Maybe by Thanksgiving, I’ll look in a mirror and quash my desire to dive into a hole and stay there until spring. But not yet. This week, I got my droopy eyelids fixed. Healing is very slow. In recent years, my eyelids had been slowly descending like an automatic garage door.
My ophthalmologist in Cleveland suggested a surgical repair 15 years ago, but I dismissed him. Five years ago, my optometrist in Espanola, N.M. — an aging hippie from Taos who kept an uncaged parrot in his office — told me that my sagging eyelids were impairing my vision 50%, but he offered no solution.
Little by little, my eyelids kept dropping like temperatures in late fall. I chalked it up to age.
Early in May, my cousin Mindy in Ohio happened to mention in an email that both she and her husband had had their sagging eyelids lifted. Suddenly, I sniffed hope.
Poking around the internet, I learned that the Kearney Eye Institute offers this procedure, so I hurried over. Pre-surgical tests revealed that my half-closed eyelids blocked about 60% of my vision. Ouch. But Dr. Thomas Clinch said it would take just 45 minutes to fix both eyelids, so I scheduled the procedure.
I assumed this would be as effortless as teeth-cleaning, but I was wrong. As I left the KEI office, they handed me a packet with a checklist. Get a pre-surgical physical. Avoid aspirin for three weeks prior to surgery. No food or water starting at midnight the day of the procedure. There was a gasp of an exception to that; since the procedure wasn’t scheduled till 1:30 p.m., the nurse said I could eat one piece of dry toast and sip eight ounces of black coffee before 6 a.m., but I nixed that. How could I go back to sleep after eight ounces of coffee?
The morning of the procedure, I woke up jittery. At 1:20 p.m., a friend drove me up to the KEI office. Soon I was even more jittery. This was no brief respite in a dentist’s chair. This was actual surgery.
They handed me a hospital gown. They poked me with a needle and started an IV. An anesthesiologist strolled in. He wouldn’t knock me out with a general anesthesia, he said; he’d “just make me comfortable.” Ha. That’s what they said when they gave me something “to take the edge off” when I delivered my daughter 45 years ago. I felt every explosion of agony.
Back to my eyes. They put a shower cap on my head, stretched me out on a wheeled table, covered me with warm blankets and rolled me into an operating room just like they did at Good Sam when I had a hip replacement. Overhead, this operating room had a cluster of blinding round-as-the-moon lights. All this fanfare for a couple of errant eyelids?
The anesthesiologist jabbed me with something, and as I was relating to him the rigors of bringing forth my second child, my 10-pound son, in a mid-forceps delivery without anesthesia, I was out. Gone.
When I came to, Dr. Clinch was nearly finished. That quelled a stony fear: how could he operate on my open eyes without me being forced to watch? I don’t know, but he did.
An hour or so later, my friend drove me home. I flopped down on the couch under a blanket. Tylenol doused my discomfort.
For three days, I stayed inside. Every two hours, I draped a mask-shaped ice pack over my eyes to keep the swelling down, but massive bruises blossomed as if I’d battled Mike Tyson. They looked like the glop that football players smear under their eyes before games.
I’m working from home this week in a self-imposed quarantine. My stitches came out Wednesday. When I asked Dr. Clinch when my bruises will disappear, he said, tersely, “Soon.” Then he left the room.
I should count my blessings. In 2018, when a non-cancerous growth was cut off my lip, my lips were sewn shut for three weeks. This time, I’m just nursing ugly bruises. So much fuss over two naughty eyelids. At least I can see better now.