I wasn't nervous about the procedure until Tuesday (the day of). Everyone at work was saying, "Good luck! I hope you don't go blind!", etc. One (extremely friendly) co-worker went as far as to email me a very negative article about all of the understated risks. Upon arrival at the slaughterhouse surgical facility, tremblings of fear began crawling through my as-of-yet unscathed optical sockets. The first symptom was that my hands felt like a block of slowly melting ice... Freezing to the touch, but perspiration nearly dripping from them. Clammy doesn't begin to describe them. My mind tried keep its calm, but it had already been shattered. Had I not already paid to have this unorthodox procedure, second thoughts would have circumvented this situation altogether.
My name was called, and I was escorted to a dark room labeled "Exam 2". 'Why did I skip Exam 1?', my mind asked. But, my lips remained sealed. Fear of upsetting the staff that would soon be penetrating my body in the most unlikely of places forced my questions to remain under wraps. The evil lady pointed to a chair and urged me to take a seat. A device was placed in front of me that resembled a concave, circular checkerboard with hundreds of tiny black and white squares. There was a small hole in the center with a small red light staring back at me. I felt as if I were staring into the eye of a satanic cyclops. The menacing old lady told me to place my chin in the holster and stare into the light. As soon as I complied, she started moving the whole device with a few mouse clicks. It positioned itself so that the light was directly in the middle of the hole and then snapped a picture using a red flash which would have frightened God. She repositioned the monstrosity so that it was staring at my left pupil and took another picture. When I looked at the computer screen she was playing with, I didn't see my own eye, but rather an odd kaleidoscope-looking drawing filled with hundreds of colors in a shape roughly resembling an eyeball.
They then directed me to another room labeled Exam 8. At this point, my brain was spinning in circles in my head (quite an uncomfortable experience on it's own) trying to ascertain this office's method of incrementing numbers... It obviously wasn't single digit counting, even numbers, or exponential. I began to worry that they practiced an entirely different form of mathematics than the rest of the world, and that their procedures might not be valid with the physics of my own universe. I was told to sit in another chair and stare into another Star Trekian machine. The one was closer to my eye and when I first stared into the (again, red) light, it was just a blurry red star. A new lady operated this device - she seemed nice enough, but I could tell she was also just as evil as the rest of them. She must have been their public relations committee, because she disguised her intentions much better. All of the sudden, the devil-red star began moving away from me, then spiraling away in a clockwise motion. An image started to form which brought my emotional state to a new level of fear and anxiety... I was looking at a tunnel... with a bright red light at the end of it... I had died... and I was headed towards hell down a red tunnel with a passing lane... It was at this moment that the beast across the desk spoke, "Good, right on target". The machine began moving, which gave hope that death had not finished me off yet. It repositioned itself to my other pupil where it became another star, and the spiraling motion repeated. The tunnel appeared a second time, then I heard a number of mouse clicks and what I thought was a floppy disk being accessed. A few minutes later, I saw a 3.5" disk being removed from the computer and nearly passed out, thinking, "I'm trusting my vision to 20 year old technology with a ridiculously high failure rate?!?!"
The demoness ushered me to a new room labeled Pre-Op 1, which helped ease my fears regarding their counting abilities slightly. They cleverly placed a 3 ring binder on the table next to the chairs labeled "Thank you letters". Upon examination, I discovered they laminated a bunch of notes that seemingly praised their abilities and mentioned nothing negative. The first letter was obviously written by a political speech writer - filled with buzzwords, false promises, and the general faux feel-good sentiments of someone who is being overpaid to create a sense of hope to those who have none (nor should they). "Seeing right through them" would be an awful pun which cleverly takes advantage of a cliche and shouldn't be used at this juncture, but I'm going to anyway. Upon closer examination, I began to notice similarities between the signatures and handwriting used in the various (so-called) "Thank you" notes. My suspicions gained momentum up until the point when one of their male staff obviously noticed my intellectual prowess that I was on to their little game, so he came in and violently stole the glasses right off my face. That would be the last time I ever felt the comfort of those dual lenses resting gently along the curve of my nose. Fifteen years of an extra few ounces of external facial structure... gone...
The mysterious man in white came back into the room and started pouring a deluge of chemicals into my, now, unprotected eyes. He started with a mere drop, then another, then another, until I felt as though Niagara Falls had been relocated to mid-Michigan and I had just been granted a first row seat beneath them. The world began to glaze over, and everything appeared through a thick haze. They offered me half a Valium to "ease the nerves", which I took to mean, "dull the senses so they can have their way with me without a fight". With trepidation, however, I partook of the offered drug. Sadly, I felt no effects. I was still shaking harder than a paint mixer.
After 20 minutes of this Guantanamo Bay-style torture, I was lead to the final room. At this point, there was no turning back. I had survived the preparation, but only barely. Their mind games had forced all my remaining logic and reason to a recessed corner deep into the dark black region of my cerebral cavity. It took most of my energy to stand upright, and the rest of my will power to walk towards the machine that would soon be slicing its way through my cornea at its own leisure. The 80's beige that engulfed everything electronic during that decade still lingered on this machine. Trusting my life to more technology that resembled my 1989 dual-5 1/4" floppy drive computer sent what remaining faith I had straight to hell. Satan himself was laughing at me, and I no longer had the strength or stamina to do anything about it.
They made me lie down on their dentist-like chair. I was relieved to see there was no mechanism attached that would strap me down against my will. The first evil woman returned to the room, this time donning full doctor garb, complete with the white facemask. It finally occurred to me that she still wore glasses... This brought tears to my eyes. I was trusting a staff that didn't even trust this procedure themselves! But, I had already crossed the threshold of going back. I would not come this far just to run away screaming. The spawness of Lucifer handed me a toy alligator stuffed with beans. She said, "Hold on to this, and squeeze it if you get nervous." Are you @#$!ing kidding me?! That's your only solace? A damn toy?! But, I said nothing. This alligator would be lucky to make it out of here with any of its beans after I was finished "getting nervous".
Then came the absolute worst portion of this entire event... The "doctor" approached me with a roll of thin masking tape. WTF?! I was afraid this was going to turn into some kinky experiment with footage that would end up on some obscure fetish site that night, but then he made me open my eyes wide and placed two pieces of tape near both of my upper eyelids. Shortly thereafter, he placed something under my lower eyelids which prevented me from being able to shut my eyes at all. I have no idea what it was, but I'm guessing it was some sort of plastic.
I don't know if anyone else has seen Fire In the Sky, but I saw it when I was younger, and therein contains a scene that has haunted me to this day. Short version: Aliens abduct the guy, he gets strapped to an operating table by some sort of strong cellophane-like substance that wraps his entire body down, then a metal device pries open his eyelids and a two-foot needle comes down from the ceiling directly into his eyeball. Ever since viewing that atrocious scenario, I've had an uncontrollable fear of things touching my eyes. Eye drops make my whole body convulse when the liquid hits the eye. So, to have a piece of plastic holding my eyes open is enough to make my heart speed up to the point of bursting. Luckily for me, that's just the beginning of the procedure. Mind you, nothing about any of this physically hurts (some of the drops were numbing drops), but mentally, I'm 3/4 of the way to absolute insanity.
The chair I was [un]willingly sitting in began to swivel itself directly beneath a portruding portion of the antique excimer laser machine. Lights immediately fired themselves on - lights that rivaled staring directly into the sun with a Hubble-powered telescope. Since I was unable to close my eyes (but I tried my best - nearly shattering the plastic restraining device in reflex), I started to turn my head away. The aforementioned demoness "kindly" dimmed the setting on the lights a bit to a mere 100x-telescope-towards-the-sun brightness level. When my eyes finally adjusted, I noticed that in the center of this death-trap was a black eye with a red pupil looking at me hungrily. It was ready to either unleash a two-foot needle or devour my soul in some ancient ritual involving chanting and mad doctors dancing around in a circle with me as the focal point (still madly gripping a stuffed alligator).
One of the
asylum attendants doctors covered my left eye with a large black eyepatch. This marked the beginning of the end of my vision. I saw blurry tools pass by my remaining eye - long, slender, metallic objects resembling scalpels and assorted dentistry items. They made mention that I would soon be losing all of my vision and that this was normal... I'm sorry... Blindness is not normal regardless of what anyone tries to tell you. They covered my visible pupil with some sort of suction cup device which is when the world went black. The darkness only lasted a few seconds, then a vision straight out of The Ring unfolded. I was watching them cut my eye open with some device that I couldn't feel... quite possibly a scalpel, but I had no idea, being pseudo-blind and all. The suction cup was removed, and then I watched them peel a layer of my own eye away. The experience of watching your own eye be operated on ranked up there with someone pulling out your intestines while you watched in horror (I only vicariously know how this experience feels - don't ask). As frightening as it was, the peeling away portion was probably the most enjoyable portion. The black eye surround by lights above me was all of the sudden digitized and embossed. I felt like I was seeing the world in its pure Matrix form (as 1's and 0's, but enclosed in a digitally embossed photograph, not a green monochrome display). Things were much blurrier than before, but still visible through a newly applied digital filter.
The doctors then mentioned that the machine had to find my eye, so stop moving around. Apparently my eyes were dancing around in their sockets, uncontrollably looking for a way out. I tried to focus on the black eye, but my body refused all attempts at control. One of the doctors held my head still because my eyes' frantic dance contained enough force to move the cranium that held them captive. Finally, one of them yelled, "Got it! Try to stay still for the next 30 seconds", then a countdown began. The demoness changed her tone to one of salivatory anticipation and proved her decremental counting skills worthy of a math degree. "30... 29... 28...", with the occasional, "He's moving around all over the place... but the tracker still has him... 18... 17..." The reference to a "tracker" felt even more like the Matrix. All the while, the buzzsaw-sounding machine was making a very audible clicking noise every second. During each click, my vision changed. First, it made things sharper, then dimmer, then sharper again, over and over until the countdown had completed. I realized that during the last 30 seconds, a non-visible laser had just penetrated my eyeball and destroyed my existing lens shape simply to form a new one of its own liking. This idea made me queasy, but just then the part of my eye that had previously been removed was being placed back into position. They were "patching me up". The doctor took some type of plastic brush type thing and smoothed out the re-positioned cornea with another type of liquid - eyeball glue, maybe?
I couldn't tell if I could see better yet, but I didn't have much time to think about it. They removed the patch from my left eye and placed it over my right eye instead. The procedure was only halfway over, and I had already squeezed the artificial life out of the alligator. Everything repeated itself. Another 10-20 seconds of blindness, followed by another Ring, then one more encounter with the Matrix and the Black Eye of Death. The clicking laser only took 15 seconds this time around, for reasons I dared not venture to ask. Suffice it to say, I was extremely grateful for the shortening of this event. The doctor brushed my left cornea back into place, then removed my plastic eye holders and masking tape. I was told I could sit up, but that I had to give back my new masochistic friend, the Alligator. I was blinking like crazy and my vision appeared as though I were swimming in a murky lake with my eyes open.
I was led to a dark room labeled Exam 7 (I was extremely thankful that I was able to read this - yay, not blind!). I sat alone for about 5 minutes staring in awe that, although murkily, I could read a sign across the office. That had never been the case prior to this encounter with Satan's minions. Selling my soul had apparently paid off, at least thus far. I was given a packet of eye drops and a set of fancy, thin ski goggles and told to use these goggles for the next week while asleep and to not, under ANY circumstances, rub my eyes. They also said to sleep as much as possible for the next 24 hours. I was driven home by a friend and went directly to sleep for most of the next 18 hours.
At 8:00 the next morning, I woke up and was quite amazed. Things were still a bit hazy, but I was definitely able to see nearly as well as before. There were halos around lights, but I could still see things. I drove myself to my normal eye doctor, and he tested me out as having 20/15 vision. Since then, it's only gotten better. I still have a bit of a halo around headlights at night, and it's kinda weird in dim lighting situations, but it's not debilitating at all, and I no longer need glasses. Absolutely amazing.
The number of scientific disciplines that had to come together to create this procedure is astounding. Imagine being the first person to say, "Hey, I wonder if I could see better if someone cut open my eyes and rearranged the lens with a scalpel [which is what they used before lasers]? There's probably an exact method of doing it, but let's just slice and dice until I can see." Gah! Anyway, I'm thankful to those
idiots pioneers in this field. 3 cheers for science and technology.