A Day in the Life: LASIK Toast, (part 1)

eyechart barb revised

It’s July, 2001. Frustrated by your inability to wear bifocals as your arms become too short, you are unable to read without taking off your coca-cola bottle glasses. When you do, you hold whatever it is up to your eyeball, where you can read type as small as 2 points. That’s fine for a prescription bottle, but doesn’t bode well for reading your computer screen, a book, or magazine. After six different pair of no-line, with-line, whatever bifocals, you have pretty much given up. You’ll just have to get some reading glasses and start switching back and forth between distance and reading. You are blind without your glasses. By the time you are close enough to the mirror to see yourself, your nose is mashed against it. You must clean the mirror daily, or see yourself through a mass of oily smudges. You have greaseball skin, but on the up side, you also have no wrinkles.

Your co-worker brings you a newspaper with an advertisement for LASIK. “You could get your distance vision fixed and then just wear reading glasses.” That sounds like a good idea, and the price seems reasonable. After spending some time on the Internet researching LASIK, you decide to check it out. Everything you read extolls the virtues of refractive vision correction surgery. After a visit to the local co-managing optometrist, you schedule your appointment for “the procedure” at the clinic an hour and a half away. You have worn glasses nearly your entire life. What would it be like not to have to wear them? The ads all claim that you can throw away your glasses! Wouldn’t that be amazing?

At the clinic on the big day, they take your money and send you to the waiting room. The techs come to take you back into the equipment room to administer some tests. According to the test results, and despite your dry eye and very high myopia, you are a “good candidate.” They assure you that you will be “fine.” In time, you will come to loathe that four-letter word. They take you to an exam room, the walls of which are filled with diplomas and certificates, all designed to impress upon you the training and skill of your surgeon.

Finally, he appears. Oh, brother…he looks for all the world like Doogie Howser’s younger brother. You ask him how old he is. He’s 36, and he’s done thousands of procedures. Your antennae, already twitching, take it up a few notches. He confirms that you are a good candidate (which you later learn means that you have two eyes in your head and your check will clear the bank), and explains “the procedure.” You wonder why, if he’s a surgeon, they never call “the procedure” surgery. You ask him about your dry eyes. He reassures you that you will be “fine.” He takes you back to the room with all the testing equipment and does some further testing, as well as a cursory slit-lamp exam.

Back out in the waiting room, you are offered Valium and a 56-page informed consent. You refuse the Valium. The attendant explains that “none of this stuff ever happens” and that the consent form protects both patient and doctor. You must initial each point and sign each page at the bottom. You read every single point in that document; you think you understand it, you think you are familiar with starbursts and glare, and you’ve never heard of anyone having any of the other possible side effects listed. You initial and sign. Upon completion, you return the clipboard to the front desk, where you are now instructed to go through “that door” and have a seat.

After a few minutes, a tech comes in, dilates your eyes and leaves. There are several other people in that waiting room, and they are all excited about becoming glasses-free. They are also dopey from the Valium, which you refused because you have an adverse reaction to it. It occurs to you to wonder how they read and signed the consent form after having taken the drug. One by one, they are taken back to the “procedure room,” and finally it’s your turn. Doogie Jr. examines your eyes with the slit lamp once again. You are strapped in and prepped. You ask the surgeon, once again, if your dry eyes will be a problem, and once again, he assures you that you will be “fine.”

Did you know that burning cornea smells a lot like burning hair?

(to be continued)

Photo: http://i627.photobucket.com/albums/tt352/bumblepufff/sottise-en-quarantaine/hair-on-fire-225×350.jpg (Edit: photo appears to have been removed from this URL at some point.)

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About Peace Penguin

Just a penguin on the path to choosing peace.
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