Adventures in Cuenca eye surgery and a delayed trip back to the States

Aug 1, 2016 | 3 comments

On July 18, I was fresh from cataract and lens replacement surgery on both eyes, very happy with not needing glasses any more, getting ready to leave for the States on the 24th to visit family and friends.

chl david nelson logoBut . . . on the 20th I was back in surgery, having a sudden and ferocious infection removed which left me unable to see from my left eye. The doctor said that with eye drops (hourly, all day long) and time I would have full vision. I had his ok to travel, if I saw a doctor as soon as I got to the U.S. Even though I really wanted to go, at the last minute, good sense overcame my stubbornness about finishing what I planned and I canceled the trip.

Ten days after the second surgery, I can see a lot but only as if through a film and with no binocular vision. Yesterday, as I wrote this paragraph, it was only a black blur; today I can see the lines. The doctor thinks it will be another three weeks for full restoration of my vision.

chl eyesSo how do you put drops into an eye that you can’t see out of? I went next door to Piedad who, along with her niece, her niece’s friend, a carpenter who was doing some cabinet work, did the job. Piedad had enjoyed learning the English words “sit down” and telling them to me in a very firm voice along with a big smile. Someone suggested a mirror, which I had, so after a couple of days I learned how to administer the drops myself and relieved Piedad of the burden. As always, my friend Tom was there to make sure I took taxis (the doc had told me to stay inactive for at least two days after each surgery) and to run errands and to bring me dinner.

Yes, I was stressed. Preparing for travel is stressful anyway and then the eye issues on top had me really tense and anxious. But here I am, still in Cuenca, enjoying a new challenge, feeling on top of the world.

The tools used in these eye procedures are amazing. After a minuscule cut into the eyeball, a tool is inserted that destroy the cataract, then a new lens, made to my prescription, is inserted, and within 20 minutes or so it is done. To clean the eye of the infection, a blender type device that rotates at 5000 rpm is used.

I really would have liked to watch the surgeries. How about developing a device that would allow you to direct the vision of the other eye to wherever you wanted? I was slightly sedated but fully conscious during the procedures and would have been able to watch the action.

* * * *

We have more cell phones per capita in Ecuador than in any South American country, but most of us have no phone bills. We pick out a phone in the phone shop — and there are hundreds to choose from — then tell the sales clerk which of the two phone companies we want to provide service, and buy prepaid minutes for our account. When the minutes are used up, and very often you find out in the middle of a call when suddenly there is silence. You can check your balance any time. I don’t use the phone a lot so $20 of minutes lasts a long time.

Anyway, when I was talking to Tom recently, the line (since we don’t have telephone lines for cell phones, can you still say the line went dead?) went dead. Since I was sure I had minutes, it must be that my phone had a bug. Tom and I spent a lot of time and emails back and forth arranging a time to visit the shop where I bought my Ecuadorian smart phone. Melina happened to came by to see how I was doing and I asked her to listen to the recorded message that I kept getting: “you’re out of minutes” was the answer. An abashed, “oh”, apologies to Tom for all his time and effort spent, another $20 into the account and the phone works fine.

And now for my Sunday walk on the river.

Cuidense. And my love, Dave.

Dave Nelson

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