Joff’s first op. Hah!

Whilst that phrase has all the cutesy charm of a milestone, this was a pretty tough time for us.

How they remove cataracts in an operation is to make a tiny cut through the front of the eyeball next to the iris, the coloured part of the eyeball. The surgeon inserts a tiny probe-cum-hoover, for want of a simple term, which both breaks up the semi solid lens in a mashup kind of way and then they remove it from the capsule that holds it in place in the eyeball. Sometimes the capsule itself is left behind and you can see ghostly whiteness reminiscent of a cataract, but it is not generally a big problem.

We didn’t realise that having both cataracts out in a single op and in one so young was highly unusual at the time. We later found out it was an actual record in Scotland. We watched tiny Joff being wheeled into theatre – I don’t actually recall the anaesthesia used that first time, which is funny ‘cos there have been some real doozies over the years – I’m guessing it was a mask – and we were told that we should return in an hour or so. We went out for some fresh air, fully intending to take advantage of the “break”. However, we didn’t last very long being footloose and fancy free and went back to the hospital to wait in the parent’s room. Mr Effie’s mum and dad turned up and the four of us made small talk and drank some vending tea. I admired a poster in the room “Children learn what they live”. And like all the horrible times in your life, the time just crawled by. Mr Effie and I began to get stir crazy and asked at the desk a few times if Joff was out of theatre – nope, not yet – but all was going well.

After a while Mr Effie and I resorted to rolling up an empty carrier bag into a makeshift ball and used it to play hand tennis with. It did get terribly silly. Two grown adults farting about in a hospital. I suppose it was symptomatic of the growing panic we were both hiding. And symbolically, kind of representative of how we’ve coped over the years. Mostly stoically, but equally, cheery with it.

Two hours went by. Surely there must be some word by now? We went back and asked again. Oh yes, said the nurse, he’s been in recovery for the past half hour – did no-one tell you?

Aww… see that wee sowel? Barely 8lb dripping wet and two white cotton eye patches on.

They said they would fit him with soft contact lenses once the stitches settled down in about a week’s time. We didn’t know at the time, but many people having cataracts removed have a lens implant done at the same time, but this wasn’t suggested to us as an option. However, it would possibly have caused glaucoma, a kind of side effect in Lowe, so that was an option best avoided. So the contact lenses Joff was being offered had to have a large prescription; by contrast if you wore the equivalent prescription in spectacles the lenses would be stupidly thick and heavy to wear and more importantly, distort the actual view of the world with the Mr Magoo magnification.

I thought at the time, and I still do, it’s utterly wonderful that we live in a time when Joff had been diagnosed so quickly, and had the technology available to be given contact lenses with a prescription of +36.

A two-week old baby with contact lenses, did you ever hear the likes?

When, weeks later, we finally made it back home from hospital as a family, my father in law presented us with the poster from the waiting room. He’d gone back to the ward, cadged it from the nurses, then got it framed for us.

Lives in our hallway to this very day.

Children Learn What They Live

If a child lives with criticism, she learns to condemn.

If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.

If a child lives with ridicule, she learns to be shy.

If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilt.

If a child lives with tolerance,  she learns to be patient.

If a child lives with encouragement, he learns confidence.

If a child lives with praise, she learns to appreciate.

If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.

If a child lives with security, she learns to have faith.

If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.

If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he or she learns to find love in the world.