Jeanne Ellin: Alarming confirmation of an old wives’ tale

Old woman having eye drops

Banner with Jeanne Ellin's quoteDid your granny ever tell you to always wear clean knickers in case you got knocked down and taken to hospital?

Old woman having eye dropsWell, I have just had a pre-op check for my cataract surgery, which included alerting me to some alarming information.

One. Please wear a freshly laundered top that opens down the front. The operation is done in your own clothes – while you are wearing your own slippers.

Feel free to scream!

Two. A terrifying list of complications, however remote, is detailed. They have left out death! But, they included severe infection and blindness, loss of eye due to said infection, etc. Then they ask you to sign your consent for the operation – and any other thing the surgeon deems necessary in an emergency.

Three. The instructions for the local anaesthetic include the fact that you SHOULD feel no pain but that you should speak up LOUDLY and CLEARLY if you do. I think a scream would be called for.

Relative ignorance is bliss but that belongs to the age before American-style litigation.

There is a four-month-plus waiting list but you can also go on standby for 24 or 48 hours. I go for the 48-hour option; I need time to get organised since transport is no longer provided, but the nurse assured me they will call a taxi of my choice if I bring the number in.

The pirate option

Since I live alone, the district nurses will call in twice a day maximum after my operation. As the vital post-operative drops must be administered four times a day for four weeks, this presented a problem. I have poor hand control and will have only one partially functioning eye. The nurse found a solution for me – a special drop-dispensing gizmo – and let me take it home to practise.

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I am sure my grandsons will like my pirate persona. A patch for four weeks! Two ops, so maybe two patches, if I can clean them well enough.

The guinea pig option

I have signed up to be part of a research project on quality-of-life outcomes after surgery. That should distract me from brooding on my prospective one-eyed idle state. Sadly, nowhere as exotic as Katmandu and not green eyed.

And all this care is free at the point of delivery. So many places in the world without this blessing.

Another happier thought; a friend and I are working on a joint article. We both live with long-term invisible illnesses, 20 years between us. We have never met but sustain and cheer each other. Despite finding that one has a physical and one a mental illness, our struggles are very similar at heart.

In times like these, women’s friendship really is such a treasure.

About Jeanne Ellin

I am a poet working at living a creative life in a one room flat, companioned by a menagerie of chronic health problems. I began this series of posts after being inspired by two women younger than myself, who, fearful of their imagined old age spent in ill health and poverty, committed suicide. I explore every year as a bonus of adventures, with moments of discomfort or fear, but with unexpected treasure to be found - helped by a sense of the ridiculous, a world perspective and creativity.