EYE SURGERY ~ Intro, One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight

    (April 6, 1999)

    In two days, I will be having laser vision correction.

    If you don't wear glasses or contacts, you probably have no idea what this means to me, someone who has been encumbered with them since third grade. I've been asked by people with good vision, "how can you pay so much money?"

    To see the alarm clock in the morning. To not worry about being splashed in the face when swimming. To not be so affected by smoky bars. To be able to fall asleep anywhere, anytime, without having to get up and take out my contacts. To not have haloes around lights at night. To not have to require bottled water and soap when camping just to be able to see. To be able to wake up in the middle of the night during an emergency and not be half-blind. To not get dry eyes late at night. To not put fuzz in my eyes along with contacts. To be able to wake up ten minutes later every morning. To not have to buy contact supplies any more. To never again have people see me in my bespectacled ugliness.

    And those are really just side effects. The real reason is simply - to see. To have eyes as good as everyone else's. To not have bad vision be part of the definition of myself. This means so much to me that anytime I seriously think about having good vision, I start to choke up. I will probably be a bawling mess after my surgery, crying tears of joy.

    I have explained the procedure to so many people since I signed up for it that I feel like an evangelist. Let me give you a quick summary. You can see more details here, at the website for TLC (The Laser Center), the company I chose. The procedure I will be undergoing is called LASIK, and it is the most advanced of the laser procedures. A flap is cut in the very top layer of the cornea, then folded back. The laser then re-shapes the inside of the cornea based on the prescription, then the flap is put back in place and allowed to sit for two minutes. After that time, it has adhered well enough that it will stay in place when the patient blinks. (It becomes completely adhered in about a week, I think.) The procedure takes about two or three minutes per eye, during which time the eye is anesthetized with eye drops. The patient is conscious throughout.

    Healing is very quick. In most cases, patients can see well enough to drive after one day. Their vision reaches its best in 3-5 days. Exercise is forbidden for one week. Then, you have about 6 more visits with a local eye doctor for the next year. After that, you are required to have a yearly checkup. If you follow that, and fit other basic criteria, you are eligible for the TLC Lifetime Commitment, which guarantees that they'll maintain your distance vision for the rest of your life for no extra charge.

    How much does it cost? (Let me point out that I will only be discussing the prices at TLC. I chose them because they have been doing laser eye surgery longer than almost anyone, and have 60 locations in the US and Canada.) Here in the states, it is a flat $2000 per eye, which covers everything you need for a year. I am having my surgery in Vancouver, BC, because up there, they charge based on your prescription. For my moderate myopia, it is a little less than half price (once the currency conversion is done). The only other consideration is that post-op care is not covered at the Vancouver center. This costs $700 for a year, so it's still cheaper.

    The funny thing is now that I'm getting very close to my surgery, I catch myself having little wistful thoughts. I think maybe I'll miss the precise, repetitious hand movements I performed every morning and evening. I think maybe I'll miss the relaxing blur my vision becomes when my lenses are off. Then, of course, I come back to my senses. I certainly won't miss losing 20+ minutes a day messing with my contacts. I can't wait.

    This surgery is so major that it will count in the short list of Important Events in my life. I want to commemorate it somehow... even though my eyes will be forever changed, it won't be visible to anyone else. I'd like to do something that is visible to everyone, a ritual of sorts. So I decided to get a tattoo.

    Now, hold on a minute before you get so surprised (if you know me, I've never wanted the permanency of a tattoo). I'll be getting an inkless tattoo. That is, the design will be drawn on my skin with a needle as usual, but there will be no ink injected. This leaves a scar that lasts one or two years. Visible, ritualistic, significant, yet not a lifetime commitment. Below is the pattern I'll be getting (remember that it will look like a scar: white skin on regular skin). It will be about half this size, and probably on the top of my wrist (though I haven't decided for sure).

    Not only do I simply like the look of this, it has some significance. It is called "Hrungnir's Heart." Hrungnir is a character in Viking mythology, a giant with a heart and mind of stone. Therefore, this tattoo will signify courage and strength: The courage to overlook unreasonable fears and reach for what I really want. The strength to bear what suffering is necessary to accomplish my dreams. (Go here for more on inkless tattoos.)

    It's how I have always tried to live my life, and something I'm focusing on even more now.


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