Saturday, June 30, 2007

So you'd think that since I haven't posted in so long that nothing interesting was going on in my life. But then you'd be wrong, my friend. I seem to be unable to post when I have too much going on in my life. Rehearsals for Steel Magnolias, memorizing lines. Oh and that Lasik thing.

Yup. After 22 years of increasing levels of blindness, I am now free of glasses and contacts. Hurrah! Of course, it wasn't that easy. No, no, my life needs more interesting fodder for storytelling than simply "Hey, I got my eyes fixed and it was great." There simply has to be an epic tale to tell. So if you want the short version stop with this paragraph. If you want the on.

It started so simply. I decided to to finally take the plunge and get it done. Made an appt with my eye doctor in April and found that while I am very blind, I am actually a candidate for Lasik. When I say very blind I mean that 20/20 is a 0 and I am a -12. 90% of people who wear contacts or glasses are a -6 or better. And I am (was) twice that. But testing showed me to have abnormally thick corneas. This is a good thing considering that they reshape your eye, basically shaving it with a laser and the more prescription you have the more reshaping needs to be done. So I am (was) a freak with legally blind vision and crazy-thick corneas.

I wanted to get it done right away, but there were two complications. I needed to be out of my contact lenses for at least 2 weeks prior to the surgery and I was performing in Robin Hood. Maid Marian could not wear coke-bottle-lensed glasses. So we put the surgery off till after Robin Hood closed and I could wear my glasses full time for two endless weeks.

June 14th was the big day. And I cannot begin to tell you how ready I was. Wearing my glasses was difficult for me. It was hard to see because the level of prescription I have gives no peripheral vision and lends a serious feeling of vulnerability to a girl. And I found myself slipping into behaviors and body language that I hadn't seen since I was a sophomore in High School and got my first pair of contact lenses. Couldn't look people in the eye for more than a second and didn't want them to look at me. Kept my head down and shoulders hunched. Protected my space in a way that reminded me of junior high. How you had to be very careful who got too close to you, cause if the smartass boy took your glasses and passed them around the cafeteria to see how blind you are, you'd be virtually helpless till they gave them back. Really -I was that blind. And wearing my glasses reminded me of the precarious position compromised eyesight can place you in. Add to that the fact that I was not taking my headache prevention meds cause they cause dry eyes and was starting to suffer from increased headaches. I was cranky about it and ready to get the surgery.

And at 7:11 am on June 14th, the laser center called to tell me not to come. They calibrate the laser each morning at this morning it came up with an error code. It either works at 100%, or it turns itself off. And there would be no surgeries performed that day. I was devastated. I had been telling myself 5 more days, 2 more days, etc. and couldn't imaging having to wait longer.

But I had to wait. It just so happens that the laser center was moving to its swanky new offices the very next day. That meant they had to shut down and move the lasers, recalibrate them and the FDA had to re certify them before I could get my surgery done. They were very vague on when they could do it, but I finally got them to work out a plan for me personally. My eye doctor is the wife of the man that runs the laser center and I was considered a priority patient. The plan was that they would do their damnedest to get the lasers functional and approved by Tuesday AM and call me in on Tues Afternoon to end my suffering. But we wouldn't know till last minute whether this would happen or not. So I waited. And waited.

Monday evening my doc's assistant called to tell me it didn't look good and to not plan on getting in on Tues. I tried to ask what the alternate plan was, Wed? Thurs? But Joe was just the assistant and had no answers. They would call me with more news.

Tuesday came and I got no call from them. I waited till 3pmish and called them myself. Somebody needed to tell me something. I could not put this off forever. Steel Magnolias opens on July 13th and I understood light sensitivity to be a common side effect of the surgery. Not a good thing when you are standing under stage lights. The flunkies reported - cheerily - that I was being schedule for the next Tuesday, another week away! Why? I asked. Why next week? Well, it seems the surgeon at the laser center was taking his vacation. Leaving tomorrow, so it was either the failed Tuesday plan or next week. I almost calmly asked to speak with my doctor. She'd call me back.

In the meantime, while I fumed, madder than I have ever been in my life, I started calling the other 5 or 6 state of the art laser centers in Austin with my story. Mann Eye Institute said come in tomorrow for scans and if you are cleared, we'll do it Thursday.

When my doc finally returned my call, I told her I had fired her husband's laser center and wanted to go to Mann. And my wonderful doc gave me no shit about it and helped me get my records over to the new place. I think she understood how shitty it was that I was being put off another week so the surgeon could go on vacation.

Mann Eye Institute was wonderful, first class, treated me well, got me - a complicated patient- in for surgery with two days notice. They agreed to co-manage me with my eye doctor and let me do all my follow-up with her. Which is important to me because she runs a child friendly office. All the exam rooms have toys in the corner and they encourage me to bring Jackson along.

So I am now a week post surgery and am seeing nearly 20/20. I am told my vision will improve even more once I heal further and take care of the dryness that is a common side effect.

This is pretty life changing. I have identified myself as being blind for so long. It is hard to grasp that the disability is gone. That I am not just wearing my contacts. That what I am seeing is produced solely by my own eyeballs. Very weird. I have a hard time getting into bed at night. I have such a feeling of wrongness when I walk to my bed with perfect vision. It feels like I have simply forgotten to take out my lenses.

Maybe I needed it to be an epic struggle to make it real somehow. It's a personality trait (flaw?). I somehow need to fight or suffer for something for me to appreciate it. Silly huh?


Tim said...

Wow! -12.9! I thought I was blind and I'm a measily -8.5. I definitely identify with you and the whole glasses thing. I generally don't even open my eyes when I go to the bathroom at night, because what difference will it make?

Kara said...

Congratulations Marsha! You took the plunge! I took it in 2000 - seven years ago - and am still seeing 20/20. My vision wasn't as bad as yours of course (-4.5) but I remember going to bed thinking the same thing as you. "I need to take out my contacts. Oh wait, I am not wearing them!" I had nightmares about waking up with bad vision for three years after the surgery, though. I began to take having good vision for granted. Now I struggle to remember what it was like to be blind. Funny, huh?

I know you probably paid out the ass for your surgery. Doctors in the US make a bundle here on Lasik. I only paid $1000 total for my surgey in Canada and that was seven years ago. Thank God I took advantage of the opportunity while I lived only an eight hour drive from Calgary, Canada. A friend of mine paid $4k for hers two years ago but got five Lasik upgrades in case her vision ever got worse. She didn't realize that if you get a veteran doctor that you should never have to go back for more Lasik.

The dryness and fluctuations in your vision will last about six months, but it is SO much better than being blind.

Way to go Marsha!

Jooley Ann said...

Yay! I'm so happy for you!! :) I know your vision has bothered you for a long time. It must be amazing to have such a life-changing event!!