The eye is the lamp of the body

At the end of last year, after having to wear my glasses for a few weeks, I decided that one of my goals for this year was to find out about getting my eyes fixed. And get it done if at all possible. With support from Mike and my family, I decided to get lens implants, and scheduled the surgery after Mike’s semester ended.

And so, on Monday morning, I found myself sitting in a little room (if it can be a “room” when the walls are just curtains) at the Duke Eye Center wearing two surgical gowns and some nice soft socks. I had already relinquished my clothes and my glasses to Mike and said goodbye to him. And I waited. I thought I would be more nervous, but . . . I guess I’ve had a lot going on lately, because I just hadn’t had time to get worked up about it. A very nice nurse named Patience took my vitals, asked me my name, where I was from, and if I’d had anything to eat or drink since midnight. A very nice nurse named Phyllis gave me a not-so-nice IV in my hand and asked me my name, where I was from, and if I’d had anything to eat or drink since midnight. Somewhere in there, someone (it might have been Phyllis) put an X over my left eye, indicating that was the one we were having done first. A very nice nurse whose name I was not given (and, remember, I didn’t have my glasses, so there was no reading off of nametags) called me “Pippi” (I wore my hair in pigtails because it seemed like it would be easier to lie back for the surgery if I didn’t have a ponytail in the back. Wearing pigtails also means you are making an attempt to be cute, despite the gown, fuzzy socks, and lack of makeup) and was surprised to find out that I am almost 27. A nice-sounding doctor put JD (his initials, which I am still scrubbing off. And I resisted the urge to ask him if he likes Scrubs) under my left eye, as confirmation that it was being operated on. He also asked me my name and where I was from. And if I’d had anything to eat or drink. A very nice male nurse who had a wonderful voice and an African name that I don’t know how to spell got me on the gurney. I remember thinking, “This is what it’s like to be on ER,” as I watched the lights in the ceiling roll by.

I met another nice nurse named Theresa (that’s a good sign, right?) who stood close enough that I could almost make out her features, which I thought was very considerate of her. I have to admit that every time I met a new nurse or doctor, I said, “I can’t see you, but it’s nice to meet you.” It’s disconcerting not to be able to see the people you are interacting with. So, thanks, Theresa. She asked me my name and where I was from, and told me she would be assisting in the surgery. I was still remarkably calm at that point, and Theresa made it easy to stay calm.

And then I met an anesthesiologist, who talked me through what would happen next (after asking me my name, where I was from, and if I’d had anything to eat). I was going to be put under just long enough for the doctor to do local anesthesia around my eye. For whatever reason, though, he wasn’t actually the guy who put me under. I was getting more nervous, so I have to admit that I don’t remember the names of either of my anesthesiologists. But I had been trying all day to make sure I was polite to the nurses, asking what they’d had for breakfast, making jokes, complimenting their names and voices, so I can surely be given a pass for this.

I finally saw my doctor (well, I couldn’t see him, but you get the idea), and he asked how I was doing. I said, “I thought I would be nervous, but I’m surprisingly calm.” He said, “I’m surprisingly calm, too!” Mike and I have debate whether this was appropriate. He says it was funny. I said, not so much. And as the one who was HAVING HER EYE SLICED OPEN, I think my opinion counts more. Seriously, though, it didn’t offend me, although I thought it was an odd thing to say.

When the second anesthesiologist came in to hook me up, I said, “When they put me under for my wisdom teeth, the doctor said he had hooked me up and that I would start feeling the effects in just a few minutes. And that’s the last thing I remember. So I am onto your game.” He laughed. And that’s about all I remember for a while. At least he wasn’t tricky about it.

I started coming out of the anesthesia in time to realize that the surgery was going on. I couldn’t see anything, but I couldn’t feel anything, either, so I didn’t get freaked out about that. The doctor was aware that I was slightly awake, because he said my name and I think I responded. And then I was in and out of consciousness for the rest of the surgery, so I remember bits of their conversation. My doctor, Dr. Carlson, said, “Tire,” a lot, and at first I thought it might have had something to do with the blood pressure thingie on my arm, because it seemed to happen around the time that the blood pressure thingie tightened, but . . . that’s just dumb. I was on drugs, though, and weird things make sense when you’re on drugs.

And then it was over, and Dr. Carlson was saying that I needed to stick around for another 75 minutes and I was maybe sleeping a bit and they wheeled me into the recovery room and gave me a Diet Coke and some peanut butter crackers. And I got to see Mike, who gave me my glasses.

I have to say that the lady I talked to in the recovery room was the only nurse I didn’t like all day. I don’t know what her name was, because I was pretty woozy at that point, but she didn’t have a nice voice, and she seemed kind of impatient. I thought this at the time, so you can imagine how I felt when I heard, on Tuesday, that she wasn’t supposed to have sent us home when she did. That’s right, she said, “You can leave now,” and I thought, “Has it been 75 minutes already? I must have slept longer than I realized.” Even in my woozy state, I was right. It had not been 75 minutes. I am not too impressed with her.

However, I was very impressed with Mike, who got me lunch and Coke Zero and drove me home and brought me crackers and did a wonderful job of taking care of me. I felt pretty nauseated all afternoon, but I didn’t get sick at all (thanks to Mike). I left crazy rambling voicemails for my friends, I watched Pride and Prejudice, and I . . . was kind of bored, actually.

Since I was released a little early, I didn’t get the final words from the doctor. I did get the care instructions, but I didn’t get to hear about what my eye would look like. Not to gross everyone out, but they put an air bubble in to protect my cornea, and I didn’t know that, and I was kind of scared I had messed something up. So, on Monday night, I didn’t sleep well, because I was so worried. Tuesday morning, bright and early, Mike and I went back to Durham for my follow-up appointment, where everything was pronounced to be fine. Tuesday, though, was a rough day overall, since I was tired and feeling a little pain. And I couldn’t take a shower. I love showering. I slept for 10 hours Tuesday night, and Wednesday was much better. I think I can do this again.

So, how is my vision? I can tell a huge difference already – on Tuesday morning my eye measured at 20/200, which is a marked difference over what it was (something like 20/2000). It will stay at this level for the next three weeks, and then I’ll get most or all of the stitches that are left taken out, and it should settle in at better than 20/40. The next three weeks will be difficult, but I’m pretty determined to make the best of them. I’ve been wearing glasses since I was four years old . . . I can make it through three more weeks of discomfort.

We won’t schedule the surgery for my right eye until this one is all healed up, so it won’t be until the end of June or early July at this point. But this week was a good first step. I’m going to be able to see!

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