Sunday, February 15, 2015

Seeing More Clearly, Thankfully

I know the photo is poorly focused, but this is what I was looking at this morning, just four days after left eye cataract surgery, before the 9 a.m. Mass at St. Peter's Catholic Church: beautiful, century old works of art depicting the Birth, Transfiguration, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus. I snuck my iPhone out and hurriedly snapped the picture after marveling at how different the windows looked using only the newly repaired eye rather than both eyes. I thought of doing a blog post.

Left eye covered, the windows were beautiful. But, with right eye covered, the colors were markedly brighter, the whites especially whiter, allowing so much more light to enter. (I can only imagine how much better they might look to someone who didn't get his maternal grandfather's color blindness gene, passed along to him by his mother.) I have about six more weeks now for making such comparisons before the scheduled April 1 surgery on the right eye. After that, I may tend to forget how much improvement resulted, so I am writing this blog post at least partly as a permanent reminder.

What a wonderfully simple miracle cataract surgery is, performed in my case by an ophthalmologist who, sensing my nervousness about having him cut into my eye, assured me that they have the process down to a fine art and that he has done thousands. I said, IV needle already in my arm, "I am in your hands," and he replied with a big smile, "I pray that God is going to bless you through me." I relaxed.

Of course cataract surgery is nothing new. It was first documented more than 400 years before that horrific crucifixion of Christ depicted in the center window above. It was primitive, of course. The "surgeon" would wait until the cataract was hard and completely opaque and brittle and then strike the eye with sufficient force to break up the cataract, the pieces of which would remain in the eyeball but allow some light to enter, providing very limited and unfocused vision. You can read about it here. I'm guessing cataract surgery was not widely practiced until the process used today was invented in 1967 by Dr. Charles Kelman, his incredible story and obituary here.

Now, to borrow some words of Hank Williams, Jr., it seems to me that all my rowdy friends are having cataract surgery. I'm guessing that otherwise we would all be slowly going blind and that, in Bible times, blindness of varying degrees was probably as common in old age as skin cancers and forgetfulness are today. Forms of the word show up 47 times in the Gospels, most often in the Gospel of John which proclaims Jesus to be "The Light of the World," an effective cure for spiritual blindness, and which gives us the wonderful story, in Chapter 9, of the healing of the man born blind and the frustrations the Pharisees experienced trying to figure out how that happened and how to convict Jesus of sin for healing on the Sabbath. One of the most well known Bible verses today is the response of the healed man when questioned by the Pharisees: "One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see." That single chapter could be developed into a major motion picture, which would probably be a shame.

My cataracts are being caught early before significant reduction in vision, but I certainly look forward to and am thankful for the opportunity to stop the deterioration and to see more clearly. Lest I forget the blessing, I will go back and read this post once in a while.


Here is a little better picture of the windows. St. Peter's has a process under way to publish a book of professional photos of the windows along with full descriptions and histories of each.


  1. More information on Sir Harold Ridley who invented the plastic lens replacement for removed cataracts. It was tried on Robert Young, the father in Father Knows Best, who sang its praises and helped promote acceptance of what was seen as a radical proposal.

  2. i also had cataract surgery few years ago, as my father did before me. i remember him remarking on how bright thigs were. added benefit for me- no longer need to wear glasses (since grammar school) except for reading. a real blessing, and i wrote the surgeon telling him so