Eyes Re-re-revisited

by Christopher Paul on May 22, 2006

Warning: Geek Alert Ahead!

To quote Han Solo in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi: I think my eyes are getting better. Instead of a big dark blur, I see a big light blur.

And with that, I can say that I got the laser surgery done on my eyes. And true to the quote, my eyes haven’t regained all their focus yet. Its getting better all the time and this morning, the doctor took out the bandage in my right eye. The left eye gets to wear it for another day while it heals more. And while I can’t tell if the surgery was a success, I’m hopeful that I’ll have 20/20 in my right eye and between 20/30 and 20/40 in my left.

The day, last Friday, started like any other Friday. I went to work, wore the same jeans I always wear (we have dress-down Fridays where I work), and did everything the same I normally to. But at 1:50pm, I left work and headed up street a dozen blocks or so to my surgeon’s office where I was promptly greeted by the nurse and doctor who escorted me into the waiting area.

The waiting area is an oversized examination room, really. If you’ve ever been to an eye doctor’s office for an exam (and I hope you have), I you’ve seen them all. Aside from the size, however, the only thing different was the two reclining auto-massage chairs diagonally across from the patient’s chair. They are there for a reason. They are supposed to calm the patient before seeing the doc when you are nervous, say, when you are about to get a laser pointed at your eye. Having been there before (and having had a massage) I walked right to the non-massaging chair while the nurse got me a glass of water. My wife soon joined me and sat in one of the two chairs and gave herself a massage. Unfortunately, the doctor came in about a minute later and her “relaxing” massage was cut short.

When the doc came in, I instinctively went to the examination chair and got ready for my eyes to be checked one last time. We verified the prescription I was going to get, put some drops in me, and sat there while they took effect. My wife asked some questions as did. uh. eye…get it!!! Anyway. After the drops took effect, I was escorted to the next room over where the machine was; where my wife went afterwards, I don’t know. She either stayed there or waited for me in the general reception area.

Now the machine is the device that generates the laser. But its more than that. Its a computer with an optical sensor that tracks the movement of the eye so that any chances to the eye’s location or focal point doesn’t adversely effect the results. The machine is surprisingly large for what it does but I really don’t know what kind of equipment is needed to generate a laser like that. I would guess its about the size of a lawn tractor you sometimes see out in the ‘burbs. But the rest of the device is predictable. There is a rotatable table for the patient to lay down on and it pivots on an angle that makes it easy for a person to get in and out of – it also makes moving the person closest to the laser to help ensure comfort and accuracy of treatment.

After lying down on this table, the doctor puts me into position and turns on the light – which blinds me – but gives him what he needs to do his work. Now, more drops. Then, even more drops. Drops, drops, drops, and then… MORE DROPS!!! I’m sure they all are needed but it was a few more minutes of drops before the laser work started.

Now for the squeamish, stop reading now. Its better that you that you not lose you lunch because of me.

The doctor dims the light just a bit and brings out what looks to me like an electric tooth brush with a round head (not the oval or square-ish kind). This brush is really a drill with a polisher on it but instead of polishing my eye to make it clean or shiny, it actually removes the top layer of the cornea – something I didn’t know was going to happen. As the doc was doing this, he tells me the steps and I, trusting he isn’t a quack, let him buff my eyes our. But it didn’t hurt thanks to all the drops he gave me. All I did feel was a slight pressure on the eye as he pushed down to buff off the eye’s surface. Here’s were I start to get nervous.

I’m a baby when it comes to pain and getting painful treatments. Like I said, this didn’t hurt. But the idea of something buffing my eye and adding pressure makes me fidgety. Kind of a personal guideline, I guess. And when the “real” treatment began, I cried bloody murder. But on to that, now.

After the surface of my corneas were buffed off, more drops. After the drops, I’m slid into position for one last time and the computer set to track my eye. Then the jet engine in the laser machine is started and the lights dim just slightly. I almost feel like Frankenstein’s monster at this point and feel just as dumb for putting me in this position – which beyond turning back from at this point. Anyway, the next sound I hear is that of a Gatling Gun rotating but not firing anything. You know, that metallic rotating sound you hear in the Terminator movies or the video game Doom. Anyway, here is where the doctor says the treatment will begin and he and his assistant tell you for how long it will last; 15 seconds for my right, 53 seconds for my left.

When the laser fires, you hear a clicking sound – almost like those static electricity balls that have at museums – you know, the ones where you stick you hand on the metal ball that makes your hair fly away from you. Anyway, you hear that clicking going on and that’s the audible cue that something is going on but there is a visual cue as well. Of course, you are supposed to be staring at the flashing red light at the center of the laser’s arm but in your peripheral vision, you can see the laser hitting your eye – and (this is the cool part) you can actually see you vision improve with each laser that hits you!

When the laser hits you, you see a dot with a ring around it appear and disappear very quickly. Its as if you are hitting a calm pool of water with a Super Soaker that produces only one ripple that never moves once its created (but goes away in a second). One other way to describe it is to imagine your finger pressed on a leather sofa and after the finger moves away, the indentation is gone. Its actually really cool.

Like I said earlier, you can actually see your vision improve as the laser hits you. In my right eye, it happened almost right away for the first 7 seconds or so, I didn’t notice it but the last 7 or 8 seconds it was amazing! I saw different areas of my vision become clearer than ever and with each pulse of light, different sections of my sight became sharper and shaper. Finally, the computer targeted one area a little more than the rest of the eye (probably to correct my astigmatism) and I saw the most clear image ever in my life; it was wonderful.

After the laser is turned off, more drops. The doctor then uses a tool to maneuver a bandage that’s very thin but large in diameter to cover the entire eye; its clear so you can see through it. But this – coupled with the body realizing its been damaged – causes your vision to blur again but greater than before. As the wound heals over the next few days and weeks, vision returns back to the new – post surgery – normal.

The same process is repeated for the left eye. This one takes much longer than the right and I get a litter squeamish and cry like a bitch but, again, it doesn’t hurt. Even with the special clamps they use to keep your eye open for the procedure, your instinct is to look away and I struggled internally to keep my eye focused on the flashing red dot. I managed to do what I was supposed to, however, and in 53 long seconds, I was done. The doc put on the eye bandage and I got off the table.

I was then walked into the reception area where I met my wife who got the eye care kit from the nurse who sent me home. Nothing else. Done. Finito. Hasta la vista, baby. I went home. Or course, the rain started POURING out and it took us 15 minutes to get a cab but we made it home just fine. I sat myself down on the futon in the office and fell asleep.

That was it.

Now I’m just waiting for my eyes to heal to that new post surgery normal vision where my eyes are 20/20 but that’s slowly happening. But the fact that I’m typing is a good sign. This morning, the doc took out the bandage in my right eye and I’m going back tomorrow to get the left one taken out. My drop regiment is down from two different types of drops 4 times a day to 3 times a day already and I expect the frequency to change again in a week or two.

I’ll keep you posted, though.

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