By Verlie Edwards

Everyone experiences milestones throughout their lives. My vision provided several of those milestones. I remember being fitted for my first pair of glasses in the sixth grade. Then, in junior high school I tried to wear contact lenses. It would be several years before soft lenses were developed giving me the opportunity to wear contacts. Next, my vision required tri-focal lenses and contacts could not correct my vision, so it was back to wearing glasses fulltime.

As I write this (end of January 2020), I have passed another milestone. I’ve had cataract surgery with the insertion of multi-focal lens in each eye! For the first time in my life, I can legally drive without glasses! This is huge.

Seems like every day you hear of more and more people having cataract surgery. According to Johnson & Johnson, more than 90% of all people will develop cataracts. Over 2 million cataract surgeries are performed each year in the United States.

What exactly are cataracts? In a healthy eye the proteins and water that make up the natural lens allow light to pass through without obstruction. As we age, these proteins can clump together, causing our vision to become cloudy. That clump of protein is called a cataract.

 How are the cataracts corrected? An ophthalmologist deadens the eye, inserts a needle-thin probe that breaks up the cataract with ultrasound waves and extracts the pieces. Then, a new artificial lens is inserted to correct vision.

I was extremely anxious before the first surgery (fear of the unknown), but could not wait to get the second procedure done.

I’m amazed at how easy my surgeries were. I remember the first time I heard about cataract surgery. A high school teacher had the surgery and was required to lie flat for two weeks. My mother and I helped provide meals and support during her recovery.

In contrast, each of my surgeries only took about 20 minutes and I could drive the next day! During both procedures I was in a twilight zone, but aware that something was happening. During the first surgery I heard my doctor, Tyler Moore, M.D., of Fort Worth Eye Associates and the nurses share stories about snow skiing trips and during the second procedure, Dr. Moore and I discussed this article.

Now that I’m recovering, it will take about a month before both eyes are completely healed. How is my vision different? Prior to surgery I was virtually blind in my right eye (could not read the big E on the eye chart), yet my left eye was nearly normal. Two weeks after the first surgery my right eye vision was 20/20. One week after surgery on my left eye my vision was 20/25.

I’ve always heard that colors are more vivid after cataract surgery. It’s true. Before surgery a white cabinet looked like creamy white and after surgery it was bright white. Only after the first surgery could I realize this. My “fixed” eye saw bright white cabinets while the “old” eye saw creamy white. With my new vision the bathroom and kitchen sinks have never looked so bright!

Any downsides? Since I live alone I got very creative in picking up items I dropped. For the first week following surgery I could not bend at the waist or pick up anything heavy. My toes became extensions of my fingers. I never knew I dropped so many things and that my toes could pick up so much!

Although my vision has drastically improved, I’m aware my eyes aren’t completely healed. I have dry eye and put medicated drops in each eye. It won’t be long before I can move past these bumps in the road.

If you and your doctor are discussing cataract surgery, I say “check it out!” It may change how you see the world.

Verlie McAlister Edwards was raised in Abilene, Texas and it’s there that she realized her love for writing. She enjoyed a special high school English teacher who happened to be the school’s newspaper sponsor. In order to take another class under her, Verlie signed up for journalism and the journey began. Unlike many students, she never changed her college major – she was always focused on journalism as a career. She graduated from the University of North Texas (UNT) with a degree in journalism and political science.

After graduation she returned to her hometown and worked as a reporter at the Abilene Reporter-News covering the local education scene from the students’ perspective. Following a year of graduate work at UNT she moved to Fort Worth where a career in public relations and political affairs flourished. She always wanted to work in academic PR and achieved that goal early in her career at the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine.

After many years providing public relations consultation to the osteopathic profession and serving as the communications director/special events fundraiser for Lena Pope Home (a residential treatment facility for abused and neglected youth) she joined the staff of the Greater Fort Worth Association of Realtors (GFWAR) as the communications and governmental affairs director. It’s here that she found her calling and further developed her skills in the political arena.

After 11 years in that position she took her writing, political and organizational skills to serve as chief of staff for Texas State Representative Rob Orr, a past president of the GFWAR. She remained on Rep. Orr’s staff throughout his 10 years as an elected official and then served as District Director for his successor, Representative DeWayne Burns, during his first legislative session. At that time she retired from the Texas Legislature and began working part-time as curator for U.S. Congressman Roger Williams’ personal museum.

Verlie is excited to use her writing skills to help the Iron Butterflies Project as both a writer and Vice President and Editor-In-Chief.

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