Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Bringing light to the Dark Ages

How old is cataract surgery? Twenty years? Thirty years? Actually, a form of cataract surgery was being performed over a thousand years ago!
[Warning! This post is not for the faint-hearted!]
It was in India during the eighth and ninth centuries, that special practitioners of the art of cataract removal wandered the highways of the subcontinent. The only thing that differentiated them from all the other indigent travellers was their extra long thumbnails. When they came to a town, they would advertise the fact that they could cure blindness. In those days, the major cause of blindness would be cataracts. Very very mature cataracts.
The healer would settle his vict...er...patient down, probably say something like, " Now this might sting a bit," before plunging his sharp thumbnails through the patient's corneas, and pushing the hardened, opaque lenses through the posterior capsule and into the vitreous, where they would fall to the bottom of the eye, out of the line of sight.
Once the screaming had subsided, the patient would eventually open his eyes, and for the first time in years, be able to see again. The vision would be blurred of course, but it would still be a definite improvement. The healer would receive his fee and then depart as quickly as he could without causing suspicion.
Now thumbnails are not the most hygienic of surgical instruments. Introducing them to the inside of the eyeball is never a good idea. It wouldn't take long for a raging infection to set in to the eyes, and the darkness would return permanently. By this time, the healer would be long gone with his money, and out of the reach of retribution.

8 comments:

Rhea said...

Oh, my god. That was awful! At least give the patient a glass of bourbon ahead of time.

JanieBelle said...

I'm sure I'd rather be blind...

Interrobang said...

That's very revolting.

Where did you find the charming anecdote?

Deacon Barry said...

It's part of the lore that we ophthalmic nurses pick-up during training. I had discovered that cataract operations dated back to that time, and was remarking on it to my mentor. She filled me in on the down side of the procedure.

JanieBelle said...

"Cross my heart and hope to die,
Stick some Indian guy's fingernail...

nevermind, just let me die."

:)

Julie McAnulty said...

Agggh!

I went to "Ask Andy" last week at Easterhouse Health Community centre (Andy being the Health Minister) and I managed to poke myself in the eye with a pair of tweezers before I went. I was in agony by the time I got there. Thankfully Andy did not poke me in the eye, even though I and a doughty nurse had a go at him about Monklands..

Julie

Deacon Barry said...

Ouch! I hope you didn't give yourself an abrasion.

Mother Jones RN said...

Thank you for that charming story. I'm sure I'll have nightmares tonight:-)

MJ