Restoring vision

Column box-Tito Genova Valiente-Annotations

Nothing political or ideological here, by vision, I mean that which refers to the eyes. My two eyes.

Three years ago, on the 12th and 14th of March—a Saturday and a Monday—I finally braved cataract operation on my two eyes, and an added procedure for astigmatism on the right eye.

Some three months before March of 2018, my vision, which was blurry already, went blurred quickly. It was as if my eyes were waiting for the right time to go dark. Also there was an incident in a mall where, crossing from the parking lot, I was pulled to safety by a niece away from a rushing vehicle. I did not see the car at all.

There was no prodding anymore; I scheduled a visit to the eye doctor. He was the one who operated on my mother many years back.

After a series of tests, which included one where my eyes were measured (you have big eyes, the good doctor said), I finally agreed to have the “procedure.” From Manila, I went back to Naga to inform, upon the advice of the eye specialist, my two other doctors—an endocrinologist and a cardiologist.

The clearance was given. There was an important instruction also from Naga, and that was for me to stop taking the antiplatelet medicine, the one that causes blood thinning.

Back in Manila, the doctor finalized the procedure on Saturday, skip Sunday, and commence again on Monday. It was an insurance thing: the company did not allow doing two eyes on a single day.

When Saturday came, I requested a friend to be there with me in the hospital. We went together to the clinic of the doctor. He was not there but the secretary had an instruction for me to proceed to an Operating Room with a particular number. The label “operating room” jolted me. This was for real? You know, the part where you were rendered unconscious and a huge light loomed above you, and doctors and assistants were playing it cool but otherwise, deep inside, filled with controlled tension.

My memories were referencing cinema!

Finally, I was ushered to a room where an attendant requested me to change into an Operating Room gown. He pointed to a cabinet where I could place my clothes and shoes. There was a lumpy soft slipper I was asked to wear. From that cubicle of a space, I opened the door and was in a bigger room with about five nurses all working on files and chatting. They all greeted me. One nurse who was rushing out whispered, Sir, everything would be fine. It was a stage whisper overheard by the others. Two apologized for the loud music and the chatter.

A male nurse took my blood pressure and informed me he will be my nurse for that day. My angel for that day, my referencing shifted from the movie to spiritual reading. Then the doctor came and, being more familiar with me, grinned as he mentioned my elevated blood pressure. Mr. Valiente, you follow Ma’am, indicating an older lady with full make-up. Would they wash off the eyeliners and other layers from that face when the procedure was done?

The 200/180 BP came down and I was quickly in a very cold Operating Room. Freezing was more like it. A soft blanket was placed on me. Sir, we know you are feeling cold. Do not worry we will have more blanket. Another sheet was draped around my body, and a thicker one. I felt warm.

A local anesthesia was given. The area around my eyes grew numb. You would remain conscious, my doctor assured me, but you will not feel any pain. There would be a sensation but that would be alright.

I could hear my doctor introducing himself and then naming me as the person in bed. Nice screenplay. He called out the name of another doctor, two nurses and another person. The doctor, I assumed, explained what would happen that afternoon.

By this time, I could feel a pressure on both sides of my head. There was a contraption that held my head in place, I would learn later. But, I kept moving away—from the light, according to the doctor. Was that an extraterrestrial being summoning me behind the light?

Then the sound of what felt like a drill came. Irrigate please, a voice commanded. Water? Something being flushed or taken off my eye? The 45 minutes felt like hours. We are okay? Are you fine, sir? Do not move yet. Slowly open your eyes. If you do not see anything, do not worry. You will see a very bright light—that is the light above your head. That was comforting: I was not in any heaven. After what seemed like an eternity—five or 10 minutes—I opened my eyes. There was the light, so bright it nearly qualified for the imagined bright light that we were supposed to see in the afterlife. The light faded soon because I could see the lamp from which it was being produced. I slowly rose, attended by the male nurse.

Seated now, I turned to my left and saw the most ethereal, layered blue sky speckled with a brush of gray and more white, silvery clouds from the huge window of the room.

That afternoon, post-operation, I spent hours looking out of the window of a hotel, feasting on the sky. From four in the afternoon and sunset, I surveyed the clouds and the roofs of the buildings, their dimension so clear I have forgotten already about this feature of vision. I looked down on the crown of trees and marveled at the tiny birds coming to roost. I had a vision, even with one eye yet, and it had nothing to do with notions of a nation or the arts or life.


Image credits: Jimbo Albano

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