Sunday, December 9, 2007
Was blind, but now I see.
On Friday, I put my eyes in Dr. Jesse Hunsaker's hands, and after 10 minutes in an operating room, my eyes could see better on their own than I can remember ever seeing in my entire life.
Three years ago, an eye doctor back home said my prescription for my glasses and contacts had finally stabilized and that I could be a good candidate for LASIK. I wasn't very old, so I didn't think very much of it. I had a pretty long history of poor vision. I have no recollection of seeing perfectly or even well on my own. I was a smart little kid, so I did a good job of getting through kindergarten and part of first grade without letting on that I was blind as a bat. Finally, one night we were watching TV as a family, and my mom, from the other room, asked what channel we were watching (brand new cable, so we're talking at least 20 channels, pretty impressive). I stood up, walked over to the cable box, arranged myself on the floor directly in front of it, and waited for my eyes to focus. The next week, I got my first pair of tortoise-shell, wire-rim glasses. You know the kind, with the little bar running straight between the tops of the two lenses. Very chic.
Later, in middle school, after years of hideous huge glasses, I got contact lenses, which I got used to very quickly and loved right away. About the same time, glasses technology changed, and they could shape lenses in such a way that they appear less thick from the sides. My beef is that my glasses still distort the shape of my face. I'm very nearsighted (although much improved from when I was younger and required bifocals), so my glasses make the sides of my face pull in and my eyes appear smaller. Not so cute.
Now in college, they've developed contact lenses that you can leave in for days at a time, and I loved those as well. Still, contacts tear. They fall out. They get itchy and irritating. I can't run around and play in glasses. Mine are too big anyway and fall off. So I went to talk to the good people at the Excel Eye Center. They took my measurements, confirmed that my -7.50 prescription was 20/20 for me, and set me up with a procedure date three weeks out. Three weeks of torture. I discovered that I liked those glasses, that my vision issues were manageable. Many have much worse vision than I do and get by just fine without LASIK. Was this a vanity thing? I got a discount because of my student insurance, but was this still ridiculous? I could lose my eye if things went wrong.
It's also dumb, but I felt I had three different visions. One without any correction, my "home base" of sorts. Old faithful. Then my vision with contacts, which was correct vision, including peripheral vision, with a somewhat magnified twist. Everything looked a little bigger with my contacts in than without. And then I had my vision with my glasses. No corrected peripheral vision, but everything is a little bit smaller. Which means I look a little bit daintier, which I always liked. So I worried about which "vision" I'd have after LASIK.
To my delight, I have a fourth vision. I never knew that both glasses and contacts change the quality of the image I see. Even to subtleties of color and crispness. My distance vision has never been this good, and it's getting better by the hour.
Anyway, back to the surgery, I got to the Excel Eye Center in Provo, on a rainy Friday morning with my mom in tow. I was so nervous. They took a bunch more measurements from me, and everyone was extremely friendly and supportive, although professional at the same time. The place was immaculate and well-ordered. They had a live-feed of the surgeries happening before mine, these big eyeballs on a TV screen. I couldn't watch. Normally, I'd be totally in to it. But knowing my eyes were going to be poked and prodded, I couldn't look. I asked my mom, "Am I doing the right thing?" She has been wanting this for me for a long time. "Yes, this is definitely the right thing." While I was in the room getting scans done of my eyes, they told my mom that they didn't often get to work with people as nearsighted as me, and that this would change my life in ways I couldn't understand until it was over.
They were right. They called my name, gave me a hair net thing and shoe covers and took my glasses. "Won't need those ever again." My heart started to pound at that point. The assistant prepped my eyes with an iodine rub and eye drops, and laughed and joked with me to help me stay calm. I went into the operating room after squeezing my mom's hand, and was set up on basically a reclined dentist's chair looking deal. "Would you like to hold a football or a bunny?" Without a seconds delay, I answered, "A bunny, please." Even laying down, I felt so nervous. I knew I could still say that I changed my mind, but it was all set up. I was terrified. They knew I was, so it was one big cheerleading fest in there.
For the faint of heart, I won't go into the details of the surgery, although I've got the whole thing on tape if anyone wants to see it. Afterwards, after losing my vision during the cuts, watching it get even dimmer with the flaps lifting and shutting, I was hoisted up to me feet and told I was all done. I looked around, just stunned. I couldn't say a word. Then I looked out the door and saw my mom. "Mommy, I can see you!" I started to bawl. I was so overwhelmed. It had been such an emotional rollercoaster for me to decide to go through with this. So I just cried and cried and hugged everyone I could find who had helped me. I have always depended on glasses or contacts just to survive. It was scary for me to give up that crutch. And my vision wasn't 20/20 the second I walked out of the operating room, but I would have been satisfied with what it was, it was such an improvement. Later that afternoon, they took off my eye guards and tested my vision. 20/25! I got the nickname "Eagle Eye" because rarely do people as nearsighted as me heal that quickly.
I'm still a little sensitive to bright light, but all things considered, I'm amazed. What a miracle! Now I think everyone should get LASIK. It's hard to imagine improving on my experience. I would do it over again in a heartbeat!