The Odd Thing about My Old Eyes

Can vision problems reverse themselves with age?

I’ve been nearsighted for most of my life. I began wearing glasses in the fifth grade and switched to contact lenses nearly full time when I was in college.

Over the years, my vision has gotten progressively worse. Each eye exam resulted in a slightly stronger prescription. I was lucky, though. Even though my natural far vision is bad, it’s very correctable. The contact lenses I’ve been wearing for at least 20 years — Acuvue disposable daily lenses — fit me like they were made for my eyes’ size and shape and bring my vision to 20/20 or better.

My near vision, on the other hand, is amazingly good. With glasses and contacts off, I can see nearly microscopic detail of things within 4-5 inches of my face. I can even read the micro text on $100 bills.

Of course, with contacts on, that close vision disappears. And as my far vision prescription got stronger and stronger, my close vision with contacts on got worse and worse.

At first, I combatted the close vision problem by letting my stronger eye do distance and my weaker eye do close vision. The ophthalmologist did this by prescribing a strong lens for my right eye and a much weaker lens for my left one. This worked pretty well, at least for a while. But then I realized that what it was really doing was making both my far vision and near vision less than satisfactory. So I went with contacts for good far vision in both eyes and began using reading glasses for close vision when my contacts were in. My back up eyeglasses were progressive lens bifocals.

Last year, my contact lens prescription was -6.50/-7.00 (right/left). My understanding is that that’s the equivalent to 20/650 and 20/700. Again, with the lenses in, my vision was about 20/20.

This year, however, I began having trouble with my vision. It started in the autumn when allergy (?) issues made it impossible to wear my contacts for more than a day or two. My eyes were itchy and teary. I wore my glasses quite often. I could see okay through them, but not great.

Then I started my drive south for the winter. I was wearing my contacts again and should have been seeing great. But I wasn’t. Everything in the distance was a bit blurry. I was having trouble reading signs. Objects in the distance on the side of the road that I thought were shrubs turned out to be cows. Oops.

What really confused me, though, is that when I wore my sunglasses and looked through the reading lenses at the bottom of the glasses, I could see distance better. That wasn’t right. I should see distance worse. Sure enough, when I put my readers on, I could see distance better than without them.

Eye Prescription
My current eye prescription shows a remarkable improvement in my vision.

So when I got to Arizona, I made an appointment at the same eye center I’d visited the year before, which is the same one I’d used when I lived in Arizona. After the usual eye health check up, I told the doctor what I’d noticed. He didn’t seem terribly surprised. We went through the usual exercise with the machine and eye chart to figure out what my prescription should be. The result: -5.50/-5.75.

My far vision had greatly improved over the past year.

He fetched some sample lenses and I popped in a pair. It was amazing. I could see perfectly again.

But what was even more amazing was that my close vision was also somewhat improved. Although I’d still need readers for small print, I could see good enough for most reading in good light. The doctor confirmed this: instead of +2.50 for readers, I could now use +2.00 readers.

I left the doctor’s office looking around me like a blind person who has just been given sight. I was drinking in everything I saw. The detail amazed me.

Needless to say, it really made my day.

The question both the doctor and I have is why my vision might have improved. He says that vision is often tied in with blood sugar levels and asked if I’d had any blood work done lately. I told him I had, about a month before, and that the doctor had given me a clean bill of health. He said that high sugar levels usually cause vision to get worse, not better. So now I’m wondering if I had high sugar levels last year when tested and they’d come back down gradually since then.

But I have to admit that I honestly don’t care. As long as I can see as clearly as I do now, I’m happy.

On Saturday, I treated myself to a new pair of good quality readers. On Sunday, I ordered two new pairs of bifocals, one of which includes snap-on sunglass lenses. For those interested in saving money on glasses, do check out Zenni Optical; I ordered two pairs of glasses for 1/4 of the price of one pair at Walmart Vision Center. You can’t beat that.

Glasses Order
My eyeglasses order. I decided to treat myself to two pairs: one just for indoors and the other for outdoors/flying. The pair with the snap-on sunglasses is a reorder with my new prescription. For some reason, they automatically applied a 10% discount so even with priority shipping, my order was less than $130.

The Floating Bodies

An explanation of why there’s a honking huge splint on the end of my left arm.

I’ll make this short, if I can. I’m using dictation because I can’t type very fast with one hand. It’ll probably take me longer to edit this than to actually dictate it.

It all started back in August 2013. I had closed on the purchase of the property where I’d build my new home and was spending most afternoons at the property tearing out koshia, a type of invasive weed here. I left for the day, hot and tired and sweaty, and did some grocery shopping. I put the groceries in the back of my truck, which I never do. When I got back to my trailer, I climbed into the back of the truck, gathered up the groceries, and then attempted to vault off the tailgate up as I had done many times before. On that particular day, however, one of my feet got hung up on the tailgate’s spray-in bed liner and I didn’t make a clean jump. I landed on my left side and seriously sprained my left foot. You can read the details of that little accident in another blog post.

Wrist Lump
Here’s the lump at its least swollen state as I waited for surgery. When it was inflamed, it would triple in size and be quite painful. The knob below the swelling is a bone that’s supposed to be there. I have very thin wrists.

What I didn’t realize at the time is that I had also injured my left wrist. The problem manifested itself sometime later with some swelling in that wrist that never seemed to go away. Occasionally, after a hard day working at the house or in the yard, the swelling would increase and the rest will become very painful. On those days I had to turn to Ibuprofen and a wrist brace to keep the pain under control. Those little painful spells would often last several days, but the swelling would usually go down by the time I got to see a doctor about it. I did, however, get several tests done over the years, including x-rays, an MRI, and a cat scan.

This year, a bunch of little medical expenses added up to fill my deductible and I decided that it was time to fix this problem once and for all. The CAT scan identified what the doctor and I had suspected: there were tiny bone fragments loose in my wrist. He called these “floating bodies.” Apparently, when I moved my wrist under strain – for example, lifting something very heavy or twisting my wrist while I was holding something heavy —it caused these bodies to move, which would set off around of swelling and pain. The solution was to remove the floating bodies.

Cat Scan
Although the X-ray and MRI were inconclusive, the cat scan clearly showed the floating bodies in my wrist, including this big one.

I scheduled the surgery for a time after my helicopter had gone into overhaul so I wouldn’t need to fly. That surgery was scheduled for yesterday.

A neighbor drove me to the hospital at 7 AM and the surgery began promptly at 8 AM. I was under general anesthesia so I don’t remember anything from the moment I got into the operating room until I was in recovery. I was very surprised, however, to find my left arm in what looked like a cast from my elbow down to my hand. It turned out to be a clamshell type splint that would hold my wrist immobile. The whole thing was wrapped up in bandages that I would have to keep clean and dry for at least the next week.

I was not expecting this.

floating bodies
My souvenir.

The doctor came by and told me the surgery had gone well, taking about an hour and 45 minutes. I was shown (and then given) a tiny bottle containing the bone fragments, wrapped in cartilage, that he had removed. There was no need so end the lumps in for biopsy because we already knew what they were.

I’m one of the unlucky people who gets no pain relief from standard painkillers like oxycodone or Percocet or codeine. I know — I’ve tried them all several times as prescribed for various painful ailments. Fortunately, my doctor had another alternative, something called Dilaudid (generic called hydromorphone). They gave me some of this while I was in recovery and although it took about 30 minutes to kick in, it worked like a charm. I was assured that if the pain continued or got worse at home, I could combine this new medication with ibuprofen, which normally works like a charm for me.

A friend drove me home and, after letting Penny out and back in, I climbed the stairs and made myself some lunch. That was pretty easy — I just reheated the leftover pasta from the day before. I took my lunch and something to drink over to the sofa, sat down and got comfortable, and then turned on the TV. I was asleep before I even got a chance to touch my food or turn on Roku. I woke up about an hour later, reheated my lunch, took a painkiller (because it was time), and settled back on the sofa to have my lunch and watch some TV. And that’s how I spent the rest of my day — watching more television that I normally do in a week. The third time Netflix asked if I was still watching, I decided to go to bed. It was about 8:30 PM.

Fortunately, the pain never really came back. It was just a dull ache when I took three ibuprofen before going to bed. I had the stronger painkillers nearby in case I needed them but I slept straight through until about 3:30 AM. Even then, I had no serious pain. I wasted time on Twitter and Facebook and even worked on a crossword puzzle on my iPad. Then I put it all aside and fell back to sleep — until 8 AM!

This morning, I feel remarkably good. Not tired and not in much pain. In fact, as I write this now at 10 AM, I still have not had any painkillers. I’m pretty surprised about that but also very happy. I do not like to rely on painkillers — or any medicine — for comfort.

So life goes on with the addition of a clunky bandaged splint on the end of my left arm. I have full use of my fingers but feel pain anytime I try to grip something or twist my wrist. So I’ll just try to take it easy with that hand. I had no trouble making coffee or breakfast this morning. Using the dictation built into my Mac computer or my iPhone is making it a lot easier to communicate in writing. So I guess I can say that this really isn’t too much of a hardship. It’s more of an inconvenience.

My next doctor’s appointment is on Monday when they’ll remove the splint and bandages and take a look at the incision site. With luck, everything will be okay and they’ll replace the splint with the same old wrist brace that I’ve been using before. (Note to self: run brace through laundry.) It’ll be nice to not have that lump in my wrist and the occasional painful swelling that went with it.

I should mention that I got this done now, while I’m still relatively young, because I didn’t want it to become an issue as I aged. I refer to this as “body maintenance.” It’s a lot easier to maintain a young body than an old one — just like a car.

Blender Bullshit

Do people really fall for this crap?

I used to own a Kitchenaid blender. It was a pretty simple model with a glass jar. I didn’t use it often, but it worked well enough when I did. Until it broke.

I’d bought one of those Magic Bullet blenders to use in my RV when I traveled. Because I didn’t replace the Kitchenaid, I started using it at home, too.

Magic Bullet
A Magic Bullet blender

A Magic Bullet is basically a blender base with two different blade assemblies and a bunch of plastic cups that the blade assemblies screw into. You fill a cup with what you want to blend, screw on the blade assembly, turn the whole thing upside down, and stick the bottom of the blade assembly into the blender base. When you push down and twist, the blender turns on.

Nowadays the “original” Magic Bullet comes with only a few cups and lids. But when I bought it, it came with about a dozen. I’m not sure why. They were a pain in the ass to store so I threw most of them away, keeping just one of each size. Ditto for the rings that turn the screw-top cups into smooth-top cups. (I’m not going to drink out of a plastic blender cup.) And the lids.

Let me be clear: the Magic Bullet is junk. It’s the same kind of disposable appliance so many Americans bring into their lives. Cheap and functional, but not exactly reliable. I knew mine would break and I knew I would throw it away. The only thing that surprised me is how long it lasted before it finally broke: maybe 8 years?

But it did break. And I was left blenderless.

Immersion Blender
My Braun immersion blender is part of a set that includes a chopper and whisk. I often use the whisk to make fresh whipped cream. I don’t think I’ve ever used the chopper. Maybe I should?

Well, that isn’t exactly true. I have one of those immersion blenders. It’s like a stick that you put blade side down into a pot of soup to puree it while it’s cooking. Mine’s a Braun and it works very well. I didn’t use it often until my Magic Bullet broke. Then I started using it to make smoothies. It got the job done — I’d just stick it into a big cup full of the ingredients and whir it until it was smooth — but I had to be careful if I didn’t want smoothie all over my kitchen.

Clearly, it was time for a replacement blender.

I mentioned it to my Facebook friends and the recommendations started coming in. Apparently, there are a lot of folks out there willing to pay in excess of $300 or $400 for a blender. I think they must use it a lot more than I do. I just wanted a small and functional kitchen appliance that I could store on a shelf in my pantry when not in use.

I was in Costco last month and saw that they had a Nutri Ninja, which another smoothie-making friend had mentioned. Yesterday, I went in to look for it. It was there, next to the $350+ Vitamix, selling for just $99. But it had a lot of parts — those damn blender cups — and I seemed to recall another model with fewer cups and a lower price. I found it hiding behind the Vitamix display for $69. Less parts, less money. I put it in my cart with the other things I’d come to Costco for.

Not the blender I thought I was buying, but I honestly don’t care.

It wasn’t until I got home that I discovered I’d bought another Magic Bullet.

What fooled me was the larger size and the prefix “Nutri” in the product name. It was a NutriBullet, not a Nutri Ninja. Sheesh. I really should pay attention when I shop.

Another person might have taken the damn thing back to Costco. But I honestly didn’t care. All I wanted was another cheap blender and that’s what I got. This one was bigger and beefier with bigger plastic cups than the old one. If I got 5 years out of it, I’d be happy.

The Cookbook
On the surface, this looks like a recipe book, right?

What surprised me, though, was the hard-covered book that came with it. On the surface, it looked like a cookbook. Later, when I went to bed, I took it with me to browse it before I went to sleep. It took only moments to realize what it really was: a piece of marketing material designed to fool people into thinking that they’d bought some kind of special nutrition machine that would make them healthier and help them lose weight like no regular blender could. After all, they’d bought a “nutrition extractor,” not a blender!

Nutrition Extractor!
“Nutrition extractor”? It’s a freaking blender.

Yes, the book had recipes, but it also had a lot of nutritional information about trendy “superfoods” like cacao nibs, organic chia seeds, organic goji berries, and organic maca powder. There were pages and pages about these “foods,” along with information on how you could order them from the NutriBullet website.

And the testimonials! Pages and pages of them from people praising the NutriBullet to high heaven. Here’s an example closing line for one that stretched two full pages:

It has touched my life in more ways than I can explain.

Seriously? A blender? You really need to get out more, Daniel.

I especially liked the recipes that required you to cook a bunch of ingredients, wait for the mix to cool, and then “extract” it in batches before reheating it again. News flash: an immersion blender like my Braun can do it without cooling the soup down, saving hours of food prep time.

In all honesty, I found the recipe book offensive. Cover to cover, it was full of marketing bullshit, touting the mostly imaginary benefits of a crappy blender. I couldn’t believe anything I read inside it and felt insulted that someone thought I might. And the stock photos of the attractive 60+ men and women enjoying their healthy lifestyle were a real turn off. Is this blender for old people?

It amazes me how low marketers will stoop to sell an inferior product.

Anyway, I’ve already tossed the book into my Goodwill box. Maybe someone more gullible than me will find it worth reading.

And yes, today I’ll give it a try. But I won’t be making a “nutriblast.” I’ll be making a good, old fashioned smoothie, just like I always have. And you can keep the goji berries.