"I Once Was Blind…" by American Retiree in Jamaica

Well…, I wasn’t REALLY blind, but my sight had deteriorated to a point seeing clearly was almost impossible.  In June of 2009, I wrote an article entitled “Health Care in Jamaica.”  In the article I talked about the problems with my eyes.  This month I will tell you the complete story starting with excerpts from the previous article. 

“More recently I went for my annual eye exam.  The ophthalmologist, who works out of a local optician, was concerned with the degree of change in my eyes in a year’s time.  He was worried that I had either diabetes or a brain tumor.  As my eye exam was part of my annual physical check up, my primary doctor took note of the eye doctor’s concern and included a test for diabetes with the other blood work and another cat scan.  All these tests came back negative.  My next step was a neurologist who couldn’t find anything wrong but had me schedule an MRI just to make sure.  Her suspicions were correct; nothing was found on the MRI. 

 You can imagine how I felt at this time not knowing what, if anything was wrong with me.  It was then that I decided to get a second opinion from another ophthalmologist.  This doctor has an office on the outskirts of town and is equipped with the latest eye testing equipment.  In a matter of minutes she diagnosed me with cataracts that got progressively worse but all within normal limits.  As I write this article, I have had one eye operated on with the second scheduled in June.” 

Dr. Green, my new ophthalmologist, scheduled me for cataract surgery several weeks from that initial appointment with the option of coming in sooner if there was a last minute cancellation.  The only medication I was taking at that time was a low dose aspirin which I was supposed to stop taking two weeks before the surgery.  However, a cancellation did occur a week before on a day’s notice.  The concern over the low dose aspirin was it could cause hemorrhaging during the operation.  I decided to take the chance but did have some minor bleeding which left my eye somewhat bloodshot. 

Other than that the procedure went as planned.  An hour or so after the surgery I went home with a patch on my eye which was to be removed the following morning.  This was an exciting time for me because of how bad my sight had become.  People I know who have had this operation told me how well I was going to see.  I could hardly wait for the bandage to be removed!  The first thing I noticed was how white the color white was.  Before surgery it looked more like the almond color of kitchen appliances.  I was shocked!  I had no idea my sense of colors had changed so much. 

Even though the surgery was a success, my sight had not returned to what it was a year ago.  The doctor told me to be patient and in time my sight would return.  A few days later my eye became sore and was constantly tearing.  It was discovered that I was allergic to the stitches.  The doctor removed them as soon as it was safe to do so.  I should mention that Dr. Green makes five millimeter incisions in the eye which require stitches as opposed to U.S. doctors who use a two millimeter incision which does not require stitches.  It took me longer than normal to recover from the surgery because of the allergy and bloodshot eye.   

When it came time for the right eye to be done, I reminded Dr. Green of the allergy I had with the stitches in my left eye.  No problem she said.  There was another choice of material which should be fine.  Wrong!  Once again I was allergic to the suture.  The right eye was done as scheduled which means I stopped taking the aspirin two weeks before surgery but I still had hemorrhaging although minor.  

With both surgeries behind me, I still wasn’t seeing the way I thought I should.  It was a slow process that had me wondering if I would ever see normally again.  Dr. Green was very patient with me and all my problems.  She explained that I was monocular, meaning one eye was far sighted and the other near sighted.  She said my brain would distinguish what I was looking at and I wouldn’t even realize it.  I have a friend in the states with the same condition and she doesn’t wear glasses.  This made me feel a little better but Dr. Green could sense I wasn’t completely happy with the situation.  She mentioned a laser treatment that would improve the sight in my left eye.  

My wife, whom I sometimes call Dr. Casey, searched the internet with this new information provided by the doctor.  There it was, right before her eyes!  Not only was I allergic to the sutures, I was one of the 25% of patients who developed a film over the back of the lens that remains after the cataract surgery.  Laser treatment was the answer but not without its risks.  The biggest risk was a detached retina.  Dr. Green assured me it is a very rare occurrence and she had never seen it. 

The laser treatment lasted about 5 minutes in which the doctor made perhaps 15 – 20 holes in my eye to ensure enough light could enter.  This treatment was painless as was both surgeries.  If it wasn’t for my allergic reaction to the stitches I wouldn’t have had any discomfort whatsoever. 

At each follow up visit the nurse would measure my vision both on an electric machine and the old stand by eye chart on the wall.  The end result from the laser surgery showed a one line improvement in that eye which went from 20/50 to 20/30.  The right eye improved to 20/25.  

In summary, Dr. Green’s ability to successfully remove my cataracts and treat my two minor reactions was as good as or better than I would have probably got in the states.  She has restored my sight to the level it was before the cataracts developed.  At this point in my life, glasses are an option rather than a requirement but corrective lenses would enhance my vision.  The question now is will I or won’t I?  Later…