Terrible nights sleep. Hopefully I’d be tired after the op. All advice is that the best thing to do is go to sleep afterwards as apparently it helps the cornea heal.
Sat in the waiting room of the laser clinic, the sun bright and cold outside, four others sitting around and waiting to be seen. I wonder if we’ll become a little happy band of laser victims, cheering each other on as we go in and out, like contestants on a reality TV show. A woman walks out of the treatment rooms, squinting and smiling before pulling sunglasses on and walking out with her husband…”I’m not too bad….” she mentions, sounding surprised. I’m feeling optimistic.
In the corner, rolling coverage of the Boston man hunt. Newsreaders struggle to say something original over and over.
Sitting next to me a young woman reads aloud from a Penguin Classic paperback. I wonder if I can figure out what the title is over the next few hours?
One woman is taken through “just for a chat…” and returns a few minutes later, clutching her coat and handbag across her chest.
Reading woman is still reading, just subaudibly, I can only hear S’s and T’s, a random collection of hissing clicks that make her sound like a coffee machine cooling down.
It’s Virgina Woolf “The lady in the looking glass”.
If you’re reading Virgina Woolf, surely you can read to yourself without imitating white goods?
The receptionist checks my paperwork, he’s a friend of a friend and teases me. “If you fill this out wrong, we don’t give you any anaesthetic…”
“And then you use a hammer for the surgery, right?”
“And a chisel. Just to make the flap, then the surgeon uses the power of his mind.”
The surgeon takes me into a room and runs through questions. Do I understand the risks of infection? Have I read the information leaflets? Do I have any questions?
“Only one…you’ve seen my notes, do you foresee any difficulties?”
He laughs at me.
“If I did, I’d be discussing them, you’ll be fine.”
I’m taken into a side room asked to confirm my name, date of birth and post code. There’s a short chat about eye drops, the importance of avoiding infection post operatively and then I take my glasses off, drop them in my bag and am led through to the treatment room. I saw it on my first visit, it was clean and reassuringly clinical, a long bed in the middle with large machinery hanging over it.
I’m pretty clueless without my specs on and the assistant with me introduces me to the people in the room, they’re friendly, but I can’t see their faces so it makes little difference. I smile and say hi, then lie on the bed and shuffle my head into position.
The procedure itself is difficult to keep up with. There are various phases that I don’t understand well enough to describe in detail, but my eyes are anaesthetised with drops and a range of lights flashed into my eyes. At times the surgeon tells me to look up, or stare into a red glow. I’m aware of ‘seeing’ things in my vision, though I suspect they’re refractory artifacts landing on my retina. At one point I can see a system of blood vessels, at another a circle with rainbow coloured spots over it hovers in my vision which I wonder is the Wavefront aspect of the procedure, where bumps and dips over my cornea are smoothed over.
The laser ablation itself is almost comically sci-fi. There’s a loud BZZTing noise and the smell of burning flesh for twenty seconds or so. Then the laser is swung away from my eye and I’m able to look up at the surgeon placing the flap of cornea back over my eye. Nothing hurts, but it’s odd to watch someone working on your eye from the eye itself.
The left eye is less comfortable, though I’d been warned that it tended to be as you’re anticipating the less pleasant bits. I’m worried that I’m blinking, as I can feel the muscles in eye that would make me blink contracting.
“You guys have a speculum holding my lids open, don’t you?”
“Cool, I think I@m blinking, but I’m not, am I?”
The surgeon chuckles.
“No, we are in complete control…”
Once we’re done I’m sat up and immediately struck by the fact that the world looks sharper. It’s not perfect by any stretch and my entire visual field is foggy, as though the room was full of smoke. But looking through the smoke it’s immediately obvious that lines and edges are more defined than they were beforehand.
I sit in a recovery room for ten minutes, call Kate to come and rescue me and get a lift home.
In the car on the way home the anaesthetic wears off. It’s horrible. Both eyes feel intensely dry and itchy and it’s sore to hold them open, it’s as though I’ve opened an oven too fast and had a blast of hot air across both eyes. I suddenly just want to go to sleep and it’s all I can think of as I walk through the front door. Thankfully I’ve lined up some painkillers and a sleeping tablet by my bed side table so it’s a matter of taping the eye shields on, taking some meds and lying down.
So, I guess I slept. I wake up, put drops (antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and artificial tears) into my eyes. Drink a cup of tea and eat some dinner. Phone my Mum (because that’s what you do, right?) and watch a little blurry television. After a few hours my eyes are knackered again so I repeat my meds and head back to sleep.
Wake up, pee, eye drops. Confused by being able to sort of see on waking, panic that I’ve left contact lenses in.
Awake, eyes gritty and dry, but vision in right eye pretty good. Left one still hazy and blurry, but undeniably sharper than before. My left eye has a circle of bloodshot-ness from the suction cup, but my right eye is largely white and clean. I wonder if this has something to do with the difference in vision between the two of them? A day of drops and rest, I think.