by Derek Hobson
If the eyes are a gateway to the soul, LASIK is Saint Peter.
Having sight with clarity and color is a lot like dropping 25 pounds in a night, not that I’ve ever done the latter, but imagine the scenario — you would have no immediate complaints and wonder how long it would last.
I am an eternal skeptic and LASIK was just one of many things I didn’t know how to believe or trust.
Long ago I stopped reading the fine print on papers, terms & agreements, and surgeries. Some of you may judge me for this, but at the end of the day, there are no negotiations with paperwork. If you want itunes, you must agree; if you want to work here, you must agree; if you want this surgery, you must agree.
At a certain point, I say, “I want this,” so I sign away.
Plus, the contents are basically the same: procedure, side-effects, no promise of the product actually working, all surrounding a vague plea of “don’t sue.”
Before I continue, is LASIK worth it?
Absolutely! It’s changed my world and not just because I can finally read the street signs my GPS is always going on about. Facial nuances; cars in my periphery; subtitles in foreign films. I can stand at the end of a grocery aisle and know what’s in stock without zigzagging up and down like an epic game of snake. To say that LASIK is life changing would be an understatement.
You’re receiving the 411 from someone who never got into the habit of closing eyeglasses in a case. The permanent scratches were only paralleled by the consistent smudges and the radiant light that bounces off of anything remotely luminous.
Why not contacts?
I tried, really, I did, but touching my eye has always been a problem. I remember vividly being with the optometrist for hours. They eventually had to give up on me and help others while I sat at one of their desks in front of a mirror, trying to put this contact in.
When I finally did get it—an hour later at home—I’d put it in backwards and then spent another hour or two trying to get it out. I don’t do the eye-touching. No. No.
I love LASIK for a great many number of reasons, but this is a first-hand account and you’re going to hear why it was also the single most uncomfortable procedure I have ever undergone.
Let’s fast track to the day of the surgery. I am prepared, I am tired—no caffeine the day of. They run me through each machine once again—just to be safe. They sit me down in front of a machine I’ve come to know very well in all my optometry visits. They slide/flip through the magnifiers:
“Which is better, 1 or 2… 1 or 2… this, or this.”
Except this time, when alls said and done, they say,
“Great, these will be the eyes I’ll give you.”
I’m offered vicodin, but turn it down, then xanex and oblige—gotta give ‘em something.
I’m nervous enough to puke. I’m walked from the familiar room to the surgery room. Gigantic laser machine to my left, but there’s no time to gawk, I’m handed a teddy bear, seemingly for “love,” as the assistant tells me.
Tells me repeatedly. Again and again. We could all use a little love, she says. I don’t know if she wants the big cheeses’ job or what, but this bedside manner is borderline Hannibal Lecter.
She also backs up several times after referring to the teddy bear as a boy.
“Girl! I’m sorry, girl! Just pretend she’s a girl.”
I understand the need to not make any homophobic comments, but really, homophobic bear comments? Don’t back up, the bear can be a boy, you won’t be sued by the gay bear lovers of the world.
She lays me down in that lounge chair that a psychiatric patient may be subjected too. She tells me she needs to put some numbing drops in my eye. Sure, but be forewarned, I’m not good with stuff going into my eyes. She opens my eye, but I keep slamming it shut. I don’t want to, I want the numbing drops. I don’t want to feel a thing, but I can’t keep my eyes open. Every time I strain to open my eyes wider, my eyebrows rise and my head lifts off the table. She jokes, but it’s clear she’s losing her patience. She stretches my eyelids wide and squirts half a bottle in the vicinity—with the remaining fluids, she empties the bottle into my other eye.
“Close your eyes, let them soak in.”
It stings and the light is keeping me from opening my eyes at all. They ask my permission to wheel me under the laser; of course I grit my teeth and say yes. I can feel the platform moving under the laser and my stomach starts churning. Maybe it’s from taking a Xanex on an empty stomach, but now the laser is overhead, mocking me like mistletoe at the school dance.
I haven’t opened my eyes, in fact, they told me I’d see gray and that’s all I can see with them closed. Maybe the drops already took effect and I’m seeing gray and they’re working on my eyes as we speak. Or I’m wishful thinking, but how great would it be if it wasn’t wishful thinking.
I guess I thought I would be sitting upright in a chair for this. My only knowledge was restricted to A Clockwork Orange, and who doesn’t want to live out that fantasy?
Now, the doc is in and they need to tape my eyes open.
Once taped, they squirt more bottles of numbing solution in my eyes, I want to blink but can’t. The lights are blazing overhead. She puts a shield on my left eye, very nice and comfortable, but here comes satan.
“You’re going to feel some pressure.”
Got it, sure. What pressure?
A large metal device, like a cross between an eyelash curler and a vaginal speculum nears my right eye.
Great, a cornea pap smear.
There’s not just pressure, there’s shaking and throbbing—no pain—but enough pressure to make me wonder what’s going on.
“Sorry, your eyes are pretty deep set.”
I feel the device cranking and air is wafting into my eyes, followed by more drops. What is happening? No more drops, please. Where is teddy? Oh, that’s his neck. His body is squelching between my fingers. This may just be the first bear invertebrate.
“Okay, now you’re going to feel a little bit more pressure.”
What? Why? I thought we were done with the pressure?
“Derek, I need you to look up at the light.”
God? You heard my prayers! I know I haven’t asked for your help since the hangover of 08’ – thanks for the recovery by the way – but I could really use a hand here. See, I’m starting to feel nauseated and I don’t want to puke while they’re slicing my eye open. Do you see my predicament.
“Derek, keep looking at the light.”
Okay, a little more pushy, I get it. I’m not on “the” path, but let’s face it, do you really want my legacy on that front? I mean you’ve let some questionable people go, and I’m certainly… oh? The bear? Yes, I suppose I killed him. I have nothing against bears. What do you mean he’s gay?
Now the magnifying glass comes down on my cornea and I can’t look anywhere else. But you know when you’re a youngin’ – or an oldin’ – and you suddenly wet the bed?
You don’t know at first, because you’re in your dream. You’re saving the world, or talking to grandma about why your hands have turned into watermelons. She doesn’t understand, she wants to know what you’re doing with your life, and you just want to tell her you have watermelons for hands. Grandpa turned into a giraffe, but no one called him out on it. But then you’re in your jeep, off-roading, because somewhere along the conversation with grandma, time was moving forward but you weren’t paying attention, and your friends tell you to take a portal back in time. You’ll be right there but you have to pee in the urinal by the payphone. So you pee in the urinal…
Ah… that feels nice. What? Why am I in bed? Oh… oh it’s moist. Ah, nuh, nah… ah…
That feeling. Yes, of bleeding warmly into dry area. That’s your cornea, peeing in your bed.
“Okay, Derek, now I’m lifting the cornea. You’re going to see gray.”
And then it’s gone. All vision in the right eye is gone.
“Keep looking at the light.”
Hah! No problem! I can’t see a thing,
“Alright, now it’ll just be 25 seconds.”
25 seconds for my eyeball to be corrected with a laser, and I just have to stare at the light. Fine. Good. I can do that. I’ll just stare and not think about the fact that my eye is open right now. Not thinking about my cornea being totally exposed to a laser. Just stare. Just stare. Homo-bear?
“Dat’s me, ya, mhm.”
I was wondering if you’ve seen my eye.
“Nope, nah, nuh-uh. Uh, wait. Yeah. No.”
“Well there’s this goopy thing flipped open on your—HMPH!!”
That’s enough outta the bear.
The laser rattles like one of those guns that a boy might buy from Toys R’ Us. The kind that, when you click the trigger, sparks shine inside and a mini motor makes it sound like a bicycle with the jack of hearts in its wheel.
I honestly don’t feel a thing, no pressure even.
Then it’s over.
“Alright, I’m just going to put your cornea back on now.”
Then you watch as a metal pick-like device—the kind you’re treated with in a dentist’s chair—comes into view and it seemingly slides over your eyeball, scraping layers back into place. Everything’s a little bit blurry and a lotta bit lighter.
Great. I held down chunks, and got the right eye done. Left eye will be a cake walk, right?
Fast-track, we’re getting a visit from the cornea pap smear, and this eye is even more stubborn. Loads of pressure, but here comes the magnifying glass, now come Derek, we’re almost through this.
“Keep your eye on the laser, Derek.”
She said my name, am I doing something wrong?
“Keep your eye on the laser.”
She sounds a little disheartened, should I be worried? My eye just vibrated like a game controller, are we good?
She’s swabbing me with a red sponge, weird, my eyes must be watering pretty badly. Oh here comes a white sponge! I can’t even feel it on my eye…
Why is it red now?
Oh no. Why does it feel like my cornea already wet the bed? No, no, I wasn’t even dreaming yet, why is my cornea wetting the bed? What?! Come on! I just held down chunks? Where’s the vicodin, forget the Xanex!
Oh, it’s gray now. Great. Now you censor the gore, wait, that means my cornea’s gone. Where is my cornea? Did my cornea pop off? Hey… hey lady! Hey!
“This’ll take 28 seconds.”
Why longer? My last eye only took 25 and it had a stigmatism. Is it cus you lost the cornea. If it were dire, you’d tell me right? RIGHT?! Don’t hold out on me. I can’t make it that long. Count woman, count! BEAR?
“Keep your eye on the light.”
I see it, I see it! Christ! Ugh! This would be easier with a mouth guard, something to bite on. Where’s homo-bear?
Likely dead. I am all alone here.
“Keep your eye on the light.”
Where else could I be looking?! I can’t see anything!
“And we’re done.”
We are? Thank God. Get this light off of me.
Oddly, the scraping of my cornea layers back on is soothing.
And that’s about it.
They strap eye shields to your face so you don’t mess with the healing process and you tear out all those drops.
Good God, my eyes burned immensely when I got home because I napped on my back, letting those drops really soak in. Take my advice, sleep initially on your stomach and tear those drops out because they will burn.
Then it’s wear some shades for a few days, put in drops 4 times daily, and you’re good.
My world is bright, and colorful, and full of clarity!
Was it worth it? Hell yes, but thank God, I never have to do it again.
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