Temporary Blindness

I got glasses pretty early in life and have always hated them. The way the would fog up when the temperature changed. The way they kept sliding down my face or getting in the way when I wore anything on my head or ears. Mostly, just the way I was dependent on them. (My eyesight was bad to the point where I could not not make out the details on my hand when it I held it at arm’s length in front of my face.) Perhaps it was not Daredevil bad, but it bugged me daily, and I had to develop shortcuts for recognizing things when I did not have my glasses.

A few years ago, my vision finally stabilized to the point where I could look into corrective surgery. I did a lot of research on LASIK and consulted with several doctors in the Bay Area. I finally picked a Wavefront PRK procedure with Dr. Scott Hyver, based on my consult with him and the recommendation of Andrew who had his surgery with Dr. Hyver as well.

Most people are familiar with the vision correcting surgery known as LASIK, or Laser-Assisted in SItu Keratomileusis. This is what is commonly known as laser eye surgery. The procedure goes like this: first, the doctor uses a microkeratome, which is a fancy surgical instrument similar to a cigar cutter that cuts a flap into your cornea. Then, doctor pulls the flap back and uses a excimer laser to reshape the cornea. Finally, the doctor puts the flap back into place and gives you “bandage” contact lenses to wear until the flap heals permanently into place.

Normal LASIK is done with one level of correction across your whole cornea, based on your glasses prescription. Wavefront is a variation where each eyeball is precisely scanned, and the corrections performed with each burst of laser is mapped to the amount of deficiency at that spot in the back of your eye. There is also a variation of LASIK where the flap is cut with a femtosecond laser instead of a mechanical blade. The laser is actually set to create a plane of microscopic bubbles within the cornea that combine to make a cut, similar to the ideas of laser crystal art and perforated notepaper combined into one. PRK is an alternative corrective procedure where instead of a flap being cut, the doctor uses a tool similar to a rotary electric toothbrush to scrape off the top layer of the cornea. The laser correction is done, and then the top layer takes a few days to grow back into place.

PRK is the older procedure and it takes longer to recover from, but it is more trusted. NASA astronauts can have PRK but not LASIK, because they are afraid that the G forces could increase the infinitesimal chance that the flap becomes undone again.

The process was straightforward. I did a consult, got some prescriptions filled ahead of time so I would have my drugs ready to go after the surgery, and then went in again for the actual surgery. It took about an hour to do both eyes. It was not painful at all, thanks to the numbing eyedrops, but there was definitely an uncomfortable pressure on my eyes when the doctor used the scraper. Also, the laser itself was intimidating, and it smelled like ozone and very faintly of electrical fire when it was on. Definitely the worst part of the experience was the clips used to keep my eyelids open. I swear it felt like I had ingrown eyelashes for a while, and my lashes still feel funny when I think back on it.

After the surgery, I was basically completely blind for two days – I could only see blobs of light and dark, and the emphasis was on dark… my eyes were hypersensitive, so I just laid in bed with the blinds drawn, a blanket over my head, and my goggles in place. (They give you goggles after surgery so you do not accidentally rub your eyes and screw everything up.) On the third day, I tried to go to work, but my vision was worse than before my surgery, and of course I did not have glasses to compensate anymore, so I was practically rubbing my nose on my monitor as I tried to get things done. The fourth day was slightly better than before surgery, and I was good by the fifth day.

Since healing up, I have had better than “perfect” vision, so consider me upgraded from mook to punch-clock villain:

Besides obviously the greatness of being able to see, possibly the greatness thing about having this procedure done was the feeling of freedom I gained from it. When I wake up in the morning, I no longer grapple randomly until I find my glasses. I do not feel tethered, infirm, or dependent on some piece of junk for a basic human ability. If you are thinking about it, I would highly recommend it! (And whether you do LASIK, PRK, or one of the other variations, definitely spring for Wavefront.)

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3 thoughts on “Temporary Blindness

  1. Pingback: Housekeeping (August 2012) | Batman To Be

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