Phrases like "results cannot be guaranteed," "complications include:" and the ever-popular "new technology" clause were starting to swim in front of my vision. That could have been due to the fact that I'd read these particular sheets about five times in as many minutes (i'm a very fast reader) or to the fact that I was currently wearing glasses with a prescription about 75% of what I actually needed. That's what I get for switching to contacts and never updating my spectacles.
Ahh, screw it. That's why I was here, after all. I signed the forms and shoved them across the desk. "Let's do this."
"Okay. Are you absolutely certain you want to do the PRK procedure?"
I tried to keep from laughing. The nurse was the ninth or tenth person to ask me that question within the last two weeks--for some reason, the idea that I'd accept a little more pain and a longer recovery for a better result was oddly foreign to some people. "Yepp."
"You'll have a lot longer recovery time," she warned me.
I nodded. "Two weeks for normal function, one month for 95% recovery, three to six months for completion," I recited. "Comes with an increased risk of infection, but less risk of me ripping open that flap. Also, it's more stable in the long-term." I didn't add that the risk of infection was basically nil for me, since infections never bothered me. The only ones I'd ever gotten were extremely short-lived.
I was also counting on the fact that I healed like Wolverine to help drop some of those times I'd recited.
The nurse smiled. "You've done your research."
"About two years worth," I agreed. "Wish I'd actually get to see the machine in person. It looks cool."
"Um, you will--"
I chuckled. "With my glasses off, it'll just be a blob."
"Speaking of, you can go ahead and take them off now."
Reaching up, I removed my eyewear, hopefully for the last time. The room dissolved into blurs of color as my eyes stopped their restless movement. It wasn't really worth even trying to figure out what all those blurs were.
"I can take those for you," the nurse offered. I could hear the rustle of her sleeve as she held out her hand; without moving my eyes or my head, I placed the glasses in her palm. A note of concern entered her voice. "Are you okay?"
I frowned. "Yeah, why?"
"You're just...I dunno...staring. Second thoughts?"
I laughed. "No, just listening. I usually navigate by ear when my glasses are off." It was one of my marginally more useful abilities that a few surprised nighttime combatants had discovered to their dismay. It wasn't true echolocation (I didn't have a good enough picture for that), but it was good enough to block punches and return strikes with.
"Wow, that's handy. Here." The nurse placed my glasses in a pouch that contained eye drops, antibiotics, and other post-operative necessities and tossed it at me. I snagged it out of the air without even looking. Again...not that looking would have done me much good...
Well, that was kinda the point of all this.
After a round of numbing drops and some preemptive antibiotics, the nurse told me they were ready. I followed her out out of the room and down the hall to the operating room. Once inside, I really wished I could see--if the big dark smudge that bisected the room was any indication, the machine was massive. Dang it. Now, I kinda wished Dad had wanted to come in and see this, if only to take some pictures, but he'd opted to stay out in the waiting room.
I could tell by the voice that it was the doctor I'd met with last week to discuss this. I grinned. "Yepp!"
"Let's get going then. Lie down on that bed there," he instructed me.
Surreptitiously, I snapped my fingers, trying to locate the bed exactly--it would be really embarrassing if I missed. The room was all hard surfaces, fortunately, so the only soft spot in the room was easy to locate. I plopped down and stared up at the blank whiteness. I assumed there was a tiled ceiling of some kind up there, but I couldn't make it out.
"All right. You're going to feel the bed moving--we're just getting you into position," Doc said reassuringly.
"I'll take you're word for it," I joked. Surrounded by the machine, that's all I could hear echos from at the moment, so it seemed like the machine was moving, and not my bed. They could probably have put some kind of accelerator on it.
Blurs of movement, and I felt Doc gently prying my right eyelid open, inserting an oddly-shaped clamp to hold them in place. I gritted my teeth against the discomfort while making a mental note that the numbing stuff did not work on eyelids. I used my hands to do a quick search down by my waist for anything to grab on to, but didn't find anything. I folded my hands instead as Doc put an eyepatch over the other eye.
Sploosh. Some kind of liquid splashed into my eye. I tensed, but it didn't sting any. That was a relief--I was afraid that the numbing drops wouldn't work on me. A moment later, something silver entered my vision, and I felt a weird pressure as Doc started working.
I knew what I was seeing. LASIK surgery involved the creation of a flap in the eye, which was flipped open so that the laser could reshape the inside. PRK needed to access the inside of the eye, too; so, to get there, Doc was literally cutting off the outside surface.
Definitely weird. I expressed as much out loud.
Doc laughed. "Yeah, that's what I've been told." He used what sounded like a small spatula to remove the skin he'd just cut off. "That's why most people do LASIK. There's this thingy just suction-cups itself to your eyeball, and you don't see anything until it's over. It's a little less scary."
I smiled. "I didn't say it was scary, just weird," I explained, although watching a scalpel blade travel across my eyes was definitely giving me the willies. I calmed myself down. I didn't know what adrenaline would do to the procedure, but I figured me twitching would probably not be good. Maybe I should have gotten some Valium...nah. I got this.
"Okay, look straight up at the green light," Doc instructed me.
I tried to frown, which was a little hard with one eye covered and the other eye clamped open. The bright surgical lights were overwhelming everything else, and my vision definitely was worse in my right eye anyway. I couldn't see anything. "What green light?"
"Just look straight ahead," he suggested. "Okay, here goes..."
Some more liquid splashed into my eye, fogging everything up even more. There was a whir as an arm of the machine descended, followed by a beep. My vision suddenly...shifted, is really the best word I can think of. I saw a green light develop--a really fuzzy green light, but hey--progress is progress. The machine beeped, whirred again and retreated.
"Wait, that's it?" I asked disbelievingly. "Well, that was anticlimatic."
Doc chuckled. "Just the way we like it. Let's rinse you out..."
Cold water poured over my eye. When it departed, I noticed that I could see the ceiling tiles. Granted, they were a little streaky, but given that I was missing the front of my eye, that was to be expected. Doc plopped a bandage contact over my eye. Ow. That hurt. Apparently, the numbing agent was wearing off.
I didn't really consider the full ramifications of that until he started working on my left eye. Specifically, when he poured the dissolving agent in. I went completely rigid.
"Uh, Doc? I can definitely feel that," I gritted out. I'd never tried any of my pain-block techniques on my eyes before, but I gave it my best shot. It didn't work so great.
Doc remained calm. "Must have worn off. I'll just rinse out your eye and put some more numbing drops."
I relaxed as the water hit me. "Oof. Sorry, I forgot to mention that painkillers are really short-lived when they work."
"Some of them don't work?"
"I'd say most, actually."
"Ouch. That's gotta suck." Doc applied the numbing agent. "Well, it's a good thing these do."
"Agreed," I said fervently, flexing my hands (now a little sore). "Hey, maybe the next generation of this bed could have some handholds on it?"
"You're probably rip them right off," Doc pointed out.
I chucked. "Fair point."
The rest of the procedure was equally anticlimatic. Within fifteen minutes of entering the room, I was walking out (after having thanked the doctor profusely, of course).
Dad met me in the lobby. "All done? Can you see?"
"Yeah," I said, a little taken aback by the results myself. "Even with the streaking, I can read that sign way over there!"
"Nice. Well, don't strain yourself," Dad warned me. "You did just put your eyes through a fairly traumatic experience."
"No kidding. Totally worth it, though," I agreed. "Even if this weekend is going to be really boring. No books, no TV, no computer...I expect I'll be sleeping a lot."
"That's probably for the best," Dad agreed. "Huh. I thought your eyes would be red or something. They're really not bad at all."
"Nope," I said distractedly, putting on my sunglasses and reading a license plate that was twenty feet away.
Notes on recovery: three days after surgery (when getting the bandage contacts off), my vision was uniformly fuzzy, but I still could read the 20/20 lines at the optometrist's office. The optometrist said that I was already at a week's worth of recovery and thought that the odds of making 20/15 or 20/10 vision were good.
One week later, my left eye was almost completely blur-free. The right one had a ways to go. Two weeks later, my left eye got even sharper, and my right started catching up.
Now, two and a half weeks post-surgery, my vision is so good that I absent-mindedly thought I was wearing contacts last night. I automatically tried to remove them before bed and poked myself in the eye. Ow. I guess that's a good thing, though...can't wait to see what it's like when I'm fully recovered!
Pun definitely intended.