This eye looks with love,
This eye looks with judgment.
Free me, take the sight out of this eye.
– Edie Brickell, This Eye
A girl, about 16, burst into the waiting room from an interior door, wearing brightly colored polka-dot pants that looked like pajamas. Her hair was part blonde, part pink. She walked quickly to a fussy woman who looked ready for a night on the town. Between sobs, the girl said, “They left me all alone in a dark room where I couldn’t see anything.” Everybody else remained quiet, seemingly trying to take it all in. What else is there to pay attention to at 5 a.m.?
Shannon was in the Lasik surgery center waiting room, trying to read her book and relax. No need getting worked up when you already know you’re going to be there at least four hours.
During the first hour she looked up from the pages long enough to learn that only two of the 10 people present were first-timers. At first she couldn’t figure out the woman who wore full makeup, neatly coiffed hairdo, and jewelry — all verboten during Lasik surgery. In addition to plain faces and flat hair, everybody else wore warm, comfortable clothes, a wise move when the OR is kept at 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
A tech came out looking for the teenage girl, because she had left one of the deeper waiting rooms. Fancy woman told the tech, “I requested that she not be alone because she’s scared. Could she at least have her glasses while she’s back there, because she can’t see anything?”
The tech assured her she would not be alone.
Some time after 6 o’clock, they called Shannon back. Once they do that, they take all the patient’s belongings. “It was a good thing I had my book that first hour,” Shannon recalled.
It was an abbreviated version of the first procedure. Staffers dropped numbing liquid into Shannon’s eyes, along with her compadres, and dotted the appropriate points on the whites of their eyes. Here, someone brought up the girl. The man in the room (the only one at that point) said he could understand how she felt, and everyone in the room was in accord. He said, “This is the most impersonal experience I’ve ever had in my life. It’s like herding cattle.”
Everyone agreed. They had no idea what time it was, however, because there were no clocks anywhere.
All the patients had been offered Ativan. “They ask your weight when they ask if you want it. If they don’t believe you, then they have you get on the scale,” Shannon said. So, overshoot it, and you might get too much of the drug. Low-ball it and you don’t get enough. Come in too far one way or the other, and they make you step up.
In the last waiting room before the OR, one lady fell so fast asleep that the tech couldn’t wake her and went on to the next person. Another patient finally woke her. I’m thinking I’d be a little nervous about going in there drowsy. One’s head is not secured at all, the doctor relying on the patient to “be still” while he’s firing the laser. Nod off, get a free hole in your eyelid. Actually, that last is completely made up. Shannon can’t recall anything they do to make sure the eye remains open, but can’t say for sure that they do nothing. The numbing may retard blinking, but that can’t be enough.
In the OR there was only one stop — for the re-opening of the flap and the procedure itself, done in two steps the first time around. The doctor’s only words to her this time? “Look at the light.” This guy definitely needs a visit from the bedside manner fairy.
Shannon was in a lot of pain following the enhancement. “I just wanted to close my eyes and go to sleep, but I had to stay awake five hours to keep putting in eye drops.” Once she was able to sleep, she awoke pain free.
At first, the vision difference had been impossible to discern, because it was hard to even keep the eye open through the pain. She didn’t realize just how much better it was until she went out at night.
At a restaurant Saturday night (a late birthday dinner for me, with family this time), Shannon was reading a hand-scrawled menu on a chalkboard that most of us barely could read with our glasses. Covering her right eye, she couldn’t read it, but using only her right eye, or both eyes, she could. Her vision in the dark is spot-on, too.
That’s pretty encouraging considering she hasn’t had the follow-up procedure on the left eye yet.
For Shannon, it’s a positive peal above a dismal din.
My co-worker whose husband had Lasik surgery on Friday said that he’s playing video games and watching TV without his glasses now, and that he hasn’t had any problems at all. Shannon’s doctor is one of those he considered. Glad we were able to help him make his decision.
That said, I don’t think Shannon’s doctor’s surgical ability or expertise is in question. I hate not citing sources, but somewhere we read that about 10% of Lasik patients end up going back for at least one follow-up procedure. Of course, Shannon was frustrated that she was one of those, but her primary complaint is the rushed, mass production approach to the surgery.
The doctor has plenty of time to make a commercial featuring himself roping and hog-tying a calf. Is that a bizarre way to advertise a Lasik surgery center? I suppose being a rodeo star requires sharp vision. Still, I’m not sure why one wants his or her eye surgeon to possess calf-roping skills.
That TV spot brags that he’s the official opthalmalogist of the Dallas Cowboys. My guess is that multimillionaire athletes get more personal attention than the average patient.
On her checkup visit the following Friday, Shannon could read the next-to-last line on the chart with her right eye. For that five-minute consult, she was there for less than two hours on Friday. That’s a new speed record.
When will they do the left eye? The examiner looked at Shannon and said, “One or two months.”