This blog is reprinted from my Patch blog from August 9, 2011: http://patch.com/B-nQf
I vividly remember the day: 3rd grade, when an optometrist came to my school and gave me my first eye exam. She covered my left eye and I read the first two or three lines of random letters and numbers. After that it was blurry. Then she covered my right eye and I uttered the words that would change my life forever:
“Wasn’t that first thing an E?”
It turns out my left eye was legally blind, and suddenly I was subjected to glasses as thick as hockey pucks. I also wore a flesh-colored patch over my good eye, trying to train the nearly blind one (AKA lazy eye) to see. The only result that little exercise succeeded in accomplishing was my being branded as a nerd for life.
Glasses corrected my right eye to nearly 20/20, but my left eye was just good enough that I wouldn’t bump into large obstacles. As the years passed, both my eyes worsened. Uncorrected, I had a sweet spot of about four inches in front of my face in which I could focus clearly. Beyond that, it was like looking through the bottom of a murky pool.
Flash forward to four decades later. Last January, after wearing glasses for five years and painful gas permeable contact lenses for another 35 years (the more comfortable soft lenses weren’t strong enough to correct my stigmatism) I applied for a zero interest Credit Care card and like millions of other four-eyes, I got LASIK.
What everyone failed to tell me was how scary it was. My eyes were pried open with mini forceps while a laser sliced a flap out of my eye. I was trapped like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange, but instead of watching the freak show, I was the freak show.
They also didn’t tell me about the smell of burning when the laser actually vaporizes the eye tissue. And as much common sense as I thought I actually possessed, it didn’t really hit me that as soon as they’re done monkeying around with one eye, they move on to the next one.
With the help of the same little pill that probably knocked out Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, I slept all afternoon and all night, and woke up the next morning… unable to see. Distance wasn’t so bad, but my face in the mirror reminded me of the Twilight Zone episode “Eye of the Beholder” when the audience realizes it’s not the plastic surgery patient, but everyone else who is deformed (check it out – the reveal is at 2:51). I couldn’t recognize my own children from across a room, and I got into many embarrassing situations confusing one person for another (especially bad when you mistake a man for a woman or vice versa).
Unfortunately, I was one of those really bad cases that had to go for a second round of LASIK. I’ve now spent the past seven months wearing one pair of glasses to read, another pair to see the computer, and distance vision that has been in the general category of “not bad.”
Last Wednesday I went back to get my eyes re-grinded. Easy peasy. Apparently my doctor just needed to lift the flap that had been created in January and give my eyes a remodel. Unfortunately, recuperation turned out to be more painful than the last one. I woke up after a couple of hours and cried in agony. Not childbirth agony, but enough pain that I couldn’t champ it out without tears.
The waterworks returned the next morning when the slightest bit of light made me feel like a pill bug being burned alive by a boy with a magnifying glass. Every shade in my house was drawn, every light dimmed, and I had visions of the rest of my life as a shut-in, waiting for food deliveries and befriending Jehovah’s Witnesses who wandered on my front porch.
It’s now been nearly a week since my surgery, and I can finally see clearly. I’m still a bit sensitive to light, and I can see my computer best when it’s about three feet away. I’m over 40, so I already knew that reading glasses would be here to stay whether or not I had LASIK. But I can actually wake up and see what time it is without putting on glasses. And for the first time in my life, I have a genuine card that says I am able to drive without corrective lenses.
I know that big thing at the top of the reading chart is an E. But it’s such a pleasure to now recognize rows of random letters and numbers below that big E. And the only Patch I use today is the one this blog is on.