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By Renato Rizzuti, Buzzworthy Blogs

At the age of 48, I was a rather young candidate for cataract surgery. Cataract surgery is usually performed on senior citizens. According to The National Eye Institute, “A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision. Most cataracts are related to aging. Cataracts are very common in older people. By the age of 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery.”

According to The Mayo Clinic’s website, “Some cataracts are caused by inherited genetic disorders that cause other health problems and increase your risk of cataracts.”

Both of my parents had cataracts but were in their senior years when they developed them. Something needed to be done to remedy my problem. There I was with cataracts in both eyes and almost as blind as a bat. At first, my vision started to get a bit fuzzy. I had a hard time trying to distinguish the different colors of traffic lights. Eventually, I had to stop driving altogether because it became unsafe and downright dangerous. Watching TV became a real strain on my eyes and I could not make out which actors were playing which parts. Reading anything also became virtually impossible. I was rendered visually incapacitated.

That’s when I started to go through the medical “chain of command.” Upon examining my eyes, my family doctor Dr. June Kingston immediately referred me to an eye doctor. This eye doctor referred me to a specialist. The specialist said I should see an eye surgeon. Eye surgeons are considered great medical gods that are hard to get an appointment with. Basically, my wife pleaded with our family doctor to speak directly to the eye surgeon.

My family doctor along with the eye specialist teamed up to plead my case. Eventually, the young and world-renowned eye surgeon Dr. Ike Ahmed, who was to be my savior, agreed to give me an appointment. My case was based on the fact that my “disability” was interfering with my work and my inability to drive and the fact that I could not get safely out of the house without supervision.

Sorry Eyes Can See

Through my blurred vision, I got a peek at the eye surgeon. He was a handsome dude with long hair and a caring attitude. He was my Christ-like savior because Ophthalmologist Dr. Ahmed realized the urgent need for the surgery and decided to forgo the usual 14 month waiting period.

Since I had cataracts in both eyes, he took a very aggressive approach and told me to have both eyes done at once. This is very unusual because eye surgeons usually do one eye at a time. Worst case scenario – I could lose my vision in both eyes! Wow! I decided on the spot that it was a “calculated risk” I had to take. This young surgeon was already gaining worldwide notoriety as an excellent surgeon; so I said quick prayers and set the surgery date. He assured me that I would be sedated to ease any pre-op nerves and anxiety.

About a month or so later, I arrived with my loving wife Maria at the Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga, Ontario. To be honest, I had mixed emotions at the time. I dreaded losing my vision and at the same time, I was quite looking forward to having my vision restored. It was a simple procedure. All the nurse had to do was find a vein to give me the sedation. She failed at her first attempt. She failed at the next four attempts.

Finally, she called in a doctor to assist her. The doctor failed at his first attempt. The doctor then failed at his next four attempts! They both admitted defeat. I have to admit that I have deep veins and when I go for a blood test they have the same problem. I personally was not being “difficult” but my veins were!

By that time, Dr. Ahmed was in the room and standing by to do my surgery. I was faced with a choice: forgo sedation and have the surgery or cancel and go back to waiting! Since I felt like a pin cushion at the time and since it took a long hard battle to get a surgery date, I exclaimed, “Okay, let’s do it!”

Brave Eyes

They administered drops to freeze my eyes. Now it came to the task of staying calm and still during the surgery without freaking out or engaging in some primal screaming. I had to think of a way to calm myself. Meditation techniques I had learned did not seem appropriate at the time. I had to occupy my mind by concentrating on something. Being an actor saved my sanity. I started reciting a funny version of Hamlet’s soliloquy which begins, “To be or not to be.” I changed the second line to “Whether tis nobler in the mind to have eye surgery without sedation or to take up arms against a sea of troubles and cancel the surgery.” On and on I went reciting bits and pieces of monologues and poems that I had committed to memory. The next thing I know, the surgery was over! Dr. Ahmed was entertained and amazed that I could perform so well “under pressure” and stayed calm and still while he worked his magic. This goes to show that you can produce your own form of “mental sedation.” The human mind is indeed very powerful. The surgery was a success and, to use my version of the song lyrics: “I can see clearly now, the cataracts are gone!”

The healing process involved administrating eye drops and sleeping with protective shields to prevent accidental rubbing during the night. Luckily, the eye shields were perforated with holes which allowed me to find the bathroom in the middle of the night without a GPS system. Showering was tricky because I could not get water in my eyes. Swimming was also out of the question for the same reason plus there was the possibility of picking up an eye infection because of the “public” water. It was not beach weather at the time, so it did not really concern me.  Strenuous exercise or heavy lifting was also a no no. And since I had to avoid getting dust in my eyes, I decided to forgo any housework involving dusting or vacuuming. Finally I had a reason to wear my “shades” for that “Joe Cool” cool factor.

Feed Your Sight

When I recovered, I decided to research foods that were good for your eyesight and which foods were bad. A large part of preventing medical problems is an adjustment in diet. I found out that foods that are generally bad for your health are also bad for your eyesight. Eating a high fat diet leads to clogged arteries to your heart and can also lead to clogged arteries in your eyes. Eating too much salt can lead to high blood pressure which can restrict the flow of blood to your eyes. Too much sugar and fat can cause you to become overweight. Generally speaking and according to the Mayo Clinic, being severely overweight increases the chances of early or intermediate macular degeneration. Also, being overweight you run the risk of having Type II diabetes. Unmanaged diabetes can cause eye problems including a loss of vision due to leaking blood vessels in the retina.

However, there are foods that can benefit eye health. The old joke that carrots are good for your eyes is partly true. Carrots contain beta carotene which helps to maintain eye health. Other “rabbit food” such as lettuce and cabbage contain Vitamin A. A lack of Vitamin A can cause night blindness. Spinach can protect eyes from cataract and macular degeneration. Fruits containing Vitamin C can eliminate free radicals that cause damage to the eyes. Garlic and onions make the eye lens stronger and more resilient. Apricots, eggs, salmon, sardines, olive oil, corn, broccoli and dark chocolate also contain ingredients that are beneficial to eye health.

I went from being virtually blind to being a gloriously full sighted person. When I tell people that I had my cataract surgery done by the world renowned glaucoma, cataract and anterior segment surgeon Dr. Ike Ahmed they gasp and ask me how I managed to book surgery with him when people from the four corners of the world wait for months. I was very lucky! The vision in my physical eyes was not only restored, the vision in my mind’s eye also had been made much stronger!

Renato Rizzuti B.A. B. Ed. plays many roles in the story of life. As an Actor/Writer/ English and Drama Educator, Renato has always been interested in the mysteries of the mind. Renato continues to explore many mental techniques to enhance his mental and physical powers. Ultimately, this leads to better health and well being.

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