Commentary by Betty Bell
"What’s the lowest line you can read on
the chart?" the Doctor asked me.
"I think it’s time to schedule your
catamaran surgery, kiddo."
My hearing isn’t great either, though I
did hear what he actually said—cataract surgery. But when it comes to facing
medical fragility I’m just like that poet lady, Emily something, who always saw
things slant. I knew I could cope with catamaran surgery, so catamaran surgery
it’d be. There was a summer when I flailed around in a catamaran and scored a
bull’s eye on the only rock on the beach. That surgical repair hadn’t been the
least bit traumatic.
"Catamaran surgery isn’t an ordeal
anymore," the Doc said, not even batting 100 in the Soothing Department. "We use
laser surgery now, and with the new implants you’ll be astounded at the
The Doc was way ahead of himself—before I
could get to astonished I had to get past process.
What with all the catamaran-afflicted
people feeling their ways around the world, he couldn’t schedule my surgery for
two weeks, plenty of time to visualize, then visualize again, what would happen
after I was wheeled into the operating room and needled fast asleep; time
aplenty to see with 20-20 clarity the doctor plucking out my eyeball and
slipping it into the specially lubricated eyeball holder he kept close by, and
then zeroing in on the jelly-like mass with his star-war laser. But I was a
typical pre-surgery patient and thus too shy to ask if I had my visuals right.
You’re told what to expect in even unimportant upcoming events, but when it
comes to surgery we’re simply wheeled in like cattle in a chute. Surely there
ought to be a step-by-step primer for every surgical happening—except
childbirth, of course. Right-to-lifers could get ahead big time if they detailed
step-by-step childbirth along with urging abstinence.
So here’s how it happened step-by-step
with me, and maybe it’ll keep you from wearing out your worry beads when that
likely inevitable catamaran surgery time is nigh.
My daughter drove me to the clinic, and as
she walked me through the door she held my hand and said "It’s OK, Mom." That
was the exact minute when switching the bound-to-happen-sometime mother-daughter
role became a done deal.
I signed a stack of legal "Don’t blame me"
forms and turned myself over to my chosen team in the practice of medicine.
In a big room with ceiling tracks looping
about so that sliding curtains can be pulled around to make instant private
rooms, a pleasant lady enjoying a good hair day made a little private room for
me, put a yellow pill in my hand, handed me a cup of water, and told me, nicely,
firmly, to swallow it. And then at some point between 24 and 36 seconds later I
noodled-out. I was conscious, but not really, if you know what I mean. From then
on everything happened to this little old lady I watched from above, a
frightened thing gracefully stretched out on a mobile operating table that was
then wheeled into yet another little private room.
Competent ladies, all enjoying good hair
days and each as pleasant and soft-spoken and reassuring as the next, did things
with needles and IVs and heart-monitoring patches and such, busyness that
interested me not one whit. Then the doctor appeared, or rather his disembodied
"How you doin’, kiddo?" I waved a hand, or
I thought about waving—whatever. And I presume that the catamaran surgery then
took place. I was conscious, sort of, and I was as least as calm as Redfish Lake
at dawn. And pilgrims, you can count on this: Catamaran surgery doesn’t hurt
even a tiny bit.
At home the next morning I took off my
pirate eye patch as instructed, and as promised I was astonished, but I was only
43 percent as astonished as I was two weeks later when the other eye was lasered
and I took off the second patch.
Post catamaran surgery surprises are a
deliciously mixed bag. It was a total delight to suddenly see the bristly lashes
sticking out as small shelves over Pearl’s eyes, Pearl being my canine companion
of reciprocal love. Not so delightful to see that all of my peers had morphed
into eruptions of wrinkles. But overall, I’d experienced a profound miracle, for
suddenly the Discovery Channel’s mine. Now I’m looking for a maestro who can
laser my knees and zap away all the sag and dimples and spots.
And then? I’m thinking mini-skirt.