alex barrie
September 30, 2014
master of the (aerospace) universe
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- Laser Eyes -


December 22, 2005


My many years of contact lenses, glasses, red eyes, eyedrops, and grumbling have finally culminated in laser eye surgery. I began by booking an appointment at 'Vision Quest', the laser facility where I smoke some herbs, sit on the floor, stare into the laser, and have a discussion with a talking coyote until I wake up the next morning and my vision is 20/20. This appointment consisted simply of me looking at that cartoony black and white spiral that flashes a few times and determines your prescription that modern optometrists all seem to have. It is actually quite quick, and has to be at least as accurate as 20 minutes of me deciding which of the seemingly identical 'one' or 'two' is clearer. He then asked me if I had any questions about the procedure. I told him I had talked to a few people who had had the procedure and they now have some difficulty driving at night, and sometimes saw halos around lights. I also brought up that one of the possible side effects listed on the form was retinal detachment, which did not sound good. He said that those things only happened in the old days and certainly would not happen to me. He also told me that the worst possible outcome of the surgery would be that my vision is similar to what it currently was and I would still need to wear glasses. This seemed satisfactory so I signed myself up.

I was not allowed to wear contacts until the surgery and was stuck with the glasses for about three weeks. The lenses in my glasses are not particularly large so I only get a good view of what is right in front of me. At first this didn't seem so bad since I could still compute and watch TV. As I started to perform more tasks, however, the glasses became increasingly irritating. The first thing I noticed, after about five minutes of wearing glasses, was that I had to take off my glasses in order to put on or take off a sweatshirt. Once I took the glasses off and put on the sweatshirt I had no idea where I had put the glasses and could not find them since I couldn't see.

A few days later I tried to drive and noticed that I could not see anything in my side view mirrors since they were not in the field of view of the glasses. When I mentioned this to my roommate Joe, who also wears glasses, he said that it had never come up as a problem for him; and suddenly his erratic driving made sense.

I then went downtown to get some snacks and found myself wandering around in the middle of a street full of cars. I explained to my companions that I didn't see them when I stepped off the curb, and I had never had this problem before. Usually I don't see any cars, I walk across the street, and I arrive at the other side uneventfully. This episode brought back many memories of Joe freaking out whenever I ran haphazardly into the street yelling that I was going to get him killed, and only now did I fully understand why.

My next, and by far most irritating obstacle, came when I was finally going to go somewhere besides campus and needed to shave. I shaved my sideburns and stache but could not, through any contorted arm and head position, see my neck or lower chin through my glasses. This being the most sensitive area to shave, I was at a loss of what to do. I then realized that these horse-blinders may also explain Joe's bearded appearance.

The final revelation about Joe came when I was sitting on the couch watching TV. We have two switch boxes to change between various nintendos and Joe always freaks out if they are not perfectly lined up. I had always wondered why this made him so irate, when the spaghetti and paper towels stuck to the wall, the stains all over the carpet, the shelves piled with unorganized junk, the large blob of liquid nails on the wall, the chair that was missing the majority of its structural material, or the flower pot that at one point contained a plant, but now just contained a small dead stem never bothered him and now I had an answer. The switchboxes were the only thing that made it into his glasses restricted field of view.

The time passed, and I was finally on my way to get lasered. The actual surgery was like some sort of psychotropic dream. I was told to focus on a green LED mounted on the machine somewhere, which I did. As each drop was added to the concoction mixing up in my eyes the light changed color, shape, size, and texture dramatically. It was like watching a Winamp visualization. A suction cup was then placed on my eye to hold it still and my vision turned entirely black except for a few lights, one of which was the green LED. My view now resembled one of those photographs of a distant galaxy - a few blurry points of light surrounded by blackness. I was fairly certain that I was experiencing 'retinal detachment.'

This was the point when the woman told me the machine was going to cut a flap off of the top of my eye and the loud saw noise started. Soon after, the laser came on and I smelled a strong burning smell, like when you get your teeth drilled at the dentist. Having my already blacked out vision altered further by sawing and burning would normally have freaked me out, but I had taken a fair dose of Valium during my one hour pre-surgery space out in the waiting room. The highlight of the experience was when the woman said that for the second eye I had to be more careful since my brain would recognize the suction cup, saw, and laser from before and freak out, which it did. I had already resigned myself to the fact that I had developed retinal detachment as a side effect so I was not that worried about the remainder of the procedure.

For the next several days I had to be careful not to loosen the flaps on my eyes so I had to take special precautions. One of these precautions was that I had to wear goggles when I slept. They were not swimming goggles, but were much closer to racketball goggles. Because of this, they came around the side of my head, not just over my eyes. Normally, I sleep on my stomach. I can handle sleeping on my side, but there is no way that I can sleep on my back. This means that I had to lie on the goggles with the side of my head. Possibly due to the size of my head, my eyes did not seem to fit in the goggles. They were wide in the middle, but got narrow quickly. My eyes always seemed to be in the narrow part offering them more irritation than protection. The goggles also seemed to have a perpetual coating of grease on them. It would make me angry every night but never angry enough to clean them. The worst aspect of the goggles was that they did not even serve their intended purpose. The intention was that I would not be able to wake up in the night and rub my eyes since the goggles were in the way. Every morning, however, I would wake up rubbing my eyes with the goggles pushed onto my forhead. It was not a very pleasant five nights.

It was worth it, of course, since I can spend my days reading far away signs and such; I can drive, cross the street, and shave like never before. I guess the real test of the operations success will come when the credit card bill arrives.