Saturday, March 24, 2007

With An Eye on the Future

Apart from my insistence that there be at least one carton of ice cream in the freezer at all times, I don’t ever really take the occasion to spoil myself. Not even in the world of technology, which is perpetually producing gadgets in which I am most intrigued. Alas, I don’t own an iPod, a plasma TV, or a cell phone that takes pictures, browses the Internet, or performs lipo after a heavy meal. But this year, for my birthday, I spoiled myself.

About a year ago I decided to start putting aside some money for laser eye surgery. I am slightly nearsighted, and my vision isn’t so awful that I need to constantly wear glasses, but it is bad enough that I need to always have them with me, just in case somebody says, “Hey, that guy 15 to 20 feet in front of you is pointing a gun at you;” thus, giving me time to take my glasses out of my pocket and observe said gun-toting man. Imagine my embarrassment if I never noticed and actually walked into the guy! (You can see already my dire need for laser eye surgery. It was becoming a matter of life and death, people!)

I had seen many promotional ads throughout the valley for laser eye surgery, with prices ranging from the thousands to one place that offered a free Justin Timberlake CD with each surgery. (“Help Justin bring sexy back, with a new pair of eyes!”) I finally decided on one particular eye surgery center, and it was my surgery center of choice for one simple reason: They seemed like they were from the future. So advanced are they, that their slogan genuinely reads, “Where tomorrow’s technology is here today!”

When I walked into the fancy waiting room, I felt like I was in the future. (Like, 2010, at least.) (And you won’t believe this, but The View is still on in 2010, playing on waiting room televisions all across the nation.) The décor was futuristic, and even their speech seemed slightly futuristic. I was expecting a robot to bring me some sort of mango-colored liquid refreshment while I sat in the waiting room perusing an eye surgery menu that included such options as x-ray vision and digital zoom, and watching a still-very-butch Rosie O’Donnell.

After a consultation where they ran several tests to determine if I was a “good candidate” for laser eye surgery (“good candidate” = “willing to pay”), we set up an appointment for the procedure. And that procedure took place last Wednesday afternoon.

The Lasik center makes it perfectly clear that you need to bring somebody else with you to the procedure, as you will not be able to drive yourself home. So I went by the house to pick up Katie and say goodbye to the kids. I have never had surgery, and although this was supposed to be no big whoop, as far as surgery goes, my mind started to wonder.

Katie asked me to read a book to Roxanna and lay her down for her nap before we left, and as I started to walk out of the bedroom, I turned to look at her. She has the bluest eyes and the cutest smile, and she happened to have her hair up in what I affectionately refer to as a “big girl bun.” And suddenly, uninvited, the thought actually crossed my mind, “What if this is the last time you see your daughter’s face?” “What if things go horribly wrong and you completely lose your vision?” “What if the last book you ever read in this lifetime is Pirates Don’t Change Diapers?”

I felt a little pierce of panic as I kissed the other kids goodbye and told them we’d be right back. I don’t know if it’s okay to pray over elective surgery (“…and please bless me in my vanity that my non-obligatory surgery will go well. Amen”), but I did anyway.

We arrived at the center and I was taken back to the prep room. This is where they medicate you so you are completely relaxed and enjoy a pain-free procedure. Now, keep in mind that I don’t even take aspirin for headaches, so I my tolerance level for medication is pretty low. It doesn’t take much. Nevertheless, they gave me 5 mg of a sedative called Diazepam, and two tablets of Xanax. (Xanax slogan: Have a nice ride!)

They took me to the procedure room and had me climb up on the table. I could see Katie outside the room, looking through the observatory glass. And that’s about the last coherent memory I have for the day. The rest is somewhat sketchy.

I do remember the laser machine being pulled over my face, and the restraints that pulled my eyes open and held them in place. It was uncomfortable, but not at all painful. Apparently they then had me go into another room and did some more work, then took me into another, dark room, where they had Katie come in and they reviewed all the different drops I should be using over the next week to keep my eyes infection-free and well lubricated. I say “apparently” because I remember none of this.

I recall the doctor’s assistant who walked me out to the car. I remember I was just alert enough to wonder to myself, “Who does this guy think he is, helping me out to the car? I’m fine.” But clearly, I was not. I don’t remember getting in the car, I don’t remember the drive home, I don’t remember Katie going into Walgreens to fill one of my eye-drop prescriptions, I don’t remember getting out of the car and walking into the house.

Katie was taking the kids to a birthday party, so she was trying to get me set up on the couch before leaving. I do remember her helping me out of my clothes and into my pajamas in the most unromantic way – we were in the kitchen, I think, and I had the nerdiest protective goggles taped to my face. I grabbed some chips and juice and meandered to the couch. Before Katie left I asked her to turn the TV on so I could just listen to it (since I couldn’t watch anything yet). She humored me and turned it on as she left, but I don’t recall one, single line of dialogue. I don’t remember eating any chips either, but according to Katie and the vacuum, when she got home, I had unsuccessfully attempted to eat a number of them.

I didn’t wake up until the next morning. And since then, I have been putting about 23 different drops in my eyes on about 18 different cycles. I feel like I am crying all the time. But other than fighting dryness, my eyes are not in any pain. They say it takes 4 to 6 weeks to completely heal and adjust and already I’ve noticed a difference in my sight. Still, there are times when things are clear and there are times when things are hazy, and at night, I see these halos around everything. It’s like I’m in some 1970’s R&B video. They say all of this is normal and part of the healing phase. And I believe them. After all, they already know I’ll be fine. They’re from the future.