I Had Eye Surgery. This Is What I Realized.

It wasn’t about my eyes.

Steven Yates


Photo by Ion Fet on Unsplash

Last month I had eye surgery. We (wife and I) live in Chile. The ophthalmologist who performed the surgery had the reputation of being the best eye surgeon in the country.

How I knew eye surgery was inevitable: that telltale thin white cloud that had gradually blanketed the vision in my left eye. Fortunately I don’t drive in Chile. But the cataract was starting to interfere with my reading. Being the voracious reader that I am, I knew it was time to do something about it.

So we made arrangements including a preliminary visit and when the time came, traveled the distance to have it done. My wife was already administering preparatory eyedrops, and would be around to help me negotiate streetcorners, stairwells, etc., in case I had to wear a patch over my left eye for several days.

Her mother had cataract surgery a few years ago, and told me there was really nothing to it — once, long ago, it had been a much bigger deal, but modern techniques had greatly simplified the process.

Several associates of mine told me the same thing.

Nevertheless, I was jittery on the morning of the surgery. I learned that two other people were scheduled for cataract removal surgery that same morning. One was scheduled to go before me, and one after. Both also had the jitters.

“We’ll administer a light sedative,” the ophthalmologist had told me, “so you’ll be more relaxed.”

I’d had that done before, for a root canal and a crown put on a tooth. The dentist had given me something to drink. Thirty minutes later, I was listening to music over headphones and not caring in the slightest what he was doing inside my mouth.

I remembered that, but was jittery anyway as I was wheeled back to the area where these procedures are done. The attendants applied a series of drops that began to numb my left eye. My head was put in a kind of vise. Obviously I needed to be absolutely motionless.

A nurse assistant administered the sedative through a needle in the back of my hand. “This might sting a bit,” she said.

“Don’t worry about it,” I replied. Then I lied there, my fingers drumming on the stretcher.



Steven Yates

I am the author of What Should Philosophy Do? A Theory. I write about philosophy (especially the Stoics), health and systems, and the future if we have one.