I consider myself fortunate that I had excellent vision for about the first 50 years of my life, except for being slightly farsighted. No glasses, contacts, correction, except for wearing sunglasses. In 1975, after a few months in graduate school reading 17th-century English texts on gray paper, I had a terrible case of eyestrain. My excellent ophthalmologist gave me some muscle exercises, which solved that problem. In my late 40s my farsightedness increased, and I began to use drugstore reading glasses.
As I drove home, I noticed all the lights blurred with huge halos, and, although I knew where I was, I couldn't read the freeway signs ...
All was well until at age 53 I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition that required prednisone, which accelerates the formation of cataracts. Within a couple of years I needed prescription reading glasses and computer glasses. My optometrist kept watching a small cataract in my left eye, but it remained small.
During the spring of 2013, when I turned 60, my partner Dick had a massive heart attack and had to stay in the hospital for 10 days. I did a lot of driving back and forth, and later I realized for those days I’d been driving in daylight. A couple of weeks after he left the hospital, Dick came down with pneumonia and I had to drive him back. He was readmitted, but we had to wait for a room for hours, and by the time he was situated and I could leave, it was 1 AM. As I drove home, I noticed all the lights blurred with huge halos, and, although I knew where I was, I couldn’t read the freeway signs but instead had to look for large landmarks for confirmation.
Distracted during Dick’s long recovery, it wasn’t until early the next spring that I went to the optometrist for a routine exam. In the middle of one of the tests, she stopped the moving boxes I was looking at and asked how many I saw. “Four,” I replied. “Hmm, there are only two. You have a huge cataract in your right eye. This cannot be corrected with glasses. You will need cataract surgery.”
A month went by before I saw my ophthalmologist and cataract surgeon, and we scheduled the surgery for the following month. A few days later I got my driver’s license renewal notice. No big deal, I normally renewed by mail. To my horror, I was required to come in person and take a vision test, and I had to do it before the surgery. Without the surgery, and without glasses to correct my vision, could I drive? I already tried not to drive at night. What if I couldn’t pass the test?
When I entered the DMV for my appointment, I took my assigned number and a good look at the boards of letters for the vision test behind each clerk. There were many people ahead of me, so I had time to experiment, walking near the boards, backing away. I attempted to memorize entire lines of what I could see, and I could see quite a lot. When I got to the clerk’s desk, he gave me a card to cover my right eye. I easily read the letters with my left eye. Then I had to cover my left eye. It was more difficult, but with my right eye I still could make out even the smaller letters. I breathed a big sigh.
After I finished the DMV business, my anxiety returned. I knew I wasn’t seeing that well, but if I passed the vision test, what about people with worse vision who passed and were driving around? That was a scary thought.
Shortly after, I had the cataract surgery on my right eye, which went fine. The haloing and blur disappeared. A few years later, the cataract in my left eye finally “bloomed” and I had surgery again in February 2020–luckily just a few weeks before the COVID shutdown. Because I chose lenses for far vision, I use reading and computer glasses, and due to some other issues, I use glasses for driving, but I am grateful for the amazing technologies that make cataract surgery so easy.
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.