Saturday, June 12, 2010

Waking up from the dream

Yesterday afternoon I woke up from a dream I've been trapped in for ten long years. In this dream I would look across the room at a clock and not be able to tell what time it was or look at a TV and not be able to make sense of what I was seeing. That has all changed.

This dream, of course, is my poor eyesight and reliance on glasses to be able to read anything further than a foot away from me. I started wearing glasses in high school ( I think during my junior or senior year ) when Madeline, Katrina, and Stephanie kept harassing me about my squinting to read what was on the board in class. Since then, I've been wearing glasses or contacts every day.

A few months ago, I finally decided that I had had enough of it. I was tired of having to put on glasses first thing in the morning, just to be able to see myself clearly in the mirror; of having to clean my glasses every time I accidentally touched them and left a smudge; of worrying about losing or breaking my glasses and not being able to function until I got replacements. So, I decided to start looking into LASIK surgery.

So I did some reading and discovered that LASIK is expensive but not prohibitively so. I scheduled an appointment with my optometrist for a general check up and consultation about LASIK. He indicated that I was an "ideal candidate" for LASIK and recommended me to an ophthalmologic surgeon named Dr. Winthrop in Santa Barbara.

A few days later I went in to see Dr. Winthrop who confirmed that my eyes were perfect for the operation and outlined the procedure for me. I decided to have the procedure done and we agreed on a date one week in the future.

Yesterday was that day.

Since Dr. Winthrop's office is near Megan's office, the morning of the procedure I went into work with her and waited around her office until time for the procedure. At eleven, I went over to Dr. Winthrop's and began. After some standard administrivia, they gave me some Valium and took me into the surgery room.

During the surgery, you are laying on your back, looking up at an array of red and white lights, with one green light in the center. The surgeon tells you that your only job is to look at that green light.

The first part of the procedure is the most uncomfortable -- and the main reason they give Valium to their patients -- the surgeon uses a suction device to hold the eye in place and cuts a small "flap" in the cornea. Since the eye has been anesthetized it doesn't really hurt but it's a bit unnerving and uncomfortable. However, 15 to 20 seconds later that part is done.

The next part is simple for the patient -- and actually kind of fun. The surgeon pulls back the flap he's just created and the lights you're looking at become really blurry. Then, for the next 10 seconds or so, the laser does it's work -- you can't feel anything, but your eye is being reshaped. Then the surgeon puts the flap back and makes sure it's clean and smooth.

Then repeat for the next eye. The whole procedure takes less than 10 minutes.

Afterwards, I was carefully walked back into a dim room with a comfortable chair to await the doctor. The nurse gave me some Vicodin to help me relax and brought my wife  in to sit with me. After a few minutes the doctor came in, took a look at my eyes, gave me some eyedrops, and sent me home with instructions to keep my eyes closed and try to sleep for the next four hours.

So Megan took me home and I slept.

When she came back home a few hours later, I opened my eyes and could see almost completely normally again.

Today I drove myself into the doctor's office for a follow up exam without glasses and was quickly told that I have at least 20/20 vision again.

The metaphor of a dream I used to start this post may seem a little over-poetic but it's apt. That same feeling of a dream being hard to remember after you've been awake for a few minutes is about how I feel now -- my eyes see so normally now that it's almost hard to remember them being any other way.

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