I’ve had glasses for as long as i can remember. As a kid, i hated them and begged for contacts. I stubbornly wore contacts for years even though they were irritating and i always fell asleep with them in. I did so because my coke bottle glasses were embarassing. In college, contacts became impossible because i never slept and spent too much time staring at computer screens. Luckily, i found out that i could spend an obscene amount of money and get relatively thin and cool glasses across the street from the computer lab. While visiting San Francisco a few years later, i found the best eye glasses guy ever. At a store on the west side of Castro by 19th, there’s this gay guy (a proper bear who wore leather the first time i saw him). When i walked in, i told him i was looking for new glasses. He looked at me and then grabbed a pair and shoved them at me with, “here. these.” I asked if i could look around and he made it very clear that this was not the right question. He was right – the glasses were perfect; I bought them. A few years later i bought another pair from him. They too were perfect. But due to my prescription, they were over $900 each.
I first heard about Lasik when i was in high school and i begged and pleaded with my mom to get the surgery. When she was sick of hearing me beg, she got the eye doctor to explain that it was not a procedure for minors and that my eyes needed to stabilize. I thought about it again a few years later, but my lack of income made it an impossible endeavor. Besides, what if something went wrong?
Over the last few years, i’ve heard people ramble on and on about Lasik. I started to realize that most of my friends had had it done. And they loved it. My friend Case started sending me del.icio.us links of everything i needed to know. He raved about his doctor and told me to call him. I actually did call him, but then a set of personal problems made me not follow up. As i was leaving San Francisco, i thought about again but i just didn’t have the nerve to call.
Moving to Los Angeles made the desire to fix this problem grow ever more strong. Perhaps the ever-present plastic surgery ads played into it, but more than anything, it was living five blocks from the beach and hating my glasses whenever i went to the beach. To top it off, the film on my glasses started flaking in December, meaning that new glasses were going to be necessary very soon. I started asking people if they had any recommendations in LA. I figure that LA, land of all things plastic surgery, had to be an ideal place to get Lasik done. Very few people knew of any good surgeons here but one name did emerge – a Dr. Robert Maloney. He was considered to be the best – he fixed other doctors’ fuckups, did way too many famous people, and had done a bazillion of these things. He got to do all of the FDA trial stuff and that ABC show Extreme Makeover used him as the eye doctor. He was extremely expensive and located in Beverly Hills – terribly surface-level indicators but, honestly, i wanted someone who would be good given how bad my vision is.
Shortly before 6PM on Tuesday night, i decided to just call and see if i could get an appointment, just to see… The guy on the phone asked me which month. I said now? He said that he actually had a cancellation for tomorrow (Wednesday) at 2PM. I said perfect. I went down to the clinic. It’s poshy-poshy and no one working there has glasses. On the waiting table are these huge binders – Dr. Maloney’s CV. Harvard, Oxford, UCSF, award this award that, etc. I go through a bazillion tests. The first set are obvious – damn do i have bad vision. -10.0. That’s at the upper scale of what they are even willing to consider, but there are alternatives to Lasik. More tests. No glaucoma, no indications of macular degeneration, tear ducts work, average pupils, etc. Then, there’s the cornea thickness test – this is the one that really matters because they have to shave this off. Surprisingly, i have super thick cornea making it very easy to do the correction even with my atrocious vision. After going through all of the nurses and doctors (who are all amazingly nice and willing to humor all of my strange questions), i meet Maloney. It takes me two seconds to realize that he’s arrogant as hell (with Hollywood niceness coated on top). Perfect. I have to admit that i like arrogant doctors when it comes to this kind of stuff. He needs to be absolutely convinced that he couldn’t possibly mess it up. And he was. His success rate was astounding – there was no reason to think that i’d be the first person he’d leave blind after 40,000 of these damn things.
I decided to do it. Again, they asked me when i wanted the surgery. They typically have availability a week after consultations but i look at my calendar and realize that i have a million things scheduled next week and if anything went wrong, it wouldn’t be pretty. I asked her if there was anything tomorrow (Thursday). She looked at me startled and said she doubted it, but when she went to that date in the monitor, there was indeed one opening – 1.30PM, Thursday, February 1. I said i’d take it. They asked if i wanted the all laser version (Lasik Wavefront with Interlace) or the one that involved the blade (Lasik Wavefront only). I don’t think they put it that curtly but that’s what my head translated it to. I didn’t care that the all-laser option was an extra $800 – the idea of blades made my eyes try to jump out of my skull.
I left the office. And then i panicked. Did it make sense to do this so rash? It was a lot of money (or rather, a lot of credit card debt). Who would take me to the doctor’s? And then it dawned on me that Ronen was in San Deigo this week. Ronen, a dear old friend of mine, is somehow associated with all of my medical crises in my head because he’s picked me up and taken care of me far too many times. I called him and without asking, he asked if i needed company. And i wimpered, pleeeease. And he changed around his plans to find a rental car to come up and take me to the doctor’s and calm me down and spend all day with me.
I went into the doctor’s. They gave me three valium to calm my nerves. They did absolutely nothing but i pretended to be calmed. They put all sorts of drops in me. I laid back. Pressure – they put this thing on my eye so that it couldn’t move. Stare into the light (even when i couldn’t see the light). Laser round one – making the flap. Then the other eye got it’s flap opened. Eyes closed. Swivel to new machine. Weird tape to keep my eyes open. Stare into the light. Laser round two – reshaping the cornea. And then all of these weird brushes and a liquid and an air vacuum. Repeat on next eye. Keep eyes closed for a moment. Look up – see the clock? Holy shit.
Ronen drove me home with my eyes closed (while i was wearing these cool Burning Man-esque goggles). We cheated and stopped for B&J’s milkshakes. Took the ambien, slept for four hours. Woke up and could see, dropped meds in my eyes. Things were still quite blurry though. Had dinner, dropped more meds in my eyes. Listened to the Daily Show. Went to sleep, woke up and rolled over and could see my alarm clock. Holy shit. Drove myself back to the doctor’s for a check up (where they also fixed the itchy thing which turned out to be extra flap ness). Drove home, bought sunglasses.
The folks at the Maloney Vision Institute were unbelievably professional and reassuring (their routines during surgery were fascinating to listen to – amazingly precise). I was also a sucker for all of the little unnecessary but make you feel good things – they paid for parking, i got a little leather bag with all the meds pre-packaged and they gave me a prescript to go through Heathrow, there was coffee and tea (and valium and ambien). The clinic smelled good. They had soft fancy chairs. And the combination of down-to-earth nurses and doctors and an arrogant surgeon (who was still amazingly nice) really worked for me. Even though i was terrified, i was confident that this was the right place to be doing this.
Things are still slightly blurry, but not really that bad. My vision also seems to go in and out between 20/20 and 20/40. I’m told this should last for a little while, mostly because of the magnitude of the change. Stabilization should be in three months or so. The crazy red blobs on the side of my eyes should last two weeks. The dryness should go away (but it’s not actually that bad now). I’ll probably get some fun halos at night (again, due to the terribleness of my vision). But HOLY SHIT. I don’t have glasses anymore. ::jaw on floor::