I accidentally took a two-week break because of sheer exhaustion. That first week, I had surgery a few days before (it’s the main subject of this post, actually) and the second week was actually the first week of the Trump administration and…yeah, I was tired.
Also, I have been debating for a long time about whether or not I want to get political on this blog. Of course, I don’t want to alienate anyone, but I also recognize that books don’t exist in a vacuum. Just look at the latest example of “whoopsie” racism in CARVE THE MARK–most of the savage, warlike society is made of a black people while most of the peace-loving society is made up of white people. Maybe not ALL of them are black or white, but in the context of today’s world, this is wildly racist.
Unfortunately, I haven’t made that decision yet. So I’m here to talk to you about getting contact lenses implanted into my eyeballs.
That’s right. Into my eyes.
I got implantable contact lenses (ICLs) for three reasons:
- healthcare is about to go to shit and I figured I could probably afford them now (okay, I guess I’ve sort of answered that politics question)
- my regular contacts where starting to affect my eyes negatively with excessive dryness, reduced night vision, and that whole thing where I had to take them off every night
- I went camping in the beautiful Havasu Falls area and couldn’t see the stars because I had to take my contacts out (otherwise they’re unbearable to wear and I only had one spare set). It killed me a little to be somewhere so gorgeous and not be able to see it all the time.
So I bit the bullet, changed insurances, and put approximately two hundred million eye drops in my eyes over a period of four weeks. Approximately.
For those unfamiliar with ICLs, it’s WAY BETTER THAN LASIK.
LASIK means you get a laser that reshapes your cornea. Congratulations to those of you whose vision isn’t as bad as mine was. I didn’t qualify for LASIK.
To put this into context, I had to do the standard vision test without any glasses or contacts. You know how they ask you to read the line of letters? They started me with the one big “E.”
I told them I couldn’t see it. I knew it was there because I’ve been getting my eyes checked at least once a year since I was in 4th grade, but I couldn’t actually see it. The light from the screen blurred out the letter.
So then the tech stood in front of me and held up a certain number of fingers. She asked me how many I saw. I can’t tell you how many fingers she was holding up because I couldn’t see well enough to guess correctly and she never told me the correct answer.
She was three feet away.
So my vision was not so good insofar as that it could still be corrected to 20/20. I’m sure anyone blind person reading this will just laugh. I mean, I could see the lady’s hand, I just couldn’t distinguish the number of fingers.
While slowly working my way through time to the date of my surgery, I started thinking a lot about why I have a blind character in my story. Skye has been partially or completely blind in every single iteration of this story since I first wrote the 36-page “first draft” in 7th grade (and then promptly didn’t get serious about it or ten years).
At the time, my vision was degrading not rapidly but enough each year for the doctors to make a little, “Hmm” sound every time they had to change my prescription. For a few years, I had to have my eyes checked more than once in the year because the prescription changed again. I think part of my 7th grader mind was worried about actually going blind and invented a kick ass blind girl as a literary coping mechanism.
I have since put a decent and ongoing amount of research into making Skye’s perspective and experiences realistic. She’s still a kick ass blind girl, just a more realistic and not stereotypical one.
My vision finally leveled out at a -8.25 prescription (again, I know a lot of people will just scoff at this) and I was finally in a position to get this surgery AND a position where I was starting to need it.
This is a long post so I’ll make the explanation about ICL’s short and easy: they are special contact lenses implanted inside the eye. Check out this link for more information.
From walking into the office to walking out, I think I was there for about two hours. My parents came (thanks, parents!) so I had a ride to and from and for general emotional support.
The whole thing went something like this.
For some ridiculous reason, when the nurse came out to take me back for pre-op (consisting of “admitting” and “monitoring” if the staff list below is anything to go by), I had to leave my glasses behind. That was weird. Then came what the anesthesiologist called “death by a thousand drops” which is where the put in just an ungodly amount of numbing and dilating drops. The super strange thing is the numbing drops actually burn so they know it’s working when you can’t feel them anymore.
Strange, but logical.
Then it was time to lie on a bed, where the put clear jelly in my eyes so I basically didn’t blink or 45 minutes. Since my eyes had become so dry thanks to contacts, this actually felt amazing.
SIDE-STORY: One of the pre-op appointments included an ultrasound on my eye (again with the numbing drops). It involved using a little circular piece of plastic to hold my eye open and bathing the eye in saline or something cool and wet.
It. Felt. Amazing. I guess people usually freak out at the ultrasound (it was kind of off-putting to feel the pressure from the wand and realizing that it was ON MY EYEBALL but I loved the eye bath so much, I really didn’t care). Dr. Perkins, who has been doing this surgery probably almost as long as I’ve been alive, said I was the first person who actually enjoyed the ultrasound.
It was great. I would pay to have that done for fun.
ANYWAY. Next was the valium.
I’d never had valium before and…I may have asked for it one too many times. That was good stuff. I would NOT like to have a prescription to take home because I know myself too well (there’s a reason I don’t drink). The valium was injected by a qualified professional named Mike and he was great both before and after the doses took effect.
OTHER SIDE-STORY: Somewhere between admitting and monitoring, they sat me in the hall and told me to keep my eyes closed to dilate faster. Well, Dr. Perkins and Mike the Anesthesiologist thought it would be a good idea to come up really quietly and get very close to me. If I hadn’t been sneaking a peak now and then, I might have hit him out of a startle reflex. I promptly said I was learning martial arts and warned him of the danger. We all made light of it a couple more times as he would sarcastically warn the staff, after the valium took effect, not to sneak up on me.
I think at one point I said I could take him even with the valium? That may have just been in my head. It’s not true, either way.
ANYWAY AGAIN; THE PROCEDURE
The procedure itself is mostly a valium-induced blur. Each eye takes about five minutes and in between the doc leaves to go operate on someone else’s eye while the nurses in the operating room break out brand spankin’ new, sterilized instruments.
I’m pretty sure it was in this fifteen minutes that I got just a little high and asked for the names of everyone caring for me because I was going to write up a blog post about the whole experience and that is why you are reading this post today.
To my extreme surprise, they actually gave me that list (I’m surprised because it’s a very odd request and that I could enunciate enough for them to understand it). See it below.
I remember, when the surgeon was there, that I had to look into a ridiculously bright light but that it only sucked or a few seconds. I also remember feeling nothing. I know that he lasered into the ear-side part of the eyes and slipped a really fancy contact lens in there while my eyes, filled with clear moisturizing jelly, were held open (not that I could have blinked if I wanted to thanks to the thickness of that jelly).
Then he irrigated my newly cut-into, cyborged-up eyes to get the jelly out (again, my dry eyes LOVED THIS) and they sat me up and asked me to read the clock on the wall.
My surgery ended at exactly 9:01 AM, as recorded by me.
Post-Op and After Care
Post-op lasted about five seconds. Paperwork was filed, I got a juice box, they asked me questions, and I promptly started crying from a mix of valium and the dawning realization that I was done with painful contact lenses and irritating glasses for probably at least 20 years.
We went to breakfast, which was ultimately a bad idea because I crashed toward the end of it. My mom took me home where I slept until she woke me up for my eye drops and then I went back to sleep until dinner time.
I slept most of the following day, too, which makes me so grateful that I have an understanding boss because that was a work day.
Let’s pause here so I can give the loudest of shout-outs to my mom who came over and sat in my messy, dog-hair covered, not-as-cleaned-up-as-it-should-have-been apartment with her iPad, a book, and a cellphone for entertainment (because I do not have a TV) for the WHOLE DAY while I passed out on my bed. She took care of my dog, she swept my floors, and she took care of me. She’s amazing. Thanks, Mom.
Now, a little over two weeks later, I’m back in my routine, have no more eye drops to take, and only one follow-up appointment left. Although I’m more than a little unhappy with the lack of transparency in the pricing (I was given a cost for procedure and a retina exam but then received bills for reading the retina exam and the anesthesia, which means there’s over $500 I have to scrounge up now and couldn’t budget for), I do not regret getting ICLs now and I can’t wait to go camping again and see the stars.
I cannot express how lucky I am. That I could afford this (paying it off over two years), that I lived in the same city as the people who invented, perfected, and trained others on the technique. That I had the privilege, opportunity, and need all at once as a 26-year-old is amazing and mind-blowing and I am so, so fortunate to have had this surgery.
Honestly, I could write another 1500 words just marveling at my fortune, but this has been a long post and, if you made it this far, I hope you were educated and entertained.
Here’s that list of the amazing staff who worked on me:
Laura P, COA
Dr. Perkins, MD