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October 3, 2004

20/20 L, 20/15 R, 20/10 Combined

That's the verdict, 24 hours after LASIK surgery.

I realize this is my first post-op post, so I've got a lot of territory to cover. Please bear with me.

First off, I WILL be posting the nitty-gritty, gory-gory details of the actual surgery in this post, since I know it's info that some folks would love to have.

I will warn you before it gets seriously detailed. First, the info that's not cringe-inducing and perhaps of interest to you all:

I CAN SEE! I have amazing vision with no effort whatsoever! How cool is that? Way cool, I'll tell ya!

Let's do the chronology.

Wednesday, I met with Dr. Khanna for the first time. Keith had already scoped out the office a few blocks from here to check into their "free screening" policy and what sort of payment plans they offered. He also had inquired about the doctor's experience performing LASIK on patients who, like me, develop keloids when cut (see the tattoo on my left upper arm, for an example of what one CAN do to "hide" a keloid, should one develop such things during "routine mole removal" in a doctor's office). Yes, I had read everything about how skin tissue and eye tissue are NOT the same and that there is very little risk of developing an on-eye keloid, but I still wanted to be CERTAIN that the surgeon I chose had EXPERIENCE (and, more correctly, SUCCESS) in this particular area.

Dr. Khanna is one of the friendliest, most pleasant people in the medical profession I have had the pleasure to encounter. He jokes around (but knows when to get clinical), he speaks in terms that don't judge or insult the patient, he puts everyone involved at ease (some of the biggest calming-down at times was required for Keith), and his entire staff is of that caliber as well. What a great group of people!

Okay, so I'm immediately put at ease while being thoroughly (and I do mean THOROUGHLY) examined for my candidacy for LASIK. Yes, it was quickly determined that my vision (a prescription of -5.25 in my left eye, -4.50 in my right eye), the thickness of my cornea, and the fact that my vision has basically stabilized (same prescription) in the past three years made me a good candidate for LASIK. If I wanted to schedule the surgery for Friday, that was an option.

Dr. Khanna had mentioned to Keith on Monday (when he was there scoping the place out on his own) that he perceived me to be a very cautious person, having done years of research on LASIK and, more recently (when I knew we could afford it and wearing contacts had become more of a pain than ever before) having done months of doctor-specific research as a part of my decision. Keith corrected him, "Oh no. Not Bonnie. She is meticulous. Not cautious. If she clicks with you on Wednesday, I believe she will sign up for the surgery Friday morning. She has done a lot of math on this topic. It's time."

See, I was first prescribed glasses for distance only (driving, concerts, movies, etc.) at the age of 16. A year later, my prescription had doubled and the doctor suggested contact lenses, as the glasses I would have to wear would be thick and heavy (and would be worn all the time, making headaches frequent--as a migraine sufferer, I certainly didn't need anything else to make headaches frequent). By the time I was 19, I was taken out of the daily wear soft contact lenses I'd had and put in disposables. This was due to the fact that I was beginning to suffer from the lack of Oxygen getting to my eyes while wearing daily wear lenses for so so so many hours (remember, when you don't sleep, taking contact lenses out for a couple of hours a day is not a lot of rest for your eyes, or cleansing time for the daily wear contacts, which develop protein deposits and all that good stuff).

I was in disposable lenses from the age of 19 to the age of 34 (now). It was only in my last six months that I'd begun having some serious problems with the lenses for the first time. I always assumed, when I heard people complain about their contacts itching or causing them to need eye drops, bitching about what a pain it was to put them in and take them out every day etc., that they were just wimps. I truly never had these issues. Until April 2004. And it's been a rough few months, lemmetellya.

So, after the karmic smackdown over living such a charmed contact-wearing life, I knew it was time to do this. I had gotten down to about four or five hours of contact wearing a day before I'd be in pain and have to take them out. And, I'd have to dispose of my disposable contact lenses (which allegedly last for two weeks) every three or four days, due to how uncomfortable they would become in such a short time of short periods of use. Very odd.

As you may recall from my entry in June on the subject, my eye doctor told me it was due to my AGING EYES that I was experiencing this discomfort. Pff.

Okay, so on Wednesday, I go ahead and set the appointment for Friday morning surgery. I cancel my plans for Friday (bummer) and do what I'm told: avoid bright sunlight (due to having had my eyes dilated for HOURS), limit computer and TV time, and do not put in contacts ever again. (Note: I had been told to remove my contacts on Monday when Keith returned from the doctor's office on his scouting trip, in preparation of my evaluation appointment on Wednesday.)

Also, on Thursday morning, I started a course of four-times-a-day antibiotic drops in each eye, per doctor's orders.

ON FRIDAY, I HAVE THE SURGERY (if you don't want to "read all about it," STOP READING NOW and pick back up after the next series of *** to show you it's "safe" for the less-detail-inclined).


Friday morning I arrived at the operating room, was asked to watch a DVD of a procedure being done, signed some more forms, had my eyes looked at one more time with one more machine (I couldn't imagine that they HAD any more machines than what were already used on me the Wednesday before), and was given an anti-anxiety drug of some kind.

Honestly, I would've liked to have that BEFORE having watched the DVD. Watching eye surgery is NOT an anxiety-free experience, no matter how much sex and violence you've subjected yourself to, growing up on a dose of American TV.

Anyway, I realized I wasn't talking or being social, which surely meant I was scared (and I was. I hadn't slept the night before and I really kept trying to envision the bliss that would be my post-surgery experience, but kept coming back to the creepy feeling of having "woken up" during a procedure on my bladder in 1973. It became very clear to me that I would like to be knocked out--way out--for this. Of course, that's not an option).

They put my hair up in a shower cap and put booties on my feet. My hands were ice cold, they told me, as they led me into the operating room, which had windows facing outside as well as a window into the waiting room, in case family wanted to watch, video tape, etc. Keith had assured me he would NOT be watching. I certainly understood.

Keith says I was in the operating room for 15 minutes, total. It felt more like 10 minutes to me, but I was certainly not paying attention to time, so we'll go with his estimate.

I was lined up underneath the laser, which I was told would be "charging up" in a few moments. I was told to look at the flickering red light and to NOT move. My head was placed in a comfortable, head-surrounding pillow, "as a reminder not to move your head" (um, okay), and then the laser's flickering guide light was covered by steel, while they charged up the laser (a series of very loud pops clicking off to the other side of the room).

The nurse was awesome. She told me everything that was happening, as it happened. I suppose that freaks some people out, but for me it was very helpful. One thing I would've liked to have been told (or, if I had been told, I'd liked to have had it made much more clear to me) was that I would GO BLIND during the procedure. *shudder* It was damn scary.

Okay, lemme back up.

Right eye first. I'm given some anesthetic drops in both eyes and swabbed across the face with iodine, which I'm told goes nicely with my freckles. I try to laugh. My right lower eyelid is then taped to my cheek below and my right upper eyelid is taped to my eyebrow. The tape is shaped so that the adhesive *just* misses the eyelashes ("So you don't leave here with bald eyes," the nurse tells me). Then, a device that keeps my eye pried open is inserted into my eye, while I'm told to make a "shocked" face to give it as little resistance as possible (meanwhile, my left eye is taped shut, making the task of making that face a little tricky).

At that point, a clear tube is placed over my eye, making a ring around what I can see. I'm told this will be suction, which will cause some pressure. Okay. It's not "some pressure" and "suction" is putting it mildly. It's a full-on vacuum that makes me lose my sight... slowly. THAT was the scariest fucking thing I've ever experienced. I immediately went into a panic attack, clutched my necklace, and started weeping uncontrollably. I knew I had drugs in my system that could keep me from going into full-blown panic attack mode and I knew that this was just temporary blindness (It had to be, right?) but this was a freakin' scary experience. The nurse calmly told me that the worst was over and then my cornea was sliced. The device was something like a cheese slicer, so that the initial cut at the base of my iris was the "hard part" and then the slicer went up both sides of my cornea at the same time, to the top of my iris where they stopped making the cut, in order to create the corneal flap.

Quickly, cool solution was poured into the tube over my eye, washing down into my right ear. Suction was removed and suddenly I could see the flashing red light again, only not so clearly as before. This is due to the fact that my cornea was flipped "up" at the flap. Now begins the laser.

Pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop... you get the idea.

I am told by the nurse that this will go on for 38 seconds. She tells me when we're at 20, tells me I'm doing great, hang in there, all of that. Tells me when we're at 10 and then at five she counts down to zero. The laser is off, the red light continues to blink, and I smell tissue burning. It occurs to me, of course, that there's a reason for that smell: TISSUE IS BURNING. Duh.

Next, the flap is released back into place and my cornea is "brushed" back into position using a swab with some adhesive on it. The surgeon's stroke is very delicate and precise, from what I can see of it. It is clear he is evening out the area where the corneal flap should fuse back to the rest of my eye and making sure there are no bubbles or creases of any kind. More wash (a couple of kinds). Then the device holding my eye open is removed. Then the tape (OUCH!!!!) and after that my right eye is taped shut as my left one has been.

When we start the procedure on my left eye, the nurse alerts me to the fact that there is something called The Left Eye Phenomenon, wherein our brains somehow feel that the left eye hurts MORE than the right, to do, due to the fact that we now know what to expect.

Fascinatingly, the left eye hurt much LESS, mainly because I knew what to expect and didn't go into it with a panic attack over losing my sight during the suction portion of the procedure. No crying this time. 41 seconds instead of 38 this time. Same everything else.

And then we were finished. My right eye was uncovered and I was asked to sit up and look out the window. Through a milky haze (from the drops), I could see the buildings outside. I was then asked to see what time it was. 9:30. "Could you see the time before?" "I could probably have seen that there was a clock there, but that's about it."

I know they wanted me to be very impressed and thrilled, but I was just relieved it was over. I looked to the waiting room and there was Keith. He had watched everything. He said he wouldn't, but in the end he couldn't not watch, he said. He won't talk about it though. He said it was really disturbing and that he'd talk about it LATER (like his experiences in the Marines--needs some distance from them before they become conversational).

I was led out of the operating room and into recovery, where Keith joined me. The room was dark and my eyes were closed. He sat across from me and held my hands. I cried like a baby. Relief. Joy. Anticipation. Mostly relief. I lived through it.


HERE'S THE REST OF THE STORY (if you scrolled passed those details and are coming back here to finish the tale).

I'm told to stay in bed as much as possible Friday, while I recover. I'm sent home wearing racquetball goggles and I'm given a bag of various drops and supplies, with instructions (thank goodness Keith was listening). My first post-op appointment for checkup is scheduled for Saturday morning.

I snooze on the drive home. Keith gets me home and into bed, where I fall asleep quickly after eating some popcorn. I tell Keith I'll want some Jamba Juice and Pizza Bread when I next wake up. He checks on me a few times. I'm in and out of sleep (and surrounded by kitties, who can tell I need them). A few hours later, Keith comes in with my smoothie and bread and asks me what I can see. I see, behind him, the bookcase. I can read the spines of the books. Whoa. That's weird.

I get a few calls from friends who are checking on me during the day. That was really nice. I stayed pretty doped-up-and-sleeping as much as I could. When I got up for longer than a trip to the bathroom, I walked into the living room, stretched out on the sofa, and turned the TV on, just so I could hear it (not allowed to watch it or use the computer or anything still). Everything was still a little blurry, but I could definitely see. I felt physically well enough to be out, if I'd wanted to chance it, but I really believed I needed to follow doctor's orders to the letter. (Note: Last night Keith said it's a testament to how very scared I was, the fact that I actually did what someone told me to do, 100%. Rat bastard. Of course, he's right. I did those antibiotic and steroid drops every few hours, as prescribed, and NEVER took off the goggles, otherwise.)

To get a restful night's sleep, I took two Excedrin PM. I just didn't want to wake up 'til it was time to see the doc again. Woke up tired and groggy from the drugs (Yes, Excedrin PM is that hard on me.) and Keith drove me to the doctor's office for my post-op checkup.

I told Dr. Khanna that I'd felt, on the drive over, as though my vision was better in my right eye than my left eye. He said, "Well, it could mean that you have BETTER than 20/20 vision in your right eye. Let's find out." Of course, I was assuming that the right eye was great and the left eye would need more work or something.

We begin the eye chart test. Right eye: 20/15. Left eye: 20/20. Combined... and he dials down the screen to the tiniest print possible (tinier print than I knew existed on an eye chart) and asked what I could read there. I said, "The center letter is a T. That's very clear." And he sat back with a laugh, "20/10!"

Wow. Now I was giddy.

He peeled a paper-like strip off of a tablet and dipped it in a solution, then brushed the tip of the strip at the base of both irises (where the initial cuts were made in the surgery). Then he used a fluorescent light to determine how my scar tissue was doing. He made some dots on my chart, showing a higher concentration of scar tissue on my left eye than my right (makes sense, as my left eye does feel a little less comfortable than my left--and that's a TINY amount of discomfort, I'll have you know).

I asked if I needed to come back on Monday, as that's what's in the literature, for a second post-op visit. "Oh, no," Dr. Khanna said, "You're healing GREAT. You come see me on Friday." Wow. That's so cool. He gave me the clearance to drive and everything (I chose not to, just yet).

I asked, "Hey, what was my vision before? Like 20/what?" And he said, "Unchartable. See?" And showed me where he wrote a notation that without corrective lenses I didn't register, that Wednesday. He said my contacts had actually been too low a prescription this last time. Not by much, but by some.

I popped on my new doctor's-orders sunglasses and Keith and I hopped in the car and drove to Ikea, where we shopped for two hours. Then the post office. Then lunch. Then home.

I still limit my time on the computer and looking at TV (feels a little like strain, if I'm on for more than a couple of hours at a time), which is why it's been longer than anticipated for this update to come (Keith figured I'd be online as soon as we got home from the doc, rather than SHOPPING). We went for a walk last night and I didn't see halos or stars or anything around street lamps or any of the night-effects they warn of.

I can see. Well. I feel great. I continue my drops as prescribed and I am taking it easy. I had a hard time NOT going to take out my contact lenses last night before bed. It was weird, being able to take this vision with me to bed!

I love it.

I've read a lot of accounts of people who say they don't regret it once they do it and they wish they'd done it sooner, etc. All I can say is, I'm glad I did it when I did it, where I did it, and with the surgeon who did the fine work. This is amazing. The best $3500 I've ever spent. It is really dang amazing to see this well. First time since the mid-'80s for cryin' out loud!

It's awesome to see.

THANK YOU for all of the wonderful, healthy-eye vibes.
Weekly column at Showfax.com

"Then again, I also heard a lot about the results of alcohol consumption on repressed cultures which is basically that you've never seen a obnoxious drunk until you've seen an obnoxious drunk who isn't allowed to talk about his or her real feelings or needs while sober. At least American culture leaves room for being obnoxious drunk OR sober!" -- Sweet Dawn on her visit to Singapore, 27 September 2004

Posted by bonnie at October 3, 2004 5:42 PM


can't wait until we get to SEE you again...and this time YOU WILL SEE us...just kidding, bonnie - have had a hard few weeks of rehearsals, so we are sorry that we didn't send you more wishes for this whole thing...we did at home, silently, no time for the computer, emails, im's etc.....glad all is well - keep on keepin' on...we're ready for the upcoming books....JK....get well and know we are thinking of you...suesie and kendall..(NO LONGER SUESIE AND KENDALL!!!) ha!

Posted by: suesie at October 3, 2004 5:57 PM


I'm so happy for you Bonnie!! You amaze me. I could never have gone through with that. I'm such a wuss. I'm so glad this worked out so well for you!!


Love you!!!

Posted by: Jodi at October 3, 2004 6:59 PM

I'm glad it all went well. Now you can see that the trees have leaves on them.

Posted by: BrYan at October 3, 2004 7:24 PM

Come hold my hand when I have the $3500?!?

Posted by: Amy at October 3, 2004 11:56 PM

Yay! Glad to hear that it went so well. You're totally brave though. I'm not sure that I could do it, but maybe someday. :-)

Posted by: hannah at October 4, 2004 1:11 PM

Thank you SO MUCH for sharing the gory-gory's. WOW. Please keep us updated in the weeks to come as you heal...I honestly believe now for that minimal amount of panic time, I'd GLADLY trade it in to be able to see again without the need for glasses or contacts.

I'm SO glad it all went smoothly, and that you're healing well! And WOW. 20/10...sure can't beat that!! *hugs*

Posted by: JeanNINE at October 5, 2004 1:53 PM