Sunday, February 03, 2008

In, Sweet Jelly!

That I'm on the computer a mere three days after having my eyes peeled like grapes illustrates just how well I'm healing.

If you have an eye queasiness thing, you might want to skip this post and wait for the next one. You've been warned.

On Thursday, I met the great T at the pub across the street from the eye clinic. I had a nice meal, T calming me down all the while. When I told him I was getting nervous, he said, "You should be. They fuck this stuff up all the time." I laughed and his comment put everything in perspective. He also told me that he could save me five grand by holding me down and doing some magic with a laser pointer.

We marched over to the clinic and I filled out consents and took some Valium, and T and I chilled upstairs for a while.

When we were ushered downstairs, there was a video playing a procedure on a TV in a little glass room next to the waiting area. We realised that it was live! There was a patient on a table and the doctor was there. T voiced his um... concern for the patient, but there was a technician nearby who said everything was going like clockwork.

Instead of looking in the patient's eyes, there was a bright light and a camera pointed at the eye, which was shown on the screen over the feet of the patient, and that's where the doctor watched.

We watched for a while, which was great for me. I saw in real time what was about to happen to me.

Here's how it happens: (still here, you Queasies? It's your funeral!)

There's a membrane over the cornea that has to be moved to allow the laser to strike the cornea. Up until recently, the cornea was mechanically cut with a scalpel. Now, it is done with a laser, and this part is pretty cool. It's not cut off, but instead the circle isn't completed, so it's more of a flap. The surface of the cornea is striated like a muscle (see pic, left). The laser zaps the shape of the insision. The zaps leave little air bubbles in the membrane. The air naturally expands, so in a few minutes all those little air bubbles join up, and instead of being perforated, it's like it's cut, and the flap can be folded back.

This zapping was the most uncomfortable part. I suppose it was to keep the eye stationary, but there was a cup placed over my eye and intense pressure was imposed. There was so much pressure, it did cross over into "painful," but it didn't last very long, and the aforementioned technician was very supportive, telling me that I was doing well and counting down how much longer I had to hold still.

By this point, I should mention, I think the Valium really did kick in, because while I was very aware, I was quite chilled out about the whole procedure. Well, I was shaking a little, but I think that was adrenaline.

The dude walked me back to the waiting area, where T sat. Things were blurry at this point, and my eyes ached a little from the pressure.

In a few minutes, I was escorted into the little glass room and lay down on the table.

A machine was slid down, directly over my face as I lay there. It had four bright rectagular lights, arranged in a square. In the centre was a very small green light. I was told to try to stay focussed on that green light, and although it was really blurry, they asked me to use it as a point of reference to keep my eyes from moving very much. An assistant put anaesthetic drops in my eyes to numb them, and tons of irrigation tears.

The doctor had to use a stylus or pointer (or, as T called it, the "rusty hook") to fold back the flap earlier with the laser. This part looked pretty gory. Some jiggling had to go on to loosen the membrane. It looked pretty gross, but while I knew what was happening, I couldn't really feel it.

Then, there was a bright red light, in a circle, but almost in a grid in that circle. Like a red laser Eggo, I guess. That was the laser. As soon as it started, the assistant started a countdown, letting me know every 5 or 10 seconds how much longer was needed.

Total laser time per eye? 43 seconds.

When the laser was going, there was an unpleasant odour. It wasn't as bad as burning fingernails or hair, but organic like that. The doctor told me it was laser gas, but I think that's what they tell patients because "that's the laser vaporizing your cornea" isn't very pleasant.

After the zapping, the doctor had to put the membrane flap back in place and smooth it out with a tiny sponge.

The doctor did both eyes, walked around the table, gave me his hand, and had me sit up. He asked me if I could tell what time it was. There was a clock on the far wall that I never would have been able to read without my glasses. Although there was a thick fog, I realised the clock was in focus, and I could tell it was 3:55pm.

The Doctor walked me out to T, and we sat in another waiting room for about 30 minutes. My eyes felt like I had been swimming in an overly-chlorinated pool, and a little strained. (I describe this as: keep your head stationary and look as far as you can to the left and the right a few times. That feeling.)

I called Mum right away and T and I sat in some pimped out massage chairs. (T said it was like there were two tiny masseuses trapped in them!)

After that half hour, the technician dude took me in to a little room an shone bright light in each eye. He said the flaps were smooth and I could go home.

T drove me home and helped me put in my first round of drops (anaesthetic, steroid, antibiotic, and lubricant), and he left me and I napped for a while. Marilyn arrived from Ottawa later that night to nurse me for the weekend.

It turns out, I didn't need to be waited on. The next morning, I sat on the side of the bed and could read a post-it note on the far wall of my room. Sure, it was a little blurry, but I could read without corrective lenses!

Now, three full days after the surgery, I can see as clear as if I were wearing contacts. The myopia is corrected, and astigmatism is still there, of course, but the laser corrected the focus according to its shape. I still have to use the steroid and antibiotic drops for a couple more days, and the fake tears for another 5 weeks, but I'm definitely on the mend. I have some bruising on the white part of my eye, but it looks more like very localised bloodshot area than one of those gross blood pool things that sometimes happen (see above pic). It will re-absorb soon, like any bruise.

I was really afraid that I was making a foolish mistake. There are very few complications, but someone has to be that statistic, don't they? That one in 20,000? It was an elective procedure, and the worst-case scenario was bad, bad, bad.

Now, I'm alternately elated and taking it for granted. For granted, I mean, it seems as though I'm just wearing contacts, but I'm not!

Ok, off to prepare for the new semester that starts tomorrow.

Big love to Mum and Dad for being so worried, and Marilyn and T for being so willing to lovingly give me their time.


Rosey said...

Congratulations on your lens-free vision!

Lynda said...

I have to say, I'm a wee jealous, and totally impressed that you went through with it, because I have major willies re: cutting a flap in my cornea. Yay Catherine!!!