Tuesday, April 20, 2010

LASIK is a Piece of Cake

That's right people. You heard me. LASIK is a piece of cake!  The whole thing went down like this...

A few days prior to surgery, I received a call reminding me of my appointment.  She confirmed my arrival time of 7:15 and surgery time of 8:30.  She then reminded me to wear absolutely no perfume or anything with a strong, heavy scent as it interferes with the laser.

Friday morning, the day of the surgery, I was up and showering by 5:15 am (Freaking early, I know!).  My ride (mom and her bf) picked me up at 6:15 and we headed out for our 45 minute drive to the doctor's office.  We arrived a few minutes early and waited in the car.  As soon as we went inside, however, they were ready and immediately started processing paperwork.  I had to sign a few consent forms and HIPPA forms and I was on my way.  The nurse took me back and looked at my eyes with two more devices. She explained everything she was doing in detail and how the information she was gathering will help them program the laser to make the most accurate adjustments to my vision.  I believe one a corneal topographer which measures the curvature of the eye and creates a colorful kind of "map" of the cornea. There was also a wavefront analysis machine that sends light waves through the eye to provide an even more precise map of aberrations affecting the vision.  All of that was easy stuff.

The nurse then took me to fill out more paperwork and make payment arrangements.  Something I didn't know until recently is that they have special financing programs for healthcare related procedures.  The doctor that I went thru uses the CareCredit program.  They can set you up on any kind of plan from 0% interest for twelve months up to 13.9% interest for 60 months.  I think this is great because it is usually the cost of the procedure that is a major player in whether or not people decide to have it done.  Not that I am a big proponent of credit in general, mind you. I just think this is a great procedure and, since insurance still finds it optional and won't cover the cost, financing options makes it a viable option for people.

Anyway, we got all that set up and this nurse then took me back to a lovely lady who prepped me for surgery.  She explained everything that was going to happen in regard to medication and eye drops.  She also went over medication, eye drops and protecting my eyes after surgery.  I was given a valium to keep me calm and then a series of eye drops that included numbing drops, an antibiotic drop, and a few other drops that I'm not sure about. 

We then went into a room that looked just like any other eye exam room.  The nurse made a name tag for me and stuck it on me shirt upside-down.  She put a little surgical hat thingy over my hair with cotton pads near my ears for collecting excess drops that would run down my cheeks during the procedure and she place surgical coverings over my shoes as well.  Then, we sat and waited for a short while.
Me & mom (she looks thrilled, no?)

As I was checking out my upside-down name tag and repeating my name over and over, the doctor came in, gave my eyes a quick look, cracked a few jokes (which I thought were pretty darn funny given the fact that the valium had kicked in), and we were on our way.

The room that the surgery was performed in was quite cold. By the time I walked over to the table that you lay on, I was shivering. The nice assistants helped me climb onto the table, lay down and then offered me a blanket (thank heavens). Things proceeded quite quickly from there. They immediately started putting more numbing drops in my eyes. From this point on, I really unaware of what exactly was happening. The doctor and his assistants were very cheerful people. They talk you through everything without giving you too much detail. They even cheer you on and tell you what a great job you are doing. Your job is to lay still on that table and stay focused on the blinking light (orange in my case, but I've heard other say red). They also tell you to keep both eyes open which I found difficult to know if I was doing or not because one eye is being held open with lid holder/retainer type object and the other eye was covered with a dark object. It wasn't until I got home and watched the video of the procedure (yes, I did watch it and I wouldn't recommend it if you are squeamish and/or considering having it done until afterward) that I was able to put two and two together and make sense of everything that had taken place.

First they put this plastic looking ring thing on your eye to hold it steady while the flap is made. I felt some pressure on the eye which would normally have made me panic, but the doctor talked me through it and I reasoned in my head that the pressure isn't going to cause my eye to explode or anything because the doctor is here telling me that this is what is going to happen and it should be happening. Everything goes black for a few seconds. I believe at this point, I was placed under the machine that actually creates the flap. After the flap is made, the ring thing is removed and the procedure is repeated with the other eye. All the while, the doctor and his assistants are talking me through every single step.

After the flap is made on the eye, it is then lifted. At the time, I didn't realize that this is what was happening. The doctor tells you to focus on the light. While he’s lifting the flap with a metal instrument, the assistant kept telling me to keep focused on the light and not to let him take it away. This was a bit difficult in my mind because while he’s lifting the flap, he’s tugging on the eye causing it to move which makes it hard to keep the light in sight. Once the flap is lifted, everything becomes really blurry.

The next part of the process is the laser. It makes some clicking sounds and the assistant calls out how long it will take. 19 seconds…15 seconds….hold on, you’re doing great…13 seconds, 9 seconds…3 seconds…done…great job! My understanding is, the laser detects and follows slight movements that you might make and will pause and readjust if necessary. After the laser finishes, the doctor puts what he called glue (a liquid of some sort) over the cornea and then smoothes the flap back down with a sponge like object. And one eye is complete.

The second eye was just the same. I was a little more anxious during the flap lifting process of the second eye. I think because I was unaware of what was actually taking place and really worried about focusing on the light. Once the doctor lifted the flap, he said that he needed me to settle before proceeding. I immediately was able to do just that and everything proceeded smoothly from there.

I would say the whole procedure lasted less than 20 minutes total for both eyes. The video (which, unfortunately, has a piece cut out in the beginning) lasted all of 11 minutes, 55 seconds. It was painless and the doctor and his assistants made it that much better.

After the procedure, the doctor gave my eyes one last look to make sure there were no foreign objects in my eyes and that the flaps were properly replaced. They made sure I had all of my instructions and eye drops and placed some goggles and sunglasses on me and sent us on our way.

I felt great after the procedure. I was actually able to see right away. My sight was blurry, almost as if someone had smeared Vaseline on my glasses or something, but otherwise, I could actually see a good distance in front of me. On the ride home, I rested my eyes. We stopped for breakfast and I kept my eyes closed for the majority of that time. My eyes were sensitive to the light and a bit scratchy as if I had worn my contacts for a long 15 hour day and taken them out and my eyes were dry.

When I got home, I took the second valium that the doctor’s office had given me, made up a bed on the couch and slept for a good 5-6 hours which is recommended. Keeping your eyes closed as much as possible helps them heal. For my waking hours, it was prescribed one drop of Pred Forte and rewetting drops each hour and one drop of the antibiotic four times a day. By 6 o’clock, I was awake and watching tv from the couch with no problem.

It is amazing! I am still amazed. I would highly recommend discussing LASIK with your eye doctor if you are sick and tired of wearing contacts and/or glasses. The procedure was so easy and the doctor and his staff were absolutely wonderful. I can’t express enough how their attitude and caring demeanor made this experience that much better. I would recommend Rosenbaum Eye & Laser Center one hundred times over to anyone as the staff there truly played a huge part in making this such an easy and amazing experience.

**It may be good to note that this is my experience and my experience only. The details may not be wholly accurate, but are the account from my perspect and from my research on the procedure itself.

Stay tuned for more on the Post-Op appointment.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Let There Be Sight

I have worn glasses since the 4th grade when my teacher expressed concern because I was having trouble seeing the chalkboard.  In 7th grade, all of my friends started getting contacts so I jumped on the bandwagon and begged and pleaded with my mom to let me do the same.  For 17 years, I have been placing little plastic hemispheres on my eyeball each and every morning. Though contacts are much more convenient than wearing glasses, they are still a pain. 

Contact wearers are always having to haul a contact case and solution and glasses with them on vacation. Being extremely careful when swimming not to open their eyes under water or get splashed in the eyes.  I often take an extra pair of contacts with me just in case I lose one, drop one or one falls out. I never felt comfortable going out and making a last minute decision to stay at someone else's house because I didn't like sleeping in my contacts.  Taking a nap or even closing my eyes for fifteen minutes was always inconvenient because I would wake up with my contacts glued to my eyes.  Getting an eyelash or fleck of mascara in my eye always seemed to be the most painful thing ever. And it always seemed to happen when I didn't have any solution or drops available. 

All of these issues will be a thing of the past come Friday.  After weeks of consideration and bugging my eye doctor and his staff with a million and one questions, I took a huge leap and made an appointment to have LASIK corrective surgery.  Because we are talking about my eyeballs and my sight here (omg!), I decided to go with the most precise (and most expensive) procedure with the least amount of room for error possible - Intralase. And it is soooooo going to be worth it! 

I am very excited and very, very nervous.  I mean, we are talking about one of the most precious senses our body has.  Hence the reason it took me three weeks and a half dozen stops at my eye doctor's office to make the decision.  Now, the day is nearly here!

I have already started preparing for surgery. Monday was my pre-op where they dilated my eyes (pic above) and, again, performed another eye exam. I was given a prescription for antibiotic drops for my eyes - one drop every four hours for three days.  I was also given a packet full of information (some of the information seemed a little late...like three pages explaining what LASIK and Intralase are).  Included in the packet are instructions to prepare for surgery and what to do post-op.  I was a bit surprised by some of the instructions.

  • If you wear anything with a scent or have cigarette smoke in your clothes, your surgery may be cancelled since this hinders the operation of the laser. No scented hairspray, gels, mousses, after-shave cologne, lotions or perfumes. My-oh-my!
  • No smoking the day of surgery, before or after the procedure. Um, yeah, no problems there.
  • No eye make-up for 2 days before your surgery.  OUCH! Hello. This one hurts. But it's worth it.
  • No face make-up of any kind the day of surgery. This I can handle.
  • Do not wear any facial jewelry.  No problem.
  • Avoid caffeine or alcohol at least 24 hours before your surgery. Yeah, this one really hurts too. Because, you know, I LOVE Mountain Dew.  But I'll survive.
  • Wear comfortable, casual clothing. The laser room is kept cool. No problem. Casual clothing is my favorite kind!
  • Drink plenty of water the day before and the day of your procedure. Eat a light meal before your appointment.  Well, considering the no caffeine rule, I think the water thing is a given. Check!
  • You may not drive yourself home. Please make arrangements for transportation home. Check! Thanks mom and grumpy!  Since they give you valium, I didn't figure I'd be driving. Duh.
The make-up thing really hurts. My instructions also say no eye make-up for two weeks after surgery. That is going to suck too!  Eye make-up is the most essential part of my make-up routine. But, it's going to be worth it. Totally.  Other than that, goggles are required for sleeping. That should be interesting.  No exercise for a week. No swimming, hot tubs, sauna or tanning for two weeks.  And no rubbing for four weeks.   Piece of cake. I hope. 

The countdown has begun. Less than 48 hours until my LASIK appointment.  The anxiety hasn't quite yet begun, but it will surely keep me up the night before surgery.  Though I am nervous, I am also excited about the prospect of being able to see. To see when I wake up in the morning, to see the alarm clock, to see my legs when I'm trying to shave in the shower, to see more than just an outline of My Friend's face at night, to see without having to stick my finger in my eye every morning.  The outlook is very positive. I can't wait to explore the sights with my new eyes very soon!  Stay tuned...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Going it Alone

For the most part, I have become used to going it alone. Growing up, I was always alone. After my parents divorced, my mom spent a lot of time in the bars and with her boyfriend(s) trying to, I assume, repudiate her feelings of despair. I didn’t have many friends and the parents of the friends that I did have were vastly aware of my mother’s absence in our home. Because of this, many of my friends were not allowed to come to my home.

Later on, into high school, friends became fewer and fewer. Having my social network disrupted so many times by moving, caused a great deal of insecurity and lack of trust within me. In high school, I had one real friend that I trusted with nearly every bit of information about me. The rest of my classmates were acquaintances, if that. It probably didn’t help that, by 10th grade, I had moved again. Only this time, I was being forced to live with my dad. I was not allowed to go places or stay the night or have friends over. I can’t say that this helped me make friends. All this to say, I went through high school feeling very alone.

In the last few months of high school, I became reacquainted with the Boy Left Behind (we had dated once before when he was 16 and I 13…my dad did not care for that much). I clung to him for the next several years. I unknowingly and insalubriously clung to him as my only support. I unintentionally expected him to be my boyfriend, my best friend and confident, my father, my caregiver, my replacement for lost self-esteem, my happiness, and my reason for living. Wow! What a load to bear. He was my world because, otherwise, I had nothing. And God knows I didn’t want to go back to having nothing.

The Boy Left Behind and I had an on again, off again relationship for the next thirteen years following high school. Looking back, it was most dysfunctional. I brought my dysfunction and he brought his. At the time, I did not know that my relationship was not healthy. I had no concept of what a healthy relationship was. As I began to learn, however, our relationship began to deteriorate rapidly. Then, in June of last year, I made my final departure from the relationship. I moved away and I ceased all contact.

Since June, I have been on an emotional rollercoaster. Not because I am heartbroken over ending the relationship. Not because I have lingering feelings of doubt or regret. My emotions are tied to the fact that we have ended things before only to later bump into each other and begin again. The cycle has repeated itself so many times that I feared it would happen again. Though my mind tells me that I am a different person this time, that I am a stronger person emotionally, that my head understands what my heart cannot and, this time, my head rules. Even though I am a stronger, more emotionally mature person, I still feared the possibility of weakness and desperation.

Over my Christmas/Holiday break in December, I had a severe breakdown. I cried for days after accidentally discovering a picture of him and his new girlfriend (who bears an uncanny resemblance to me) on Facebook. I had to do a double take because I swore it was me sitting on his lap. But it wasn’t. Why knowing with absolutely certainty that he was moving on was so hard for me, I’m not sure. It isn’t like it was unexpected. He was never one to be alone. If anything, I expected him to be bouncing around between several women. But there it was in front of me on my computer screen and I was home alone with no one to reach out to and share my panic, fear, anger, jealousy, and irrational thoughts with.

I later noticed, after suffering through this turmoil alone, that I had really matured emotionally. As embarrassing as it is to admit, in the past, I would have started plotting ways to weasel my way back into his life. I didn’t want him wanting or loving someone else. I wanted to be his one and only love for all of eternity. This time, however, I didn’t want that. I knew in my head that my life was better where it was at. I knew that I was with someone who was, is and has been there for me in so many more ways than the Boy Left Behind ever could be. I knew that I did not want to get tangled up in that crazy, dysfunctional web that continues to surround him and his life ever again. And maybe it was in this process that I prepared myself for what was to come next.

In the thirteen plus years that I dated the Boy Left Behind, I always felt a strong desire to get married and have a family. And HE was always the person that I wanted to marry and have a family with. Coming from a family of divorce and rough and rocky parental relationships, however, I didn’t want to get married and have babies just to do it. I wanted to be sure that we would both work towards making the marriage one that was loving, supportive, and would last through thick and thin. I wanted to be certain, above anything else, that we would both be parents who made the effort to put our children first and to be there for and support them. In those thirteen years, I was never convinced that he would be that kind of husband or father. Because of this, I was ever-so-careful in my family planning methodology.

When my phone rang last Monday, it was my best girl friend and I presumed she was calling just to see how my trip to Mexico went. We chatted about all of that and how things were going with her and then she says to me, “There is something I want to tell you. I don’t want you to be caught off guard by someone else.” She knew of my breakdown during Christmas and she, too, has been through this with the same family so we have always had each other’s back in this regard. I instantly knew what she was going to say. Boy Left Behind and his girlfriend are going to have a baby…

I can only assume that the ordeal I had gone through over Christmas is what prepared me for this moment. I wasn’t shocked. I had actually predicted it. Without going into extreme detail into the dynamics of how BLB works, I can say that I saw it coming a mile away. I have been dealing with it quite well, surprisingly. The knowledge of the fact that the man that I wanted to share my life and family with is having a family with someone else has not left my brain yet (though, I wish it would) and I spend more time worrying about whether or not it will suddenly hit me and I’ll have another emotional lapse. I was extremely anxious over the weekend when My Friend was at work. I had nowhere to go, nothing to do and no friends to hang out with. I fear being alone. Alone with my thoughts and my feelings. I fear the takeover of irrational thinking. But this is, yet, another things I must go it alone.

Going it alone is just a part of life. It’s something, I presume, we all must do from time to time. Though many folks go through the same ordeal, it’s hard as a person on the outside to recall the feelings from the past to offer understanding to the person in the present. I am sure, too, that my friends are tired of hearing about it. Years of my self-inflicted suffering that they listened to most likely wanting to shake some sense into me and say, “Just do it already. Get over it.” I find it difficult myself to be compassionate towards others who are in predicaments that, with slightly different choices, they wouldn’t be in. I also cannot depend on my friends to be my sole emotional support. It is something that I have learned through counseling that, though others can be there for me, I cannot expect them to bear the full burden of my weight and theirs too. They all have families, lives and their own burdens to bear. Friends can offer me support, but I cannot expect them to bear the burden. Something I did long ago.

I am still going it alone. I am still struggling with the idea that the irrational side of my mind will catch up with me. But one thing I know for certain, now, is that I no longer have to worry about desperation taking over and me attempting to get him back nor would I ever give in to his attempts. Not now. Not after this. That knowledge is a bit of a relief to me. I have feared for ten months an accidental run in with him. How would react? How would I feel? I often slink into the Town Left Behind trying to go unnoticed because everyone there knows the two of us, together and apart. Now, I feel free. Free from those chains. Free to live my life without caution or concern.

I do not want to sound ungrateful to my friends and family who have helped me through the toughest times in my life. I am ever-so-grateful for everyone in my life who has listened to me, offered support, advice, hugs, phone calls, and straight-up rescues. So many people have been there for me in so many ways. I could never repay them for saving my sanity and sticking by me for so long. I know now, though, that sometimes I just have to go it alone.