"A cataract operation in Bristol"

About: Bristol Eye Hospital / Ophthalmology

(as the patient),

What was good about my cataract operation, before last Christmas?

It was extremely successful - my right eye, which was deteriorating pretty quickly, is much much better than before. My left eye, which was doing all the work, is under less strain. I can drive at night without much difficulty (though I hate doing it) and I am wearing ordinary reading glasses again instead of prescription glasses.

What was bad about the operation?

Perhaps two important things and one or two unimportant ones.

1) No one told me clearly and categorically how fuzzy my sight in my right eye would be in the week after the operation. I was actually quite worried. I wondered whether the medical team had used the right lens. After about ten days it all settled down.

2) No one told me clearly and categorically not to go swimming after the operation or how long to stay out of the water. If I hadn't known to ask, I might have gone swimming and infected my eye when it was still vulnerable. Swimming is my main form of exercise. I try to go 2-4 times per week. Perhaps avoiding swimming should have been mentioned.

The operation itself (and the pre-op days) involved a fair bit of waiting around in fairly bleak waiting rooms and a lot of fairly repetitive questioning. Because I travel a lot and am normally out of Bristol on week days this involved me in losing a lot of working days (and money).

With a routine operation, which this now is, it might be worth thinking about streamlining these procedures. (1) visit the GP for referral (2) visit the hospital to confirm (3) visit the hospital for pre-op. examination (4) attend the hospital for the operation (5) attend the hospital for post. op. examination. That's five complete working days lost, so far as I am concerned. Could it be done in three?

Lying on an operating table when someone cuts into your eyeball is obviously distressing and disconcerting. It is difficult enough just to keep still for the twenty or more minutes which the operation took in mycase.

But the worst bit was the Chinese water torture which resulted from the water cooling of the laser device used by the surgeon. Water trickled down past my ear and down my neck the whole time. I was soaked! The staff had to find me a towel at the end of the process. I presume this doesn't happen to everyone? Certainly no one else seemed quite so damp.

Finally - a friend of mine had the same operation (twice) under the BUPA insurance to which he was entitled as a school teacher. "It's very comfortable," he said, "a pretty girl to hold your hand and your own choice of music playing while it's done."

It wasn't quite like that on the NHS but it was still a miraculous event in my life and certainly not something that anyone else should be afraid of. The NHS staff who dealt with me were fairly brusque and harried but always polite and even quite thoughtful. I was impressed!

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