June 23, 2007 at 12:22 pm
I think I found the most expensive way to lose a fraction of an ounce: LASIK surgery. That’s right y’all, I got my eyes zapped yesterday and I’ve never been happier to be several grand poorer. I’m sure I could have found a kid to shine a laser pointer in my eye for free, but fancy surgeons with high-powered lasers cost a bit more. Maybe I should get out a sharpie and append my t-shirt that says “Being this cute is exhausting” to say “Being this cute is exhausting …and expensive.”
I’m typing this on my computer without my glasses on and I can see just fine. I’m also trying to remember to blink frequently to keep my eyes lubricated. (blink) While I probably lost .001 of an ounce when they fried off parts of my eyes, the real benefit during my weigh-ins will come from losing my glasses which weigh one entire once. (blink) Between this, my gall bladder, and those wisdom teeth I had removed perhaps I should start handicapping my weight for you people who still have all of your original body parts. (blink. Okay enough blinking)
I started looking into LASIK a couple months ago, and it was the reason I ran into the German nurse who called me well-nourished. I didn’t mention my plans here because I didn’t want to hear horrible LASIK stories. I didn’t want someone to say, “No! Don’t do it! My aunt Lorraine had LASIK surgery and they accidentally transplanted her eyes to the back of her head!” I’m very sorry your aunt Lorraine now has to walk backwards and part her hair funny, but I don’t take serious medical advice from strangers on the Internet. Sure, I’ll consult you guys about why my knees hurt, but when it comes to the possibility of someone screwing with my vision, I keep tighter counsel. I asked friends for references (including a friend who works at a blindness prevention organization), did lots of research online about the procedure, and consulted with two different surgeons before making a decision.
I ended up going to Price Vision Group, which fortuitously enough is pretty close to where I live, though that’s not why I chose them. Some people in the waiting room had come from out of town and were staying in hotels. I suppose if you don’t live in a major metropolitan area you would have to travel to have the procedure done. I don’t know of any renowned surgeons who keep their lasers in the barn next to the strawberry patch. It was a pretty fun waiting room to be in since everyone was there by choice and was going to experience an improvement in the quality of their life. It wasn’t like other hospital waiting rooms where people tensely clasp Styrofoam cups of coffee waiting to learn if their loved ones will be okay. They had china coffee cups here. And cookies. I admit, I had a cookie, which I justified with the fact that I had to go home and take a five hour nap after the procedure. That cookie was lunch. And sooooo yummy. Good to know some of my cash was going towards quality bakery products.
It’s ironic that I spent hours upon hours researching and consulting about the procedure, but the whole thing only took about 15 minutes. I had a two-hour appointment several weeks beforehand where they tested every possible thing about my eyes – the thickness of my cornea, whether I could see the big E (I couldn’t), whether I had glaucoma, etc. For any ophthalmologists out there, my left eye needed -4.75 diopter correction and my right eye needed -5.5 correction. Plus, they both had astigmatism. That’s about 20/400 vision. Big E, what big E? After that I was scheduled for surgery. I came in Friday morning and the surgeon wanted to double check the astigmatism in my right eye. It made me feel good that he was being thorough. The test was a quick one where I looked through the vision machine while they flipped two different lenses back and forth asking which was better, “One or two? Three or four?” They got to five and six and I honestly couldn’t tell anymore and I told them so.
After that I waited in the waiting room reading a huge Reader’s Digest with large print for the visually impaired. That Hillary Swank is a tough chick, ain’t she? And did you know they are working on technology to zap fat cells with a laser so you can have liposuction without cutting the skin? As I was reading about the five ways to achieve what you want in life, a girl got called back, zapped, and walked out with a big old smile on her face, which again added to the happy-go-lucky feeling of the waiting room. I sure didn’t smile like that when I was waking up after having my gallstones removed. Honestly, I was just happy to wake up from that surgery without experiencing a pulmonary embolism.
I got called back about an hour and 15 minutes after I first arrived. I took off my glasses for the last time, handing them to my mother who got to watch the surgery on a closed-circuit camera feed in a private room. I was led back to back office area where they put some numbing drops in my eyes and a cap over my hair. The technician told me to keep my eyes closed so the drops wouldn’t dry out my eyes. He said this was because eye dryness could affect the procedure, but I had to wonder if this was a game the staff would play where they’d make funny faces at the patients while they sat with their eyes closed. He could have been waving his junk in front of me for all I knew.
I waited a little longer and heard a buzzing sound in the other room. “That is the laser burning off part of someone’s eye,” I thought. Then they led me to the room with the big honkin’ laser, or as I like to call it, “The Jesus Machine” because it gives sight to the blind. The LASIK procedure has two parts. First they cut a flap on both of your eyes. Then they peel back the flap, zap the underlying tissue to correct your vision and put the flap back. In the past they only made the flap with a blade called a microkeratone, but recently they’ve developed technology that makes the flap with a laser. There are pros and cons to both methods, but I opted to go with the laser.
I laid down on the table and they maneuvered the first machine, which makes the flap, over my head. I looked up at a ring of white lights that resembled an alien spaceship trying to land on my eye. I focused on the red light in the center while they put a suction device over my eye. Then my vision went completely blank. I literally could not see anything. The male technician started talking softly in my ear saying, “This laser doesn’t make any noise and will take about 30 seconds to make the flap.” Then a female technician said, “We’ve got good placement,” as if she were docking the space shuttle. Then the doctor said, “Okay.” With all these different voices in my head I realized this must be what it’s like to be schizophrenic. Thankfully none of the nurses were telling me to shoot Ronald Reagan. The male technician started counting down, “You’ve got about 20 seconds left….another 15…10…” on and on. I found myself relying on my Pilates breathing to keep myself calm. All those TurboKick classes and weight-lifting sessions had taught me to remember to breath under stress. In and out. In and out. Even though my instinct was to hold my breath to keep still, I knew it was better to breath so I could remain calm.
After that, I sat up and walked two steps across the room to the other laser that would fry part of my eye off. I laid down again, they put a pillow under my knees again, and put a blanket over me which made me feel somewhat safe and tucked in like a child. I then had to look up at a green light while the doctor put a speculum on my eye to keep me from blinking, like in A Clockwork Orange, minus any Beethoven playing in the background. I could tell when he was peeling back the flap because my vision looked like it’d been hijacked by a drunk camera man with a steady cam. Moving the flap distorted the way light went into my eye and made the lights appear to move. The green light first appeared like a pinpoint, but when my flap was flipped up it became more of a big blob. I stared at it while the laser turned on. This time I could hear it and more disturbingly smell it. The funny thing about the sense of smell is that you are actually inhaling particles of what you are smelling. I laid there thinking, “Right now I am snorting my eyeballs. And they smell like burning rubber.” Actually, I only thought that later because at the time I was thinking “Sweet Jesus, keep looking at the light! Don’t flinch! Don’t flinch! Breath! Aaaah!”
And then it was done. The doctor placed the flap back over my eye and smoothed it out. I sat up and I could see. There was a white haze over everything, like I was trapped in a fantasy land filled with white mist, but I could see, though I couldn’t see any fantasy unicorns skipping around. I had red blotches in my eyes from the suction cup used to make the flap which my surgeon called “eye hickeys.” My mom drove me home and I took a five hour nap. This was for the best because my eyes started to feel very irritated when the numbing agent wore off. I went through at least 8 tissues blowing my nose. My eyes were scratchy like my eyelids had been replaced with wool. I had to wear goggles during my nap so I didn’t accidentally rub my eyes when I woke up or bump them in my sleep. I took a sleeping pill, but I think it was more like a “napping” pill because it only knocked me out for four hours. Luckily by the time I woke up the pain was all gone and a lot of the fuzziness had cleared.
A day later I feel perfectly fine. I’m seeing slight halos around points of light, as if they were smeared with Vaseline to give off a glow. This is supposed to go away within the month as my eyes heal, which is good because I don’t want to confuse every headlight with a vision of the Virgin Mary. I’m going to get very good at using eye drops since I have to take both an anti-bacterial drop and a steroid drop that prevents inflammation four times daily for the next week. For a month after that I take a non-steroid drop that prevents inflammation four times daily. And on top of all that, I’m supposed to use non-preserved artificial tears four times daily for at least a month. When they made the flap in my eye it severed some of the nerves that tell my eyes to blink and to lubricate. They will grow back within a year, but in that time I need to be cautious to keep my eyes wet. I also need to be sure I blink while doing tasks where blinking naturally slows down, like reading and using a computer. (blink)
I went back this morning for a post-op check-up and they said my vision is really great. I’ve got 20/20. I go back again in a week and then in a month just to make sure everything is still okay. I can’t get water in my eye for a week, so I’m grateful I have curly hair which doesn’t really need to be shampooed every day. I can make do pointing the showerhead lower and keeping my eyes closed.
It’s so strange to stand back from the mirror and be able to see myself without my glasses on. I wore contacts one summer in high school, but decided I didn’t like sticking something in my eyes every day (though I have no problem with someone shining a laser in them). Other than that, I’ve only been able to look at my unadorned face extremely close-up. That was always a problem when I was shopping for glasses because I could only see what I looked like from 6-inches away, which was not how most people would see me. I’ve taken photos of myself without glasses before, but the 2-D image is not the same thing as a 3-D reflection. With my glasses gone it’s like a piece of my face is missing. I feel like my eyes are wider apart or my face is longer or something. But I’ll adjust and it is awesome being able to see. It’s like I’m wearing my glasses, only without wearing my glasses!
Now, if I can just find those cute tortoise-shell sunglasses I bought the summer I wore contacts. They must be in a box around here somewhere.