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The following article was written by Trevor Coleman for The Detroit Free Press:

A WONDERFUL NEW VIEW ON LIFE COMES COURTESY OF AN EYE SURGEON
Detroit Free Press (MI)
By TREVOR COLEMAN
Date: April 8, 1999; Page: 14A
Edition: METRO FINAL; Section: EDP; EDITORIAL
Illustration: Photo JEFF KOWALSKY/Special to the Free Press

It was still dark when I got up on that cold winter morning. The wood of the hallway floor chilled my feet as I padded toward the bathroom.

I stopped to peek out a small window to see what the weather was doing. From behind the sheer curtains I saw the pure white, fresh snow resting like a blanket on the roof of my garage.

In the glow of the lamp, the crystals of snow sparkled like tiny diamonds. How beautiful, I thought.

In the bathroom, I stared bleary-eyed into the mirror, rubbing the stubble on my face, thinking about the day that awaited me.

I noticed the specks of gray in my morning shadow, even in my eyebrows. I touched my scalp where I was balding and shook my head at the sight of my receding hairline.

I gently rubbed my eyes and thought to myself, "All of this gray. Boy, am I getting . . ."
And then it hit me.

I was not wearing my glasses. I had left them on the nightstand. Yet, I saw with a clarity I could never have imagined.
It had been only a few days since my second round of surgery to repair a cataract problem, yet my vision had improved so significantly that at 39, I felt years younger.
The surgery performed by Dr. David Shepherd at Grace Ambulatory Hospital in Southfield was called phaco-emulsification with an intraocular lens implant.
Wow.

In English, Shepherd used a device with an ultrasonic tip (vibrating 40,000 times a second) to emulsify, or break down, the cataract and suck it out.

He then replaced my natural lenses with an acrylic set. He also operated to decrease my astigmatism.

Shepherd, who has been performing such surgeries since 1975 and does hundreds a year, said technology has changed so vastly that what was once a very physically traumatic operation is now done on an out-patient basis. Patients get back to their normal routine within days -- and with a much better view.

"When I was in training, we used to keep people in the hospital for two weeks with one eye and three weeks for the second eye," he said.

"It was a totally different operation. It was much more traumatic surgery."

A cataract is a clouding of the transparent lens of the eye.
When a cataract develops, the lens becomes like a frosted window and may cause a painless blurring of vision.

If a large portion of the lens becomes cloudy, sight can be partly or completely lost until the cataract is removed.

More than a million people undergo such surgery every year. And with new advances in laser surgeries, even people suffering from diabetic retinopathy who used to be doomed to blindness can, with argon laser surgery, have the deleterious effects of the disease significantly slowed down.

Millions more who might have had diminished eyesight have been given new leases on life by two relatively recent procedures -- called photo-refractive keratectomy and LASIK -- to reduce near- and far-sightedness in healthy eyes.

"Eighty to 95 percent of patients end up with 20/40 or better uncorrected vision," Shepherd said. "That means when they are not wearing glasses they can legally drive a car in Michigan."

My vision had started becoming impaired by cataracts a few years ago. I noticed that I needed my eyeglass prescription changed much more frequently. Even with new glasses, I still had problems seeing clearly.

The surgery has changed that dramatically, more than I realized it would.

I have been wearing glasses since I was about 4 years old.I cannot remember ever getting up in the dark and attempting to walk anywhere with out them.

I certainly never drove or tried to read or do work without glasses. And although I still use them, I have a newfound freedom to do things without them: read, drive, write and swim.

It may sound silly to most people, but being able to see clearly is liberating.

Colors look a lot richer and deeper, everything seems so much brighter. I see little freckles, dimples and blemishes on my children's faces that I never noticed before.

It's funny how sometimes we never appreciate the beauty all around us until it fades away.

Shepherd gave me a second chance to see it. And I shall forever savor the view.

Trevor W. Coleman is a Free Press editorial writer. You can reach him at 1-313-222-6456, or write him at the Detroit Free Press Editorial Page, 600 W. Fort St., Detroit, Mich. 48226, or via E-mail at coleman@freepress.com

 

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