hen Dr. Peter Shelley walked into Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute last September, it wasn't to see patients or to perform a surgical procedure. Instead of being a surgeon, Shelley, a retired ophthalmologist, was now a patient. He needed cataract surgery.
"I first noticed symptoms about two years ago," he says. "The vision in my right eye wasn't as clear as it used to be."
Dr. Shelley saw an eye doctor near his home in Tacoma, Washington. The decrease in vision seemed to be from an early cataract—a clouding of the eye's lens. At that point, Dr. Shelley still had 20/25 vision in his right eye, which was just out of the normal range.
"I could live with that as long as it didn't get much worse," Dr. Shelley says. "I couldn't see quite as well driving at night because of the glare from oncoming headlights. Other than that, I was doing OK."
However, over the months, Dr. Shelley's cataracts became more intrusive.
VISION GOES DOWNHILL
"I love to ski," Dr. Shelley says. "Last year, I had a season pass at Whistler and skied 44 days during the season. I began to notice that I wasn't seeing bumps as well anymore. That can be a problem especially when it's snowing or overcast. But I was routinely having trouble, and it was slowing me down. This really bothered me and made me think it was time to consider cataract surgery."
After the ski season ended, Dr. Shelley began exploring his treatment options. He knew many excellent ophthalmologists who did cataract surgery, but he'd always been impressed with Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute.
"I knew Dr. Robert Ford, one of the founders of PCLI. I'd observed him doing surgeries during the late 1980s and early 1990s," Dr. Shelley says. "He was very kind and helpful. In those days, cataract surgery involved several sutures. But he showed me how to do one-stitch cataract surgery. I thought having him do my cataract surgeries would be nice, so I contacted PCLI last May."
After an initial evaluation, Dr. Shelley scheduled September dates for his surgeries. The right eye, which had the worst vision, would be done first, and then the left eye would follow.
"I've always been nearsighted, and I like it that way," he says. "For distance, I wear glasses and get along fine. I just take my glasses off when I want to look at something close. We decided to stick with that rather than trying to correct it during surgery."
Entering PCLI for his surgery appointment, Dr. Shelley noticed the waiting room wasn't crowded.
"When I was in practice, about 80 percent of my patients were kids," he says. "My waiting room was typically quite full—often with standing room only. The kids would be accompanied by mom, dad, brothers and sisters. I loved working with the kids. I used to do a lot of adult cataract surgery too, but pediatric ophthalmology was my favorite--even though the pay wasn't as good with state insurance. My wife used to joke that we did cataract surgery to pay for taking care of the kids!"
Despite being an eye surgeon, Dr. Shelley readily admits to feeling anxious about being on the receiving end of cataract surgery.
"I was nervous, even frightened, at first," he says. "I always say that minor surgery is surgery someone else is having. It's always better to be the surgeon than the patient! But everyone at PCLI was so efficient, friendly, knowledgeable, reassuring and competent. I never felt rushed. The doctors I saw always had plenty of time to answer my questions. I thought everybody was absolutely terrific."
Dr. Shelley found himself reassuring other people in the waiting room who were also feeling nervous about their upcoming procedures.
"As I was waiting, I told other patients, 'You are so lucky you are here. I'm an ophthalmologist, and I do these procedures. This is where I chose to come for mine.'"
78-year-old Peter Shelley enjoying skiing with family.
An eye surgeon becomes the patient for cataract surgery
A FEW SURPRISES
Dr. David Gano performed surgery on Dr. Shelley's right eye in mid-September. A few days later, Dr. Robert Ford performed surgery on the left eye.
Dr. Gano used some lidocaine jelly and topical anesthesia (eye drops) for the right eye. Dr. Shelley also tried some mild oral sedation with that procedure. When it was time for surgery on his other eye, he decided to simply go with eye drops anesthesia, which went well too.
"I was surprised at how easy it was," Dr. Shelley recalls. "I noticed some glare afterward because my eyes were dilated. I also noticed a temporary bit of cloudiness, like looking through fog. But that cleared up after a day or two. I was really impressed with everyone's skill level, the efficiency of surgery, and how quickly my vision improved."
Dr. Shelley had one other surprise. "For a brief period after my surgeries, the pressure in my eyes went up a bit," he says. "As a result, the lights at night had the most beautiful rainbow halos around them. I wish I could've taken a picture. All the colors—reds and greens—it was gorgeous! The halos went away when I started using eye drops to lower the pressure during my recovery period."
Because Dr. Shelley preferred to retain a certain amount of nearsightedness, he continues to wear glasses and recently purchased another pair.
"I still have some of my old office equipment in storage, so I check my own eyes," he laughs. "Sometimes you feel rushed when you go to eye doctors. I like to have time to figure out if number one or number two is a better correction, so I do my own vision tests."
BACK TO DOING LIFE
When asked his advice for people with cataracts who might be hesitant about moving forward with surgery, Dr. Shelley can now answer from personal experience.
"I tell them to do it sooner rather than later. I regret that I didn't have my surgeries a year earlier. Sure, I was nervous about it. I was concerned it might not help as much as I wanted, but the surgeries actually helped much more than I'd anticipated. As soon as you think your cataracts are interfering with your life, just go ahead and schedule an appointment. Otherwise, your vision will only get worse. With surgery, you can get back to doing the life you enjoy!"
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We specialize in cataract surgery and LASIK laser vision correction. When you entrust us with the care of your vision, our team of experts concentrates their skills on giving you the best possible outcome. Having performed over 700,000 micro eye surgeries, we have earned a reputation for world class care.
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