Tara Narayan recounts the nitty gritty of cataract surgery…

FUNNY, some stories are easy to tell when they’re over happily ever after…until the next time! I have been having so many adventures with my eyes that this is worth recounting for whatever good it may do for anyone seeking first person information and confidence to make up their own mind about whether to go in for cataract surgery or not. As if one has a choice these days with so much advancement of medical science and options and options.
I remember asking my ophthalmologist surgeon, Dr Kaushik Dhume, consulting at Manipal Hospital in Panaji, “How come there are no eye drops yet which melt away cataracts blooming in both my eyes, more so in my right eye…after all, what is cataract but protein kachra patti darkening my lenses!” He smiled, perhaps that day too may come to make life considerably easy for eye surgeons.
I’m not an easy and trusting patient and a thousand questions fill my mind. Should I, should I not? Is it better to go blind gently! You must know that the eyes are the most delicate and sensitive of organs of the mortal body and it is here that all life’s misdemeanors register minutely first of all (or so all my reading up tells me). I wondered if life would be the same again after my right eye cataract is removed…the cataract would be scraped or dissolved off, for it is a fine-tuned laser surgery, and my own biodegradable lens which had stayed with me for 68 years through the ups and downs of life, would give up its ghost! In its place there would be a brand new non-biodegradable artificial poly lens!
Someone says it’s all to do with the lens I choose, cheap or expensive, and the advice, “Don’t get carried away by the most expensive imported lens, an imported intraocular lens is fine…and don’t tell your doctor money no problem!” Hell’s bells were ringing for me. How much of it is to do with how much I trust my doctor? I mean I am trusting him with my eyes and if something goes wrong and I lose an eye what will I do if I can’t read or look at a harshingar flower or any flower offering me a smile every morning ever again?
Hey, relax, cataract surgery is no big deal nowadays, everybody does it. The hubby reminded me he had terrible glaucoma in both his eyes and had gone blind courtesy steroids treatment for a beating up by goons while slaving as editor at the Heraldo, “I went to Arvind Netralaya in Madurai and Shankar Netralaya in Chennai but they refused to treat my eyes until I was off steroids.” Much later he had poly lens implanted in his eyes and he is fine with his eyes more or less till today.
Yeah, but these are my eyes, not his eyes! I have managed for so long thanks to one short-sighted right eye and one long-sighted eye — a peculiar story called `lazy eye’ (my favourite eye surgeon Dr Ulhas Kaisare once told me). And that’s how I could read comfortable with my right eye and ride my bike on the roads with my left eye! But now I was peering into the computer too much and everyone was shouting at me to go get my cataracts fixed.
IN MUMBAI last year my Mumbai sister had recommended I go see her eye doctor Dr Jigish Gandhi of Iris Eye Centre, she fixed me an appointment. But I made the mistake of going on the day when I was due to fly back to Goa later in the same evening and didn’t reveal this to the good doctor right at the beginning. His assistant checked my eyes meticulously and with detailed file in hand I said hello to Dr Jigish Gandhi. He too peered into my eyes through his eyes machines and said he would like to put some drops in my eyes and this would dilate the pupils for a better evaluation to see if I was ready for cataract removal. He asked, “Who has come with you?”
DON’T TAKE YOUR EYES FOR GRANTED!Nobody, I said. I was going back to Goa later that evening but would return for the cataract removal surgery at a later date. He was annoyed because as a rule he insisted every patient come in with somebody, he said, “After I put in the drops in your eyes your eyes will be dilated vision a little off focus …and if you’re flying back to Goa later I’m not proceeding any further.” He handed me the file and told me to go, call him when I’m next in Juhu in Mumbai with time on my hands. Didn’t even charge me! I returned home fuming why nobody told me not to go meet the doctor with somebody…and I appreciated the good doctor very much for telling me off and have no doubt he’s the best that side of town in Mumbai. I’d learned enough about him to trust him with my eyes!
(Sigh) Back in Panaji, Goa, more pressure poured upon me to go show my eyes at the GMC or so and so or so and so, “who’ll treat you with tender loving care!” It’s my eyes I scowled and went off to find Dr Kaushik Dhume at the Manipal Hospital and after a repeat of peering into my eyes (`Are you taking pictures of my eyes?’ I asked, `will you show me the copies later?’). He listened to my moon mooning patiently and clued me up about lenses and cataract surgery, “It will take about half-an-hour or so. We will give you a local anaesthesia and you will feel nothing…of course the eyes are the most sensitive and delicate organs in the body!”
A reassuring doctor, he guided me into selecting a lens and informed me to come along on Monday morning at 8 am “and keep putting the Tropicana eye drops in your eyes every 15 minutes the morning of the surgery!” I forgot to ask him if I should put the eye drops only in the right eye which was to be operated or in both eyes! Thinking it was better to do so I put the eye drops in both my eyes and as a consequence both my eye pupils were oozy woozy by the time I was called in the Day Care Center (Manipal Hospital has a very nice Day Care Center) and told to remove all my clothes, put on the nice pyjama suit I was handed; my vital statistics of height, blood pressure, weight, etc, were noted… “Now you wait, the doctor will call you.”
For a moment I didn’t recognize Dr Dhume in his surgical toga, he put me at ease and after further checking gave me the anaesthesia injection somewhere below my right eye — a moment of horrifying pain but smoothly over. I couldn’t believe it! The site of my right eye turned into a piece of solid stone! Funny feeling. I was wheeled into the brightly lit operating theatre (Manipal Hospital has six of them) and doctor said I could continue with my questions and smiled when Dr Kaushik Dhume said, “Okay, enjoy the surgery!”
Ha ha, are you enjoying it? He replied, he was operating, how could he enjoy it? He got working and I tell him I’m seeing silvery stars off and on and like I’m in a kaleidoscope of crazy colours! I feel absolutely nothing but the place where my right eye is a warm hunk of rock. One time I heard him ask someone to hand him the chopper and a bit of panic raced through me! I must go back and watch a cataract eye surgery under way…I make a mental note.
Well, that was it. Surgery over my right eye was goggled up with plaster and as feeling slowly returned I was back in the day care rest room and told I could feed myself with whatever I wanted from the hospital’s atrium-styled restaurant and take it easy till lunch time or so when Dr Dhume would come and remove the plastering of my right eye. He did so and gently told me to open my right eye. Lo and behold, I was suddenly flooded in bright white light!
He said it will take a while to get back to feeling somewhat more normal. For the next whole week do not lift heavy things, do not have a head bath, do not forget my eye drops every two hours as per the time schedule he has given me and there’s an eye ointment last thing at night…and so on and so forth. Don’t take post-cataract operative eye care carelessly, “You may not go riding your bike for some time and certainly not without wearing all-covering dark goggles…no wind, no steam in your eyes.”
Which means no going into the kitchen for some time…how much time? I have to make tea and breakfast and idli for dinner, I don’t have half-a-dozen daughters-in-law at my beck and call! Too bad but that’s my problem, doctor shrugged more or less, pitifully maybe, come back and see him the next morning, `You’ll need wear glasses for reading…’ Post-cataract operation doesn’t mean 20:20 vision? It would all depend on how my left eye and brains behave!
FOUR weeks later, how do I feel? Like my operated right eye is a super eye showing me everything clearly in white light while my natural left eye feels orphaned…like it has to compete with my super synthetic right eye! Am I imagining it but is my one time long-sighted left eye taking a beating and suffering from an inferiority complex? It is something to do with optic nerve and the brain and how positive I feel, so feel positive! Not negative all the time.
After a week it was a heavenly feeling to have a head bath and let water get into both my eyes! Cool, cool, cool. Funny, with myDON’T TAKE YOUR EYES FOR GRANTED! right eye the scene-scenery is positively crystal clear …the bathroom door is bright white. Shut my right eye and my left eye tells me everything is creamily off colour. Keep both eyes open and it’s like I’m still groping for the equality of 20:20 vision! What the mirror tells me clearly is age has been piling up around my eyes and face and I am looking positively haggish, naggish.
True, I can no longer read short distance with my new right eye and have to wear short-sighted glasses for reading or checking my smart Honor phone. One of these days I must go back to Dr Kaushik Dhume and quiz him some more about what could be happening to my poor left eye…there is definitely a lot of adjustment to do and I’ve started riding my bike out with dark glasses on but can’t do that after dark past 7 pm. Stay at home for a change, the hubby says.
THIS is just to say our natural eyes are our natural eyes with natural zoom lens fitted in. Take care of your eyes in all the ways you can. Some folk don’t need to do cataract removal surgery at all? How come? Shortage of vitamin C in your diet has something to do with it all my reading up tells me. Eat your greens, my dears. One of the doctor’s bits of advice to me was don’t read too much and don’t take everything you read as the truth!
Never mind about all that. Remember no synthetic lens can take the place of a natural eye although it can come a close second or third if you’re lucky all around. Of course one gets used to it, no choice here really. My right eye cataract removal surgery has been successful…hurrah. Thank-you, Dr Kaushik Dhume, doctor you have magic in your hands!
Postscript: How much does a cataract eye removal surgery cost? It cost me about `36,000 but mercifully insurance paid most of it; it may also cost as little as `7,000 at the GMC or at a free eye camp by good Samaritan doctors.


WHO was it who said aging is inevitable, getting old is not? How wonderful that sounds! I wish I had learned this a long time ago, then perhaps my eyes would have served me well right up to the end. Do you know that it is the omega-3 fats which keep us alive, kept our primal ancestors alive? It is omega 3-fats which protect the retina in our eyes and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)…these precondition photoreceptor cells or special neurons in the retina to survive, they nourish epithelium cells and are anti-macular degeneration.
I learned all this after I had my right eye cataract removed and adopted a poly eye in its place! You need not go my way. Learn to eat fish high in DHA/EPA which omega-3 fatty acids linked to glaucoma. Eating omega-3 fat rich fish can cut the risk of age-related macular degeneration by 50%.
FEED YOUR EYES...In case you haven’t noticed all we eat day in and day out today is industrial refined fats (tryglycerides all) and hydrogenated fats of groundnut, sunflower, cotton, palmolein is everywhere in our junk foods. We are not eating like our ancestors anymore so why should we hope to have keen eagle eyes? Want eagle eyes? Eat two servings of wild-caught fatty fish from cold water like salmon, other DHA sources are mackerel, herring, anchovies, sardines, trout, fresh tuna (not farmed fish)…eat organ meat, eggs, green grass fed life stock, wild game, pastured poultry. Get DHA from krill and calamari oil, it’s better absorbed, has less toxins as long as they come from pure ocean or river waters.
Recommended: 600 mg of DHA, 400 mg of EPA daily. Combine with astaxinthch to find relief from dry eyes, double vision, blurred eyes, light-damaged eyes. Plus, find bilberry extract, 100 mg of bilberry extract daily if you can for good vision! There also something called anthocyanosides.
Okay, let me make it easier if you’re vegetarian or vegan! Here is a list of eye-friendly food, feed your eyes with them: Green leafy veggies like spinach, kale, collards (rich in vitamin A and lutein), Swiss chard, zucchini, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, butter….eat nuts, beans, all non-meat sources. Love oranges and citrus fruit and their juices. Orange coloured foods are usually high in beta-carotene, a form of vitamin A that helps night vision.
Vitamin A and C are the best protection for the eyes…carrots have vitamin A and rhodopsin! Eat what is rich in zinc because zinc deficiency is known to lead to impairment of vision. Drink carrot juice, beetroot juice, lemon juice, green juices, veggie juices, fruit juices — and may your veggies and fruit be organically cultivated! Not once in a blue moon but daily, but don’t go overboard either.
Do some homework and learn about eye exercises like sunning and palming. Love your eyes! Take the trouble to respect your eyes! Not for nothing do the poets call the eyes the windows of our soul… poly eyes may do the job but at best you can be grateful to them and not love them like we ought to love and respect our natural biodegradable eyes be they in colours black, brown, grey, blue, jade and so on.

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