Cataract Surgery: Peggy’s Road to Better Vision

Eye Care
“Change is frightening for everyone but when you get older, even the smallest changes in life can feel like milestones.”

Peggy Arseneau, 72, of Sauk Rapids, knew her eyesight was gradually getting worse, but she was afraid to tell anyone.

“I am careful with what I say in case they’d tell me I was going blind — the terrible ‘B’ word,” said Peggy. “Or that I couldn’t drive my car, go to work, volunteer or be with my friends and grandkids. Or, they’d have me move out of my apartment or give me one more pill — and I don’t want to do that anymore.” So, Peggy did her best to hide her trouble.

When at youth sporting events, she’d need someone to point out her grandkids. “My son would say, ‘She’s number 18, right there in front of you,’” said Peggy. “I couldn’t see an 18, but I can’t tell him that. I’m sure I was looking the wrong way — someone could do a whole comedy show on me trying to see.”

It was Peggy’s family’s sense of humor that prompted her to act. Calling herself the “driving granny,” Peggy said she loves being with her grandkids and driving them anywhere. However, her grandkids started to make comments about her driving. One day she hit a chunk of ice and she thought it was a minor mishap. Back at home, the grandkids told everyone how grandma hit an iceberg and they felt like they were on the Titanic.

“I can take a joke about myself a hundred times, but they kept bringing it up every time we were together, saying ‘don’t ride with grandma,’” said Peggy. “After a while I started to pay attention. They might be kidding but there’s a hint of truth in there.”

Peggy soon realized that others weren’t preventing her from doing what she loved — she was starting to do that on her own, like driving at night. “That was the scary thing. I was almost willing to just not drive at all, stay at home and not tell anyone.” She decided to speak up at her next health physical.

This decision gave her a new lease on life. Her doctor referred her to CentraCare Eye Center. Peggy learned that she was legally blind in her left eye due to cataracts and her other eye was bad, too. Cataracts form when proteins in the eye break down, causing the lens to get cloudy. Fortunately, they can be corrected with a routine outpatient surgery.

Still, Peggy admits she was scared and not cooperative, nearly canceling the surgery twice. “Change is frightening for everyone but when you get older, even the smallest changes in life can feel like milestones,” said Peggy, who was mostly afraid the surgery could impair her good eye, leaving her without the ability to see at all.

Peggy talked through her fears with an ophthalmologist. She said he was consoling and confident, gently telling her that her problem was fixable, but the decision was up to her. In the end, she scheduled the surgery for her left eye.

“Even when I was bucking the system, everyone at CentraCare Eye Center was so good to me,” said Peggy. “It was amazing. My eye surgeon absolutely came through with everything he said he was going to do. It didn’t hurt and I felt no pain. For the second eye, I didn’t mess around — I scheduled it for the following week.”

For Peggy, her cataract results were immediate and unbelievable. “On my way home after the surgery, I was going, oh my gosh, that house is green? Are you kidding me? It was unreal!” She loves that she can once again see the faces of customers at her job at a local convenience store. “It got to the point where the blurriness wouldn’t allow me to recognize faces, even if I knew someone for 25 years,” said Peggy. “I had to listen for a voice to recognize the person. And my attitude at work is different too. When your eyes are bad, you're squinting and your face is all pinched up, so you don't look friendly. Now I can look people in the eye and react with them. I missed that because I like people.”

For Peggy, she’s regrets the two years missed with her grandkids, but she doesn’t miss a second now, even when they still chide her about her car. Recently she thought her brakes were going out, so a grandson checked under her car. He told her, “Grandma, I got good news for you. Your car brakes look good, and there are no bodies under there. It’s just some ice buildup and your driving is 100% better!”