Even when you can’t see very well, life goes on. You spend way too much time on the non-profit organization’s bulletin board, answering questions and posting comments. Your objectivity is more than just a bit unusual in that setting. Many of the members are extremely angry, anti-LASIK zealots who cannot understand how you can be so damaged physically, but be so happy otherwise. There’s a lot of drama there, which tends to make anyone unfamiliar with complications think you’re a bunch of loonies. No, you don’t think anyone did this to you on purpose. No, you don’t think all surgeons should be confined to small cages like animals. No, you don’t think all surgeons should be jailed or shot. Yes, it can be extremely depressing seeing all the misery posted in the course of a day. You try to encourage people to be pro-active about their situations, to hold their anger in check and not take it out on those who try to help you.
Nearly two years after your surgical debacle, you attend a support group meeting out of town, sponsored by the non-profit and a renowned cornea and dry eye specialist. You aren’t planning to go, but the organization’s founder persuades you to attend. There is a doctor who will make a presentation on contact lens design for post-LASIK patients that he wants you to meet. He pays for your flight and arranges for you to bunk with another out-of-towner.
It’s late in the evening; you and a few others in your group are at the airport awaiting the arrival of several participating doctors. While you all wait at some bar, your host goes off to find the first arrival. He returns with the guest in tow. A shade under average height, a bit overweight, with thinning hair, he has beautiful blue eyes that smile with the rest of his face. He’s the guy you’ve corresponded with for several months. You have never believed that things happen for a reason, but you know the instant you lay eyes on him that you are both supposed to be here now. He is a brilliant and compassionate clinician, who has already fit a number of patients with individually designed rigid gas permeable contact lenses, restoring much of their lost vision. The many hours he has spent answering questions online and providing information to patients reflect a passion for his work that bowls you over.
It’s nearly midnight when your little group of out-of-towners returns to the hotel. The doctors check in and then someone decides it would be a good idea to find a jazz club, listen to some music and get to know one another. Your doctor friend decides to come with you. You swap LASIK horror stories, pepper the doctor with questions, drink like fish, smoke cigars and finally, around 3:30, as the club is closing, you call for a cab to go back to the hotel. Everyone is supposed to meet in the lobby at 7:30am for the short walk to the meeting site. You are so wired from the excitement of the day that you can’t sleep. Around 5:30am, you finally doze off. You have never needed much sleep, usually just 3-4 hours a night, but you often stay up making jewelry or painting, getting even less. You function well enough on very little rest. Your roomie awakens at 7:00 with a killer hangover. You are already showered, dressed and ready to go by the time she drags her sorry ass out of bed.
Down in the lobby, the out-of-towners are strewn about on sofas and chairs, holding their heads and moaning. You feel great, despite the fact that your little inner Russian consumed a prodigious quantity of Stoli a few hours earlier. The site is no more than a few blocks from the hotel, but for the moaners and head holders, it may as well be a few miles. Your doctor friend has a thundering headache, brought on, he says, by new meds he has just started taking two days ago. Uh-huh. Progress is slow, but you arrive just in time for a light breakfast. The local participants straggle in and once everyone has had coffee, you go around the room and introduce yourselves. You are now able to put faces to the names you know from the bulletin board.
All of the presentations are informative and well-received. During the short mid-morning break, while you are chatting with your co-sponsor, the cornea and dry eye guy, he abruptly changes the subject to inform you that you are an “incomplete blinker.” This is the second time in two days you’ve heard that. Another doc mentioned it to you last night when he met you at the airport. You have no idea what it means, but you will ask your doctor friend about it over lunch.
The cornea and dry eye expert is the last presenter of the morning. He is so busy answering questions that no one notices when lunch is delivered. You are so impressed with his knowledge that you eventually return to him for treatment. (Patients often travel long distances at their own expense for help.) Your doctor friend joins you for lunch. His headache has not abated. You make sympathetic noises, discuss the morning sessions and ask him what it means to be an incomplete blinker. He explains that when you blink, probably unconsciously, you do not close your lids all the way, which prevents an even flow of tears over the eye and exacerbates any dry eye issues. You are sorry when lunch is over.
Presentations continue until 3:00, when most of the out-of-towners leave for the airport. You and your roomie are staying over. You have dinner together in the hotel restaurant, have a few drinks and talk for a few hours until it’s time to go to sleep. She checks out early in the morning. Around 9:00am, your host picks you up for breakfast. He’d like to talk to you about something, but he waits until after you’ve had your first sip of coffee, then springs it on you. In a nutshell, he’s burned out and wants to move on; he wants you and your new doctor friend to take over and run the non-profit. “So, what do you think of him? Isn’t he great? Do you think you two could work together? You would be president and he would be executive director…”
Choking on your coffee, you manage only to splutter, “DO WHAT?”
(to be continued)