How PRK Made the Footballs in My Eyes All Round and Stuff
Just as it became chic to wear large glasses with plastic frames that dominate your face, I decided to go through with laser eye surgery. That’s elective laser surgery. On my eyes. It didn’t really sink in until the doctor was telling me to look at the blinking red light as intently as if I was following it down a winding road at 90 miles per hour.
I really didn’t dwell on what was going to happen to me. I went in for an eval, pretty sure there was nothing modern medicine could do for my high prescription, high astigmatism and thin corneas. This was the case four years ago. LASEK still could do nothing for the likes of me, but, apparently, PRK (Photorefractive Keratectomy) no longer causes shadowy phantoms to resurface over once corrected vision. So I went under the laser the next day.
I’m impulsive, but it was also the easy financing options (of COURSE I can’t afford it, but this is AMERICA!), and the comfort of now sighted patients sitting around the waiting room, looking at things, with their lasered eyes, that helped me ignore any voices in my mind screaming with fear.
The doctor went at my eyeball with something that wasn’t sharp, but made me twitch while J-pop played in the background. He did something that looked and felt like he was painting over my pupil. The light I was staring at was actually the excimer laser burning off parts of my cornea to reshape it into something that could refract light better and perhaps allow me 20/40 vision. It was called a surface ablative procedure. Ablation means burning off. I liked that they used these euphemisms and I liked the plush dog they gave me to hold for comfort. I clung to its ears and stared at the pulsing red dot, which to me looked like a bursting red flower, ablating. It probably hurt, but I didn’t know because my eyes were numbed right out of my skull.
And then it was over. I was told I may get up and I caught a glimpse of the room. I saw a corner. I’ve never seen anything but hazy blurriness without my glasses or contact lenses before. I actually said, “I can see! Thank you doctor!” You don’t know people who say that exist until you’re one of them.
Then I closed my eyes and my mom met me in a dark room where I was seated into a comfortable armchair, covered with a blanket and ignored as my eyes began to burn. I’ve seen a girl who sat in that armchair before, just like me, with plastic shields and black wraparound sunglasses, just like I am now. And she got Vicodin. Right away.
I finally hassled a murse into getting me some pain pills and a taxi. He walked me out of the building by the hand. By the time I got to my parents’ house I already started sinking into shock.
There is something about having your actual eyes operated on. Doesn’t matter how nice everyone is, or how fluffy the stuffed animal you get to hold is, they’re still operating on your eyes, a taboo broken traditionally only in horror films.
I spent the rest of that day and all of the next day in my parents’ dark bedroom, with the door closed. My family checked in on me, but couldn’t engage me in conversation. I didn’t want to listen to the TV and I didn’t want to open my eyes. I asked for Vicodin every few hours and dozed. The first time I had to get up to use the bathroom my mom guided me over, but I insisted on working out the rest on my own. While washing my hands I felt really sick and had to sit back down on the toilet to avoid passing out.
My mom said I was just scared, which made no sense, because the procedure was over with and it didn’t really hurt. I had no needs and I moved as little as possible. But then, I also went from being an active social person to silent recluse in the space of a few hours. Maybe that was part of it, but yes, there was definitely a little shock.
My parents were great and my friends came by to check on me and eventually I came out of it. Four days later I could read and five days later I went in for a follow-up appointment where they removed the contact lenses that were protecting my eyes and told me I could finally wash my face without fear of horrible infection rendering me blind.
The world is big now that my glasses aren’t playing it down, and full of details I never noticed before, like how huge everyone’s face is. My eyes are still full of antibiotics and various other medicated drops and I’m not allowed to lift anything heavy or get too sweaty to avoid complications. But the point is, I’m functional. And it’s almost getting through my head that no, I’m not going to need to take my contacts off soon even though every night I catch my hands clawing at my face trying to get phantom glasses to come off.
Article Copyright © 2007 to ETL