The experience was nerve wracking and terrifying. While there wasn’t any actual pain there was a little discomfort and the glaring knowledge that someone was cutting into my eye.
I arrived very early. The doctor’s office called on Saturday to let me know my appointment had been rescheduled from 8:15 to 11:45. They had some patients who were diabetics and since we’d all have to forgo eating from midnight on they wanted to get those people in first.
While I appreciated the need it did kind of screw my plans up a bit. Tony was going to pick me up afterward but he had a voice gig scheduled for the afternoon and wouldn’t be able to make it that late in the day. That’s not what screwed me up, though. What screwed me up was the mental blank I went through when I called the cab company to schedule a pickup time. My brain stalled at “eleven” and didn’t fill in the “forty five” so when I added a little extra time to compensate for potential cabby incompetence I decided an hour would be safe. I scheduled the pickup for ten. The ride was maybe fifteen minutes. I was an hour and a half early.
Luckily for me the nurse checked with the doctor and they managed to get me in early anyway.
Which is good because the whole appointment took nearly two hours and the majority of that was waiting for the next series of eye drops to be administered. The actual surgery itself took all of ten minutes and I was out of there five to ten minutes afterward.
The first forty five minutes was spent sitting in a waiting room full of geriatrics swapping stories of their latest ailments, playing Sudoku on my iPod, wearing a generic blue disposable hair net (yes, even though I’m bald and, no, they didn’t require me to cover my beard… go figure) and a set of disposable booties covering the soles of my shoes. The booties were supposed to cover my whole shoe but they barely stretched far enough to reach over the edges. I guess old people have small feet.
Most everyone had someone with them to drive them home, but visitors weren’t allowed in the pre-sterile environment… at least no longer than it took to drop their father/uncle/mother/aunt off with the nurses.
Rumor had it there was a coffee shop available in the building next door. I’m guess that’s where most of the family chauffeurs waited out their time.
After three sets of four eye drops my left eye was starting to feel a little numb and I was taken into the quasi-sterile environment where they laid me down, attached a heartbeat monitor to one of my right fingers and a blood pressure cuff to my left arm and let the machines tell them how I was doing. After ten or so minutes of that the anesthetist put a drop in my eye that stung like salt water but only for the few seconds it took to take effect. Then she put two globs of gel onto my eyeball, spaced a couple of minutes apart. It felt funky… like when you’ve got pink eye but without the pain or itch. By the time they lead me into the now-we’re-actually-sterile surgery room I couldn’t much tell if my left eye was open or closed.
They laid me down on the operating table and attached a heart monitor to one of my left fingers and the blood pressure cuff on my right arm. At the time I had no idea why they needed to do this twice, or why they switched sides for it. Perhaps they were looking to average out the readings, I theorized. In any case the right blood pressure cuff had issues with the size of my arm. The Velcro kept releasing as it pumped up. They eventually got it properly secured and were then able to begin surgery.
I was awake for the whole thing and trying very hard not to panic. I kept reminding myself that if I moved I could screw up the whole thing. They had an intensely bright light for me to focus on but given the way they moved my eye around I think they told me to focus on it primarily as a way of giving me something to do.
They covered my entire face with a sterile cloth that had an aperture in it for the eye. They attached some kind of spreader between my eyelids to keep them apart and, I suspect, to also immobilize my eyeball. I’m not one hundred percent sure but it did seem that my eye stayed remarkably still despite my inclination to roll it around in a frenzy.
The whole thing had an x-files-alien-abduction-to-the-probe-ship feel to it. I could catch a glimpse of various instruments being used on my eye, a flash of light off of something metallic, a vaguely circular disk like object, a flash of blurred hands or fingers. The actual incision was entirely painless but it did not help that the cutting instrument had a dentist drill sound to it. I knew it was the cutting instrument because each time it wined there was the slightest pressure and my vision became briefly clouded with red before being washed away.
Part way through it all the blood pressure cuff was auto-inflated again. I wondered about that briefly but then reasoned that they were probably keeping periodic tabs on my vitals throughout the procedure. Then it occurred to me to wonder if the heart monitor was giving away my level of panic. I could just barely hear it beeping in the background. I tried to figure out if it sounded fast or not but I hadn’t thought to note what it had sounded like before, when I was… well, not calm, but less panicked.
Just as I was starting to wonder how long I would be able to keep my composure, it was done. Devices were removed from my eye and the sterile face cover, which had a self adhesive ring around they eye, was pulled off quickly like a band-aid. In truth that was the closest to pain I got through the entire procedure. The plaster cast of my face we did over a decade ago had been far more painful, I can assure you.
I was led out to yet another sitting room, told to take off my hat and booties, and given about an ounce of orange juice and a couple of cookies.
The clarity was staggering. I just kept looking around the room at everything. The bright colors, the crisp edges… it was all so fascinating. The best analogy I can give is switching from a poorly tuned VHF TV to a brand new High Def. At least… for things three or more feet away. Anything closer than that simply becomes a blur. A bright, colorful blur, but still a blur. The reading glasses I got from the drug store still help with that, but I know I’ll need significant reading glasses once all this is over.
The doctor stopped by to check on me before I left and asked me to tell him how many fingers he was holding up. I told him and he nodded, “Well, that’s about the best you can expect from today.”
“Are you kidding?” I said, “This is the clearest I’ve seen in years!”
He grinned at that. “Well, then, it’ll just get better from here.”
I can hardly wait.