Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Part 2: The Surgery

Soon after arriving for my scheduled appointment on Jan. 24, Amy, the office manager sweetly asked if I would like a valium. "Yes, please," was my reply. I had begun to feel nervous — the palms of my hands were a little sweaty. My mom came with me to speak to the optometrist, Dr. Mary Beth Young (who is completely awesome), where she explained to me what would happen once I went into "the room."
Here's what happened:
First, I put on a little blue cap and little blue footies over my shoes. Then two nurses walked me into the surgery room, a large room with more nurses and a large machine in the middle of it. Two of the walls were large windows, for observers to watch the proceedings. My mom decided not to watch. I lay down on the low metal table and made sure my head was snug in the headrest. I was happy to have my sweater and wished I had a blanket on my legs.
The surgeon (Dr. Ray Gailitis, he of the steady hand) told me he would do one eye first, then the other. He covered my left eye with a black patch — "like a pirate," he joked — and then asked me to look up. When my eyelids were open like this, he used tape to hold the top lid high and the bottom lid low. Then he placed an oval piece of plastic to keep my eye open wide. I think they did something like this to Mel Gibson in 'Conspiracy Theory.'
Next came the eyedrops. That sounds like an innocuous sentence, I know. But when you can't blink and there are 10 drops shooting into your eye all at once, you kinda wish you were anywhere else but on that table. Finally, the drops were over. They were 'numbing drops.' Finally, the doctor used what appeared to be a kind of broom for the eye to sweep away the extra drops. They also ran down the sides of my face. Fortunately, the nurse had already put little cotton pieces under my blue cap to catch the drippings.
Next came another set of drops. Icky. Then, the doctor said he was going to give me some 2 percent alcohol drops. First, he placed a small cylinder onto my eye so that I really had tunnel vision. I felt like I was watching what was happening through a TV camera. I saw the alcohol drops fall onto my lid. The little green light above my head, at first just a green blur, turned into a solid green circle, like what you would see under a microscope. I watched the drops swirl within this green circle. I heard a countdown: 45 seconds to go ... 30 seconds ... 15 seconds. Then the doctor removed the tunnel-inducing cylinder and 'swept' the drops away.
Next came the hard part. This is what makes this type of Lasik different than most. The doctor had to scrape away parts of my eyeball. Don't ask me what it was called, because I asked the doctor not to tell me. All I know is that because my cornea is a little thin and oddly shaped, I had to get this sort of PRK Lasik. With a steady hand, the doctor used what looked from my vantage point to be a small black tool to scrape away the ... whatever it's called. Did it hurt? No. Did the idea of it hurt? Yes. My heart was thumping, and I was squeezing the nurse's hand. I concentrated on my breathing, filling my lungs, calming myself down.
Finally, the scrapey part was over and it was time for the Laser. "Just look at the green light," the doctor advised, "and keep as still as you can." I did. I gazed at the light while I smelled a nasty smell, which Dr. Young had told me earlier would NOT be my eye burning. "We're about halfway through," said the doctor. Then it was over. He told me I did great job, and asked me to look up so he could remove the tape from my lids. That felt like getting an eyebrow wax, but the good news was, as I said to the surgery crew, "I could see!"
The doctor repeated on my left eye what he did on my right. I sat up slowly off the metal table. The doctor asked me if I could read the clock. I said, as I looked out the window wall, "I can see my mom eating a cookie!" And I could also read the time: "It's 10 after two," I said. Next came a quick photograph of me, the surgeon and one of the nurses. The surgery was over.
Next: Part 3: I survived PRK and all I got was this stupid eye gear!


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