VOICES: The miracle of cataract surgery

  • Contributed

    Kapa‘a resident James “Kimo” Rosen is seen post-surgery, with a shield over his left eye, guarded carefully by his dog Ivanka.

  • Contributed

    James “Kimo” Rosen of Kapa‘a is seen on the second day after his cataract surgery, looking like the loser of a bar fight.

  • Contributed

    James “Kimo” Rosen of Kapa‘a manages a smile in the Wilcox Medical Center same-day surgery recovery room after his cataract surgery.

What do you call a deer with no eyes? No eye deer.

It was just a simple visit to the optometrist for my two-year check for new glasses.

My eyes had been getting progressively worse the last two years. I figured a new prescription would be all that was needed. The eye doctor tested and retested my eyes, and said he could not find a prescription that would give me 20/20 HD vision like years past.

The strange thing is he could not find any obvious cataracts, macular degeneration, plus my glaucoma was healed last year with laser surgery and my annual diabetic retina exam proved negative.

He suggested I consult with their in-house ophthalmologist/eye surgeon. I made the appointment with the surgeon and all looked fine at first. However, I kept harping on poor night vision, and that I can’t read the menu on my cable TV screen even with my glasses on. After a thorough exam and findings that the sophisticated machines couldn’t find, he declares “no wonder your vision is blurred, your lens is all fogged.”

“You have a posterior subcapsular cataract, which is prominent among diabetics.” This was good news and bad news, since if a cataract wasn’t detected, I was on my way for a brain scan.

What is a cataract? No, it’s not a luxury vehicle.

It’s a medical condition in which the lens of the eye becomes progressively opaque, resulting in blurred vision. If you have blurred, fogged vision, or trouble driving at night with glaring headlights, these are the first signs of cataracts.

Most cataracts develop when aging or injury changes the tissue that makes up your eye’s lens. Cataracts can also be caused by other eye conditions, past eye surgery, or medical conditions such as diabetes.

Deciding on cataract surgery was a no-brainer, since untreated cataracts can lead to loss of vision. And the fact of my being a retired professional photographer of 40 years that still dabbles in digital photography on a daily basis photographing sunrises with my iPhone along with my best friend, my dog at my side, weighed very heavy on me.

There are few steps prior to cataract surgery.

A few weeks before surgery you must get fitted and sized for the new lens that will be transplanted in your eye. My surgeon has a highly-qualified technician do this. This job is crucial!

A COVID test is also required three days prior to any surgical procedure, even if you’ve been vaccinated. Two different antibiotic eyedrops must start being administered three days prior to surgery, along with a daily hairline and face cleansing with Hibiclens.

The same-day surgical staff at Wilcox Medical Center calmed my nerves before, during and post-surgery. Efficiency is their game, checks, balances, and asking many times my name, birthday and what I was there for.

The operating surgeon felt I was the anxious type. Therefore, he had the nurse administer Valium before the surgery. Who, me, anxious? A short dose of propofol (the same drug Michael Jackson overdosed on) also came from the anesthesiologist.

For some reason, even though the surgery is on your eye, they have you strip down to your birthday suit and wear one of those signature hospital gowns that notoriously expose the moonrise. They played classical music to relax me during the surgery. The propofol knocks you out to numb the eye, however, you are woken up and relaxed during the surgery, since the eye must be open.

“Are you going to write about us, too?” Those were the words a team of nurses said in unison after my cataract surgery in the post-op recovery room. Although I was coming out of heavy sedation, those are complimentary words for any writer. You see, I penned a wellness guest column for The Garden Island about my colonoscopy last August, titled, “The dreaded Roto-Rooter, the coming of age” (thegardenisland.com/2020/12/09/lifestyles/the-dreaded-roto-rooter-the-coming-of-age/).

I wasn’t planning on writing about my cataract surgery. However, when a team of nurses seemed like they enjoyed my last wellness article, why not give cataract surgery a touch of the keyboard, especially now that I can see so much better?

The hardest part of cataract surgery is not being able to bend from the waist down for the first week, since it puts undue pressure on your eyes. It took me two days to figure out how to pick up my dog’s business by getting down on one knee and hoisting myself up on my walking stick with a poop bag in the other hand.

You cannot lift anything over 10 pounds. Sneezing must be silenced, and bowel movements must not be rushed or squeezed. I could not ride my bike or go swimming, either. Even the simple exercise of hanging from a tree branch as natural traction for my spinal stenosis is prohibited during recuperation. Those who have marital relations need to cease, or be very passive. It’s amazing the common things we do that put pressure on the eyes.

You must wear polarized, wraparound, dark sunglasses when outdoors, and when sleeping you must wear a plastic shield over the affected eye and either sleep on your back or the opposite side than you were operated on.

Should you have cataracts and decide on surgery, make sure you’re comfortable with the surgeon. Anyone who can microscopically tear out a cataract, remove the God-given lens of your eye and replace it with a man-made lens and restore your vision to almost 20/20 and save you from potentially going blind is a genius.

Cataract surgery is said to have a 99.7% success rate, and is considered one of the safest, modern-day, miracle surgical procedures.

Finally, I asked my eye surgeon how he was so smart? He said he was a good pupil!


James “Kimo” Rosen lives in Kapa‘a with his dog and blogs as a hobby at dakinetalk.blogspot.com.

  1. gladys krasse April 16, 2021 1:16 am Reply

    i had both eyes operated on about 15 yrs ago….today, at 89, i still only need 1.0 glasses from the Dollar Tree & only use them for very small print….i don’t need them for driving or regular activities….the surgery was painless…….before it i couldn’t stand the sun or headlights when driving….plus i was wearing 3.0 prescription glasses…..!!!

  2. Tooindependent April 16, 2021 8:15 am Reply

    Cataract… I no drive a Cataract…. I drive a Rincon continental

    1. kauaiboy April 17, 2021 8:51 am Reply

      TooIndependent- Don’t bother applying for the next opening as police chief 🙂

      And Rosen, why not rename your dog Gaetz? Then you won’t feel bad kicking him around…

  3. James Kuroiwa, Jr. April 16, 2021 5:06 pm Reply

    Kimo, thanks. Will have my first visit with the eye surgeon next Tuesday for my left cataract eye. One week of recovery? My colon cancer (1 night in Straub hospital) and prostate (one afternoon of radiation seeds) cancer seem minor to one week of limited physical activity. I’ll get all my checks on Tuesday. Again, thanks.

  4. YuCalJoe April 17, 2021 5:24 am Reply

    I had both eyes done last year. $8,000 out of pocket, and $3,000 was paid by health insurance (for the anesthetics only). I now have 20/20 vision. First time in my life without corrective lenses of some form. My glasses were thicker than a Coke bottle bottom. I was wearing contacts, and still had to wear reading glasses (2.5). Driving at night was becoming dangerous because of all the glare. Since I’m under 65, i had to incur the cost. I’m glad I made good decisions in the past to get an advanced degree and a good career that would allow me to earn the ability to much such decisions, and not expect freebies in return for a shameful soul.

  5. No Miracle April 17, 2021 9:41 am Reply

    Please limit your magical thinking to politics or religion. This is SCIENCE. Lots of people did a lot of research and training to be able to provide this result. Get checkups regularly.

  6. drsurf April 18, 2021 7:45 am Reply

    Kimo, happy for your blessing of improved vision Aren’t you glad Trump and the Republicans did not take away your health care?

  7. RevW April 23, 2021 11:39 am Reply

    “freebies in return for a shameful soul”. How very judgemental and smug. Do only the ‘privileged’ among us deserve to be able to see? Whether someone pays for it out of pocket 100%, or with Medicare, or Medicaid because they do not have the resources themselves, nobody should be shamed for having their eyesight returned to them. Eye repair is not a luxury reserved for those who are financially well off. It seems to me that a ‘shameful soul’ belongs to those who evaluate themselves as generically superior by virtue of education, income, class, religious orientation or race … and who lack compassion.

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