Journal Entry: Seeing-Eye Aaron

I wrote Bruce yesterday and got him caught up on my surgery and follow-up, and it ended up being a long email. Occurred to me that some of you might be interested, too, so here’s a quick edit of the email I sent him.

Thursday I got to the Center at 2:30. They took me to the surgery area in the back (which is basically just a doctor’s office built onto the side of the consulting center). I sat in a…dentist’s chair, sort of thing, and took 2 little white anti-anxiety pills. I guess they worked pretty well. I’m a pretty laid-back dude anyway, but these things overcame even my boredom. It was like hypnosis. I just sat there, waiting to see what would happen next (and idly curious).

What happened next was a LOT of waiting. I sat in that chair for about an hour (during which time a nurse administered 2 sets of numbing eye drops). Then they took me in a little room with a laser to cut the corneal flap. Yeah, gross, but I wasn’t worried about it, and it really wasn’t bad at all. It’s HORRIBLE to think about, but actually doing it is no big deal. After the flap was cut I walked back to my chair (my vision was blurry, but my eyes still worked and all) where I was supposed to sit with my eyes closed for thirty minutes. Twenty-five minutes into that they called Trish to tell her I’d be done soon. An hour after THAT they finally took me back to the OTHER room with a laser where I would get the actual LASIK (that is, the shaving of cells off my cornea).

They put an orange dye in my eyes, to help the doctor see something more clearly. Everything got a LITTLE bit orangey, but other than that it wasn’t noticeable. I went in and sat in the chair and stared at a blinking red light for a little less than one minute per eye. Then I was done. Walked out into the front sitting area, where Trish was waiting, and she FREAKED out. No one had told her about the orange dye. She thought my eyes were maimed or something. I watched her reaction, knew immediately what she was reacting to, but thanks to the little white pills, it just seemed idly curious to me. After the fact, I laughed and laughed at the horror on her face (which she was bravely trying to hide, for my sake), and the fact that, at the time, I recognized it but didn’t say a word. A couple minutes later the nurse mentioned something in passing that clarified things for Trish, so she was able to relax.

Anyway, the actual surgeries (that is, the two parts where I interacted with lasers) took about 10 minutes, total, combined. In between, I had to wait 30 minutes, and it probably needed about 30 minutes beforehand between taking the pills and going in for the first laser, to let the medicines take effect. So, all told, the actual procedure probably takes about an hour and fifteen minutes. It could easily be done in an hour and a half.

I got there at 2:30 and left right at 6:00. It seemed to me like they’d just overbooked. That was pretty frustrating to me at times, but whatcha gonna do? At every step along the way, anyway, the doctor told me that things were going very well. By the time we left the office, Thursday evening, I was telling people on the phone that I could see about halfway between where I’d been with glasses, and where I’d been without.

Thursday night was a strict “No computers, no video games, no books” rule, which just totally crushed my social life. We went home and Trish and I watched Alias (they specifically said TV was okay), but thanks to the drugs I kept dozing off. I couldn’t really see that clearly anyway, but I could follow what was going on. We watched one episode, started a second, and I fell asleep halfway through. When it went off I woke up and went to bed (about 9:30). Trish came to bed sometime later.

Friday morning’s post-op was, as I said, at 8:30. I actually woke up around 6:00, because I’d gone to bed so early and I’m pretty accustomed to 6 hours’ sleep at this point. So I got up at 6:00, stumbled into my office, and decided to run my auctions in World of Warcraft. No big deal — it involves loading the game and then typing a couple commands that I’ve got long memorized. I figured I could do that if I couldn’t see at all.

So I get in the game, and I can see everything crystal clear. I mean, yeah, maybe it takes a few minutes for me to focus, but once I do, everything stays focused and I can see everything in game. I run my auctions, and then start just playing (because I’ve got an hour and a half to kill). Mom logged on and I chatted with her for about half an hour (which meant a lot of reading tiny font). And all of this is SO much habit that I kept forgetting how big of a deal it was. Then suddenly it strikes me — the morning after, and I already have PERFECT vision! Right about then, I hear the door swing open as Trish walks in. I look up to tell her the good news–

And that whole end of the room is just a huge blur. I actually said, “Never mind.” Which just confused her. I guess the huge, bright monitor that I’ve got was positioned in just the perfect position for my early focusing. I learned over the next hour or so that I had to focus on a given distance before it would resolve, but I could focus pretty well on just about anything. There was a little blurriness around everything, but I could definitely see.

So we go to the post-op exam, and the first thing they do is a Reading Chart test. Everything was blurry, but at the center of the blur I could still see the dark outlines of the characters pretty clearly, so when they asked me to read the smallest line I could….

20/25 for each eye individually, and 20/20 for both together. That is just phenomenal for the morning after the surgery, and indicates there’s a pretty good chance that I’ll end up considerably better than that.

The blurriness was gone by 5:00 that afternoon. Unfortunately, there was still the discomfort.

Okay, after the surgery you have to listen to this little 10-minute speech on what you can and can’t do, and what you should and shouldn’t do for the recovery period (which is three stages long, from tonight, then next four days, and then the next three weeks). While I was sitting in the surgery area on Thursday, I’d heard seven different people get that speech, so I pretty much had it memorized. The thing that kinda stuck me was, “There will be some discomfort — that’s normal” matched with “if you feel any pain at all, call us immediately.” I was kinda dreading trying to make the distinction.

Friday morning it made perfect sense. When I woke up, it felt like I had slept in my contacts. That’s a very uncomfortable experience, but one I was pretty dang familiar with, so I was like, “Ah! I get it.”

Well, that discomfort has persisted. Sometime late Saturday I complained about it in my left eye, which indicated to me that it had faded from my right eye by then. At this point my right eye is perfect, I’d say. Very clear vision, very little discomfort. But my left eye is STILL irritated. It’s probably also still just that “regular discomfort,” rather than pain, but it’s been so persistent and (like any eye discomfort) it’s so distracting that it has me pretty concerned.

When Nicki got her surgery they sent her home with four different bottles of eye drops to use four times daily: antibiotic, steroid, numbing, and moisturizing. They sent me home with three (left out the numbing). I’m really wishing I’d gotten all four. Nicki said that they probably discontinued use of the numbing drops because it would make you more likely to touch your eye post-op, and less likely to keep it moisturized (and those are the two most important steps to recovery). That makes sense, but I’m really wishing I had some of those numbing drops.

Instead, though, I just called the doctor. This would be Monday night. He suggested a couple things I could do that might help, and said that if it was still hurting on Tuesday at noon, I should call back and schedule an afternoon appointment. It was, and I did. My boss here had LASIK five years ago, so he’s been very understanding and encouraging.

So, I went in to see the doctor, and he looked really closely at both eyes, and told me that I had a little bit of inflammation still on the left eye, that wasn’t on the right. Nothing very serious (and I hadn’t damaged the cornea, which was my concern), but he gave me a stronger steroid drop to use in the left eye for the next couple of days. I used it all evening yesterday, and my eye is definitely feeling better. I’ve also been trying to take longer and more frequent breaks from computer use, but you can probably guess how well that’s going.

Anyway, that’s the situation. My vision is incredible. Far better than it ever was with glasses or contacts. I get to wear sunglasses when I go outside. I can see everything in the room the moment I wake up. It’s just, all around, in every way, awesome. I keep having to remind myself to be excited, though, because it worked so well that I keep forgetting it hasn’t always been this way. As much as I hate change, I really adjust to it pretty quickly, I guess.

So, there’s my story. I know I’ve typed a friggin’ book, here, but I’ve really been wanting to share this with you all along. Sorry it took so long to get around to it. I do think I’m doing very, very well. The irritation is probably a fairly insignificant issue, so I wouldn’t worry about it. Just about everything else has gone as well as it possibly could. Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers!