a link I found that explains the different types of lenses.
Here’s one more thing I found that helped me. Sunglasses with readers! What a novel idea. I searched on Amazon and found this set of 3 for $18.99 and bought them. I like the bottom ones the best, but I will wear them all. They are great when you’re outside and need readers and these are nice and bold too. Sunglasses are a must for me!
Again, I had no idea what the details were on cataract surgery before I had it. I mentioned it on Instagram and had so many people chiming in about their surgery and how well it went, so I had no reason to believe mine would be any different and it wasn’t. It all went great, I could not be happier with the outcome on my surgery. I hope this helps some of you who are looking for more information on cataract surgery for yourselves and you may be facing it too in the future. I sure was happy when I was told it was time for me to get it! It’s the best thing that’s happened to me in a long time and I am so happy with my eyes now. To finally be rid of my contacts after 50 years is a dream and I threw away all my contact paraphernalia immediately after. Those of you who have been wearing glasses and contacts as long as I have know the excitement that getting new eyes will bring. It’s the best gift you can give yourself. Let me know if you have any other questions in the comments, I tried to cover everything that happened as best as I could remember. Thanks for stopping by!