One more post from way back when - a recounting of my adventures getting (the first of three) lasik surgery to correct my hideously bad eyesight. The squeamish should bow out now, I think.
Ok, so I'm back, have slept off the worst of the valium, and am ready to tell my tale, for those of you who have strong enough stomachs to read any further. Here's how my day went:
9:15 am - suffered power blackout at work; since I work in a lab where the loss of ventilation can be hazardous, all of us trooped over to the cafeteria to hang out. Nothing better than time to sit around with nothing to do right before surgery, so you can dwell on exactly how scared you are. Contemplated the possiblity that the power wouldn't come on in the next hour or so, which would cause the plant manager to send first shift home early for the day, which would mean that I could save 1/2 a vacation day. That was the bright spot of the morning.
10:55 am - power restored, first shift had to stay. Darn it!
11am - bid farewell to coworkers ("See you Monday . . . hopefully!). Felt sense of elation that in a few hours, I'll be able to stop worrying about the damn procedure. Thought about taking my safety glasses with me in the car so I could pitch them out the window on my way home after the surgery, but decided that littering wasn't the best idea.
11:15am - choked down a light lunch at Subway. Contemplated which toppings would look best if circumstances caused me to regurgitate them all over the laser technician. Fretted.
11:55am - arrived at doctor's office. There were only two cars in the parking lot, a parking lot that is usually full. Is the place closed? Has he been sued for malpractice? Or are they just slow because of the lunch hour? Remembered to bring inside the bag of pre-surgery stress reducers I've gathered (stone I use to keep my hands occupied instead of biting my fingernails; photos of loved ones; handkerchief from my grandmother who breezed through several cataract surgeries with no difficultes, and whose estate made the surgery financially possible for me; plastic baggie and napkins to use in case of nausea).
12pm - signed in. Signed disclaimer that boiled down to "anything that goes wrong ain't the doctor's fault." Took 10mg valium. Tried to read engaging book to keep my mind off of impending procedure (
i O is for Outlaw;
very good book so far). Held husband's hand. Fretted.
12:15 pm - young woman who just arrived is scheduled for the surgery slot after mine. She looked calm and ready to go. And skinny. Wished fervently that I was more like her, or at least looked that good in overalls.
12:30 pm - assistant came to prep me for surgery. "I'm supposed to be feeling less anxious, right, because that isn't happening yet." "We'll get you prepped and get you another pill."
12:40 pm - Began crying. Just a little. Reassured by assistant, who had laser surgery herself, that everything will be fine, but I don't have to continue if I don't want to. Gulped down another 1/2 a valium, preying for some dopiness to start soon. Eye area was swabbed with betadine solution, and I had to put on a little blue shower cap to keep my hair out of the way.
12:50 pm - Waited in small waiting room for doctor to arrive. Assistant stopped by every few minutes to make sure I was feeling ok, which interfered with my stress-reducing yoga breathing techniques. Panic was still there, but manageable.
1:10 pm - Doctor is here, ready to go.
* Sit in something like a dentist's chair, only it tilts so far back that you feel like you're going to slide off headfirst onto the floor. Head was positioned just so, then held in place with an inflatable donut-shaped pillow. They moved the laser in place over my eye, and the focusing ring around the outside was so bright I could barely look at it.
* They put a patch over my left eye. Had to stare at the light while they attached a suction ring to my right eye. This caused me to lose all vision in that eye, which was probably a blessing, but it was really uncomfortable - like someone pushing fairly hard on your eye with their knuckle. The keratome (translation - knife) attached to the suction ring, and after a few seconds of vibration, the flap was cut. They removed the suction ring, and I breathed for the first time in several minutes, or at least that's how it seemed. Probably would have been impossible at that time to pry the lucky stone out of my hand.
* Also luckily, with the flap cut I couldn't really see what was going on too well. First they attached a speculum to my eyelids to keep them open. Then they flipped back the flap, made sure everything was ready, and started up the laser. The trick to the laser is that you have to look right at that super-bright area (with a pulsing red light in the middle; that's the actual laser) without moving your eye, or it gets all screwed up. Unfortunately, to me it looked like the damn target light was moving, so I kept trying to follow it with my eye. Luckily the doctor has a view of the whole thing, and every time my eye started to wander, he'd flip off the laser. After the fourth or fifth time that happened, he was probably getting a little annoyed. Meanwhile, the laser technician was counting down how many seconds I had left to go. Longest 48 seconds ever recorded in the history of mankind.
* Once the laser was done, they flipped the flap back in place and used some sort of spatula or brush or something to smooth it back into place. Thanks to the negative pressure in your eye, there are no stitches necessary to hold the flap back in place. Then I had to sit there with the speculum holding open my right eye (so the flap could get nicely dried and stuck down before I blinked) while they started on my left eye.
* So the right eye was bad, but the left eye was even scarier, since I knew exactly what was coming. The suction hurt worse on that eye - was bordering on pain, instead of just being uncomfortable. I'm hoping that whimpering uncontrollably doesn't mean that I wasn't brave, since I made it through the whole procedure for that eye, too. Of course, I may be picking rock fragments out of my hands for a few days, but hey - at least there was not vomiting!
* After the left eye was done, they put some drops in my right eye, then took out the speculum. Then I had to wait for another few minutes with the speculum still attached to my left eye (and it pinched!) while the doctor and technicians made small talk. Then they put in the drops, took the appliances off, and damned if I couldn't see! Well, I could see pretty well until they taped some clear eyepatches over my eyes to keep me from scratching at them overnight - they blur things a little bit.
1:30 pm - All done, including the post-operative counseling to let me know what types of pain and/or problems are bad enough for me to call the doctor at home and drag him with me to the hospital. Arrived in the lobby, triumphant, and looking unbearably stupid with both eyes tremendously bloodshot from the suction