rfbooth.com :: thoughts :: lasik :: surgery

Tuesday July 26th

Another early morning, another infusion of coffee. My surgeon, Joe, makes some final checks and we have the expectations conversation again. He says “for a case like yours, I shall be happy if we get to driving standard; that's the target. Anything else is a bonus.” I agree; driving standard would be just fine. I sign the consent form; it's surprisingly restrained, actually. Yes, I understand that it's remotely, technically possible that I might go blind, and a paranoid person wouldn't do both eyes at once. Actually, a paranoid person probably wouldn't go for this at all.

Off I go to another room, where someone whom I'm tempted to call a nurse (I have no idea what her actual title is, but that's what she's doing) runs through with me the two types of drops, anti-inflammatory and antibiotic, I'll be putting in my eyes over the next week. Yes, I know I mustn't rub my eyes or get anything (even water) that's not sterile in them for a fortnight. I am shown the Fly-like eyeguards I will wear at night for a fortnight to make sure I can't rub at them even while I'm sleeping. It is explained to me again that I will see poorly straight after the surgery, and that while I should be able to read this evening it will continue changing notably for about a week, and then less so for the following couple of months; I should not be horrified by how little I can see straight afterwards. I'd actually thought, having read the wrong part of the information, that I'd be spending the next day or two in darkened rooms and pain, so this is very good news. I take off my glasses - the last time ever for this pair! I'm cleaned up, and anaesthetics are applied. If you're the kind of person easily squicked by eye surgery, you might want to move onto after the surgery, because I'm going to talk about the details.

The idea is simple: a small flap is cut in the cornea and lifted out of the way, the laser reshapes my eye, and the flap is put down again and left to heal, which it does rather quickly in general. I lie back on the table, with my head held fairly still by a cleverly shaped pillow. My left eye is covered up for the moment; we're doing the right eye first. My eyelashes are taped down and a speculum fitted so I can't blink - I certainly would do so otherwise. I've no problem with having my eyes touched, but there are some limits to how far one can suppress the reflexes. Various washings are going on. I'm told that a “pressure ring” will be applied and my vision will go dark for a moment. It's fitted, just inside my eye socket, and there is indeed pressure. Quite a lot of it. It doesn't hurt, but it certainly does feel unusual, and as promised I can see nothing now. Then it's removed, and I can see again, pretty much as normal, I think (which is to say, not a damned lot). There is the little red light above me which I will try to focus on while the laser works. I'm told that in a moment it will be not so much a light as a blur, and I'm to try to pick a point in it to focus on. Somebody reaches in with a device looking a great deal like a tiny allen key and lifts the flap; as advertised, the light is now more of a nimbus.

I stare at it while the bursts of laser are counted down for me; six in all. There is a pulsing sound as it works, and I can rest in between bursts of fiercely concentrating on staying fixated on a point. As Ross told me, the smell is, yes, exactly that of burning hair. Very quickly it's done, and the flap is replaced and the eye washed out, the speculum removed. I get off the table for a moment, eye closed, while it's repositioned for my other eye. I'm pretty good at being very, very calm under difficult circumstances; I was still enough that there was apparently a moment of worry that I'd passed out.

The left eye is exactly the same apart from a brief moment of nerves for me when I feel something, for the first time, uncomfortable - almost sharp. It is an eyelash being pushed into the skin below my eye by the pressure ring, and I am relaxed again. I'm even more aware, this time, of what a pathetic job I've done of focusing; apparently everybody feels this way, and I've done very well.

Since the squicky bits are over, let's rejoin the weak.