Regular Life

Regular Life

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on. – Robert Frost

I’ve Got my Ion Ewe

This is an update on Shannon’s eyes, but let me start by saying… can we keep doctors out of our lives for just one week, please?

Last month, Shannon reported to her LASIK surgeon to have her right eye checked. The enhancement on that eye had gone okay, and her vision in it was much better than after the initial procedure. She was experiencing slight discomfort, but not enough that she was alarmed.

In all her many prior visits, she saw the actual surgeon only when there was lasering going on. Other doctors did the vision checks, and clinic lackeys other trained professionals did the prep work.

This time, after the first person got a look at her right eye, she very shortly found herself sitting in the surgeon’s office listening to him say more words to her than he has in the past year of this ordeal.

The flap they cut to give the doctor access for the LASIK procedure had not healed right and a few epitheleal cells had got inside. Apparently the outside of the flap is where they’re supposed to stay, but they’re just as happy to multiply once they’ve gained access. It’s rare (so of course Shannon’s going to get it), but it can happen, he said. This would eventually cloud her vision, unless the doctor re-opened the flap and scraped away the errant cells.

Scrape. Her eye. She had just come in for a preliminary check before her left eye enhancement, and now they wanted to scrape her eye. With all Shannon’s been through, this was unwelcome news. Her left eye would have to wait at least another month, and there was obviously some pain in her near future.

Wanting it all over with, she went in as soon as they could schedule it. The usual wait times applied and many other patients complained about the care they were receiving. All in all, it was a normal visit.

Then came the scraping.

“I could see this little thing, like a tiny spatula, going back and forth across my eye,” Shannon said.

Under the doctor’s orders, she left the protective contact lens on a few days rather than just overnight, and after removal they said it looked good.

The problem for Shannon? Her vision in that eye was worse than before the scraping. In the ensuing weeks it got marginally better, to a level Shannon was willing to say, “The right eye’s done. No more.” For those having trouble keeping score, that’s one surgery on the right eye, one enhancement, and one scraping.

Next up? Left eye enhancement.

Monday she reported to the clinic at 5 a.m. They like to start early over there at [redacted]’s house of let’s make another expensive television commercial of the doctor throwing a pass to a Dallas Cowboy.

As mentioned in previous entries, she has to stay awake five hours after the procedure so she can drop medicine in her eye every 10 minutes (and an appointment at 5 a.m. generally means the procedure won’t be performed until around 8 or so). This time, the pain was so severe she could barely keep her left eye open long enough to administer the drops. Shannon’s a terrible winker, so that meant sitting with both eyes closed while Ben and her mom went about their day. If she ever nodded off, it wasn’t for long, thanks to the eye drop timer.

The in-laws’ house is very close to my work, so I visited for lunch. Shannon looked at me through squinted eyes long enough to say hello and then went back to her routine.

The pain had subsided only a little when she awoke late that afternoon from a well-deserved nap. When I drove home from work, she rode with Ben and her mom to get our minivan from the clinic. The plan was for her to drive Ben home.

As I pulled away from Wendy’s (anything but carry out would require Shannon to either look after Ben or cook dinner, which is considerably difficult with both eyes closed), my phone rang. “Can you come get us?”

It was Shannon, and she had made it only a few miles from the clinic. Some nitpicky detail about no depth perception when only using one eye. When I went to pick her up (and leave my car behind), Ben had to pee, so I took him to a nearby Wendy’s. I figured I had bought food from one a few miles down the road, so it was fair use. The hand blower scared Ben, so I dried his hands with toilet paper.

I climbed back into the minivan with Gimp Toe and Squint Eye and headed home.

Tuesday night, Shannon’s eye is feeling much better. “Just a little discomfort from the protective lens. I won’t be able to tell if the vision’s any better until they remove it,” she said. (My “A Lasik Story” page tells of her entire ordeal up to this point.)

The jury’s still out on Toe Boy.

See this fascinating article that’s relevant to Shannon’s experience. It tells of doctors (and names some) who have sued to shut up patients venting online.

12 Responses to I’ve Got my Ion Ewe

  1. Wow…. I’d be talking to the AMA about this doctor soon. This is a tale of horrors compared to my LASIK story.
    I’m very serious that I believe it’s this doctor Mark…… wow.

    Like I said, I researched to death finding my doctor, and he’s one of the top ones in the nation for LASIK, even teaching it overseas on occasion.
    Sure, they offer “bargain” LASIK on billboards around Hartford, but who wants bargain eye surgery????

    I sure hope this ends well for her…..

  2. So much going on with your wee family, Mark. Don’t you go gettin’ hurt now, y’hear??

    Seeing how Shan’s spent so much time with her eyes closed recently, and your delightfully horrible post title, it sounds sort of in line with “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Ion Ewe, and all that.

    If you wanted, you could start calling Ben ‘Odysseus’. Shan has no depth perception, which makes her the Cyclops, and getting back to our references to sheep, it was Odysseus (and the rest of his crew) who escaped from the Cyclops by clinging to the woolen bellies of a flock of sheep. I’m not too sure what that makes you.

    Ben could also be Haphaestus, the Olympic smith, since he too had a bum foot. The current mythological correlations in your family are astounding! If you start lobbing lightning bolts around at errant people, that’ll be a sure sign.

  3. I can only cringe as I read this. I have to agree with Dave that I’m having my doubts about this doctor. I know tons of people who have had LASIK and I have never heard such a horrible story. Have you already paid for the second eye? Is it too late to get that one doen somewhere else?

    And I happen to like the title. Simon did a great job of connecting it to Phillip K. Dick before he went off the deep end. ;)

    Si – given your love of mythology, have you read Dan Simmon’s Ilium/Olympos stories? I assume not since you haven’t done Hyperion yet…but I figured it was worth a question.

  4. Dave – Well, we researched and even asked people we knew, and they didn’t report any complications or problems. Said the guy wasn’t the most personable in the world, but they were satisfied with the results.

    Also, we knew before she signed anything that this wasn’t some bargain basement price thing. Price wasn’t our motivator.

    Simon – I loved Blade Runner, and was fortunate to have its source book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? assigned in a college English course called “Film and American Literature.” I thought of the post title just as a play on words, but then liked the possibilities of Dick references (ahem).

    Thanks for the mythology connections. I enjoyed those.

    Moksha – I appreciate and second your cringe. I do so every time she has to go back under the pseudo-knife.

    Both eyes were done during the same visit on March 31, 2006. Although immediate results are common, everything we read said that vision could fluctuate (and improve) for up to six months after that. So, generally any enhancements are put off until then. By the time that rolled around, the initial procedure was paid for on both eyes, and the enhancements are no extra charge. Nothing she’s had done since the initial procedures has cost us anything monetarily (except gas money for Shannon to shuttle Ben to her mom’s and to get to the clinic). Ponying up money for anyone else to see this through is not an option for folks in our income bracket. At some point, of course, one’s health takes precedence and stopping would be a viable option. Nevertheless, although rare, all the things Shannon has experienced are listed as possible issues. Unlike some unhappy folks, we read ALL of the literature and knew of the dangers (which includes complete blindness). For some of the things she has not experienced (we’ve read a LOT of accounts of bad LASIK experiences) we remain thankful.

    She did go to another expert to have her eyes checked at some point after the first procedures (because her vision was not as much better as she believed it should be), and that person reported no anomalies or anything that would make us question the doctor’s work. Plus, although he tends to run his clinic like a factory and has no bedside manner, he has a good reputation as far as his skills are concerned. Shannon will correct me if I’m wrong, but I think her main complaints, and the only ones she as a non-expert can legitimately make, are the wait times and feeling like a number.

    I’m not writing any of this to slam this particular doctor’s surgical skills, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never questioned that. Apparently that’s a good thing — I’ve updated this post with a link to a fascinating article about doctors suing to shut up disgruntled patients venting on the Internet.

  5. Moksha, no, sadly, I have yet to touch Dan Simmons. Or, uh, any of his books for that matter. :) (I do have a penchant for going off the deep end. Thankfully, I’ve never done so with the pool empty.)

    Hyperion has been on my to-read list for quite a while, and now I may need to add those other two. Which I just recently learned are his take on Homer’s works. Odd that I should read about them in two different places over so short a span of time!

    Mark, you give yourselves credit by having read up on the procedure as much as you did before Shannon subjected herself to the knife and teeny-tiny-scrapey spatula. Most folks have a certain degree of blind faith in medical professionals which is never completely warranted. Quite often the opposite. And that’s scary.

  6. Had to put in my two cents (about the thousands I spent). My doctor put me at the end of his day because my eyes were the worse he ever had to do. (I thought that would qualify me for first in line, but no.) Because it too was an assembly line, he didn’t want to feel rushed doing my eyes, which is good, but still, wouldn’t he be more tired?

    Anyway, I had a lot of pain, went home and went right to bed. No drops and only protective goggles were required. Eight hours later I couldn’t see crap. He had called the house to check on me and told my wife to let me sleep. The next day at my follow-up my vision was still horrible and I was told to give it time. I knew I was blind for life. Over that day it was like someone turned on the auto focus and by that evening I could see perfectly.

    Four years now and no problems. I don’t know if I would have done it if I had read Shannon’s storied first. I have a very low threshold of pain. I had phantom pain looking at Ben’s toe!

    Hope her eyes keep improving!

  7. I read the article, very interesting. I guess it’s best you’ve not cited any names in your posts on Shannon’s experiences.

    It brings up interesting issues. First amend rights vs. libel. When do you cross the line from free speech to libel? People have a right to share their experiences, but people also have a right to be protected from unfair and untrue criticism that could affect their livelihoods and their social standing.

    It is a tricky issue.

  8. Simon – That’s not what Dan Simmons told me.

    Blitz – Yeah, that’s real comforting. He admitted, basically, that he rushes through most of the surgeries. Just mind-boggling.

    Glad you got through it okay. Most people have a positive experience with it (even with Shannon’s guy).

    Meanwhile, I’ll go check for her autofocus setting.

    Alvis – We’ve been careful from the start, mainly because we don’t want some miffed MD shooting lasers at Shannon’s eyes. Sounds like now we have another motivation.

    Yes, it definitely brings to mind the First Amendment. Sometimes the ease of publishing on the Internet is not a good thing. What if every frivolous lawsuit filer established his or her own web site defaming the accused? They might lose miserably in court, but as long as that Web site’s out there, it’s the same as if they are on the street corner yelling, “Dr. Eyeball sucks!” That certainly would not be allowed to continue, so why should a Web site that does the same?

    It’s tricky and sticky.

  9. Sorry, in a rush but wanted to wish Shannon the very best and hope Ben’s healing quickly.

  10. Shannon- hope your eyes get better. Susan had lasik and now has 20/20 vision. Perfect. She got the surgery because the surface of her eyes had developed a resistance due to years of wearing contacts. Her eyes became allergic to them and she developed a couple of infections which were quickly healed with proper medications. She didn’t like to wear her glasses all the time so lasik was her only choice. Thank God for great health insurance. Quick healing to Ben and Godspeed to the Williams family.

  11. mal – That’s exactly what happened to Shannon (except she never quite got infections). Otherwise, she would have been perfectly content to keep wearing contacts.

    Thanks for chiming in. I just have to say that I feel very cool having a friend named mal right now, seeing as how I’m such a big “Firefly” and Serenity fan.

    “I said it’s great, to be, a UCA Bear!”

  12. Wish I had time to watch a little TV. Characters on the show? Well, my time is taken up with writing the great novel of my life and my dreams and watching the hooligans…uh..I mean kids, Noah and Aaron. Oh yeah, that’s the Backyardigans, not the Hooligans. “We’ve got the whole wide world in our house to explore, now it’s time to jump on daddy’s back, make it snap, watch him hit the floor!” –my version of that dreaded Backyardigans theme song….just thought you might be familiar with it, maybe Ben watches or watched it. Ha! Eye see Ewe lata! mal

    Upon the barren hills I trod,
    In search of the One they call God.
    Within the valleys I slowly walked,
    to hear His voice when He talked.
    But all I found were endless mounds,
    and whispering winds with hollow sounds.
    So I returned home, from whence I stray,
    only to learn in such a simple way.
    That God is found when love is near,
    and when reason dies, his voice is clear.

    —-Malcolm Smith
    In loving memory of The Searcher


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