Eyeball Adventures

Right, so after my last post, I’d better give you the story of my Lasik experience.

Squeamish people be warned – the following contains “eyeball” “slice” and “peel” used in the same sentence.

I’d been wearing glasses since I was 17. When I first got them I only used them for distance viewing – in the classroom, watching movies, driving, etc. But as I got older, my vision worsened and by the turn of the century I was wearing them all the time.

In 2000 I got contact lenses, which was fun for about a year but then I quit my job and didn’t have the necessary funds to keep myself in the contact lens habit, and besides, they were kind of annoying to use, so I went back to wearing glasses.

But I’d always been curious about laser surgery. About five people at work have had it done and it seems to have worked well for them, so I decided that it would be kind of nice to experience the world sans lenses before I get so old I need glasses for reading. Robyn says no to bifocals.

So I went along to the Eye Institute for a free consultation. They did a series of tests to determine if I was a suitable candidate for Lasik. As well as a standard vision test, I got to do things like start at a series of black and white rings and a distant image of a tree in front of Fujiyama, which was a somewhat groovy way of measuring the contours and thickness of my cornea, man.

It was determined that I had the right hand of vision impairment and a nice thick cornea, just right for Lasik, so I booked in a time.

The only pre-op instructions I had were to not wear any eye make-up (as a non-practising goth, I found this somewhat upsetting), and to eat a light meal before as I would be given a sedative.

So I showed up at the surgery and was ushered into the waiting room, which I prefer to think of as the Zen room, as it had a sort of posh minimalism, with nice comfortable chairs… and a model of a human eye.

A nurse a came in and put some protective bootie things over my shoes and gave me two codalgin and one diazepam, which are known on the street as Panadeine and Valium. Rockin’.

I was ushered into an anteroom and sat in a lush armchair where a series of eyedrops were administered. From memory, they were an anaesthetic, an antibiotic and iodine. I found that rather unpleasant. I tried to open my eyes, but everything was yellow from the iodine.

Then I was led into the operating theatre and lay down on the operating table. I was given a stuffed animal dog thing to hold and the nurse also held my hand. So then it started.

My right eye was taped shut and my left eyelids were taped down and a speculum was inserted to keep my eyelids open. I did not want my eyelids to be open. I wanted screw up my eyes tightly. Reading other people’s accounts of Lasik, most people compare this part with that scene from “A Clockwork Orange”. This is a completely fair comparison.

Then the vacuum device hovered over my eye, was lowered down and suction applied. Then everything went dark. This was because the slicer thing was at that point a-slicin’ the top of my cornea. It was at this point that I realised that no matter what Valium is supposed to do, I was freaking out a bit. My heart was beating fast and it took a lot of Zen mindpower to not, like, totally freak out.

Fortunately the cutting was over soon. I then enjoyed the unusual sight of seeing the top of my eye peeled back – the red light above me turned into a scattered red blur. Then I was instructed to look at the red light and so i did as the laser ate away bits of my cornea. Then the doctor wiped away the bits off my cornea, which was not unlike being in a car and having someone clean the windscreen with a squeegee. Then the cornea flap was put back on top, the speculum was taken out and I could blissfully close my eye.

It was time for the second eye. As I lay there, possibly sedated, possibly not, I remember thinking how glad I was that humans only had two eyes, because I wouldn’t want to go through that again with another eye.

The process sucked just as much as it did the first time, only I knew how much it would suck, so that probably made it worse.

With the Lasik done, they asked me to look at a clock on the wall and say what the time was, but I couldn’t remember how to tell time properly, so I just said, “It’s… uh, 10 to…” but that was all right.

Then I was led into another room where I had to wait for 30 minutes. Mum came in and I told her about the procedure while she told me about how the small town in she and Dad had visited in Tasmania at New Year, where the dog had pissed on the table as they ate lunch outside, was the town where the miners had been trapped.

After half an hour, the doctor came back checked my eyes out and put two adhesive goggle-like eye protectors on. And I could go home. The goggles distorted my vision, but when I looked through the gaps by my nose, everything looked normal and clear.

Lots of people talk about wanting to go to sleep as soon as they get home, but even when I was in bed, in my pyjamas, I couldn’t get to sleep. My left eye felt normal but the right eye felt irritated. I took some more Panadeine and soon my right eye felt OK.

I amused myself by listening to (but not watching) some comedy DVDs I’d chosen for not them relying on much visual humour. I was planning on downloading some podcasts, but I’d used up all my bandwidth for the month.

I had some dinner and eventually decided to go to sleep at about my normal bedtime. I took a second Valium they’d given me and feel asleep quickly.

When I woke up the next morning, I discovered that my face was a little bit swollen, but my eyes felt all right.

At the follow-up appointment, the doctor took the goggles off and did a standard eye test. I could read the bottom line of a chart perfectly with my left eye and it was a tiny bit blurry with my right eye.

I was expecting that that day would be a write-off, and that I’d probably have to spend it in bed listening to more DVDs, but I was surprised at how sprightly I felt. Mum drove me up One Tree Hill and I marvelled at how sharp and clear (albeit rainy and misty) Onehunga looked.

I knew my eyesight was good when I was able to read a number plate frame that said “Unless you’re haemorrhoids, get off my arse.” The visual beauty and splendour of the world was mine!

I spend the weekend recovering at my parents’ place. Once I had to have a little nap, but largely it was business as usual.

Back at work on Monday, I found my eyes would get quite dry and tired in the office environment, but eye drops and frequent rests helped.

I keep expecting to be wearing glasses. I routinely go to push slipped glasses back up my nose or want to take them off if I’m putting on a top.

Last weekend I enjoyed the novelty of going to the movies and being able to see the whole screen no matter what angle my head was at, rather than having to hold it so the area of my glasses lined up with the screen. And recent rainy weather has meant I can walk down the street without droplets messing up my vision.

I feel strangely normal now.

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