November 6, 2013

My Laser Eye Surgery Experience

I’ve been wearing glasses since first grade. I remember when I would try to get bad eyesight to wear glasses. I’d purposely read in dim lighting and sit too close to the television. It drove my mom crazy:

“Stop it! You don’t want glasses.” mom said.

“But wearing glasses is so cool! When you’re bored you can clean your glasses!” I said back to her.

Kids are like drunk people. You can’t reason with them. Back then cellphones didn’t exist, unlike today when “I’m bored” translate into playing Candy Crush on your phone. It’s hard to imagine that cleaning glasses was once my idea of leisure activities.

My sister got laser eye surgery done before I did. She loves it and as she says, if she was stranded on an island or in a war zone she wouldn’t have to depend on her glasses to survive like that fat kid in Lord of The Flies. I see her point. It's human survival.

On my first visit to Lasik MD I got all sorts of talks in which the lady concluded that I would have to pay $3500 to get the surgery done in Ottawa.

“But your ad says starting from $450 per eye.”

“Well, you have abnormally large pupils and very thin cornea. So we would have to use a more sophisticated technique on your eye for safety reasons.”

Really God? You have to give me abnormally large pupils but no boobs? All abnormally large pupils get me is spend more money.

Eventually I stopped pouting and said “well, my sister got it done for $850 from you guys in Vancouver. Can you see what you can do?”. The Lasik lady then checked the price for their office in Vancouver and got me the same technology to get my eyes done for $1500.

Same surgery with the same company but $2000 price difference. They say that they base it on the market price of the city. It reminds me of my dad’s saying, “foreigners aren’t taking away jobs, greed is.”

I went to Vancouver with my sister to get my eyes done. It was a typical gloomy and wet day. I remember sitting in the waiting area watching their nature video on repeat: green tropical forest, colorful birds, white sand beaches, giant waterfalls. It felt as though this might be the last time I could see so they showed me the best of earth. There was a lot of waiting, meeting with doctors, telling me about the procedures with big words. Most times I just nodded like a foreigner nodding when someone finishes a sentence.

Eventually I was escorted into the surgery room. It looked like a dentist office. They laid me down and gave me a stress ball in each hand.

“When you’re nervous just squeeze it.” The doctor’s assistant said. He was cute.

“uhm okay. And you’re not going to strap my head down so I don’t move and my eyes don’t move?” I asked.

“No, that’s why we give you the stress balls.”. Like duh. He said.

Lasik sure have a lot of faith that people would lie still while lazers burn their eye.

At first the doctors froze my eyes with drops then poked at it a few times. It felt neat. From my view it looked like they were poking a jello in which I saw a ripple but I didn’t feel anything. They do one eye at once. They pry my eye open with a clamp like something you see in the movie SAW. Then the machine came down to cut open my cornea. I saw them flip my cornea flap over and then my vision went blurry. Shortly after that I lost my eyesight. It was pitch black. Then a few seconds later I heard a vacuum sound then smelled my eyeball burning.

You haven’t lived until you've smelled your own eyeballs burning.

It smelled like a burnt stove.

After the doctor put my cornea flap back and moved onto my next eye for the operation. The first eye was easier because I didn’t know what to expect, but the second eye gave me anxieties. By the time they pry my eye open with the clamp I started sweating cold sweats. No amount of stress ball could have calmed my anxiety. One of the ladies assisting the procedure saw my sweaty palms and fidgeting feet and started massaging my scalp and telling me everything will be alright like the way I stroked Turbo and told him that everything will be okay right before he died. It helped though. The surgery only takes 2 minutes in each eye, but they were the longest 2 minutes of my life.

My sight was very blurry right after my eyes were done. They gave me a pair of nerdy Star Trek sunglasses and put me in their “silent room”. It was filled with a bunch of people with their nerdy Star Trek sunglasses sitting in silence. No one talked. There was no TV or radio. I had a flash forward of what my life would be like when I’m 80 in a retirement home.

My sister was in the waiting room when I came out of surgery.

“Would you like me to call you a taxi?” The secretary asked.

“No thanks. We can walk.” I said.

“Are you sure?” My sister whispered to me.

“I just spent $1500. I’m not spending another $20 on a cab… Unless you’re paying.” I answered.

So of course we ended up walking.

My sight was very blurry and my eyes felt very tired. The dark and rainy day with my Star Trek sunglasses on didn’t help either. It felt as though I was looking at the world from under a pool. I walked straight into a 15 feet tall Christmas tree downtown Vancouver. While being disoriented I knocked some ornaments off and trampled all over their cardboard presents. Some people looked at me like how you look at a crack head when they start babbling nonsense. My sister acted like she didn’t know who I was and kept walking. I didn’t blame her, I did cheap out on a cab.

The next morning my eyes felt 90% better and I could see but my right eye was definitely more blurry than my left. We took the ferry back to Victoria. I had to wear my geeky Star Trek sunglasses for a week.

“But I have a date with Andrew tomorrow it’s been everything I ever wished since middle school!” I said.

“Well, you’re going to look like Geordi La Forge. Maybe he will like that. HAHAHA” My sister said.

As soon as I got home I ditched my Star Trek sunglasses and opted wearing my RayBans because I’m a shallow person that care too much of how I look in front of my middle school crush and random people in Victoria. Maybe that’s why my right eye never healed 100%.

A week later I almost had 20/20 vision except my right eye was still noticeably blurry. I went to Walmart with my dad but half way through I started following another old Asian man whom I thought was my dad. A few minutes later when I realized that he wasn't my dad I had lost my dad. I waited by the front entrance for my dad in my RayBans like a lost child. Old people take forever to shop!

It has been almost a year and my right eye is still a bit blurry today but I love being able to see the moment I wake up. And I do have 20/20 vision if I use both eyes. And if there's anything too far away that I can't see, I just deal with it when I get there.