Monday, March 14, 2011

Part 3: Wavefront


I wore hard contacts for most of my adult life. They were painful, but gave me better than 20/20 vision. I always wanted super powers, so it was pretty darned cool, but I still wanted my eyes fixed; it was just a matter of waiting until the technology got better.
Now just hold your eye still for an hour or two.
Once, I came near to getting LASIK. I went through all the motions: taking tests, wearing glasses for months (you have to let your eye return to its original shape), scheduling appointments, etc. Then I got this email from my brother about something new called “Wavefront.” Wavefront is a technology that maps the abnormalities in a cornea (or the atmosphere, when they use it in a telescope) and compensate for it by dynamically deforming mirrors. According to what I read, Wavefront would some day allow doctors to give patients hawk-like vision. Wanting to keep my super power, I cancelled my appointment and waited a few years.

This time, I interviewed two doctors: one with Kaiser and one with Stanford. In the end, I picked the Stanford doctor for three reasons. First, he told me he always uses the most recent technology (“Why wouldn’t you use the best?”) even if it was more expensive. Second, he was happy to talk to me about all the possible complications (mostly infection). Third, he told me the gory details about the surgery. So I scheduled surgery and went back to glasses again. It made me feel a little like Clark Kent.

On the day of the surgery, they asked how much alcohol I needed to drink before I felt a buzz and had to admit I had no idea. They only gave me one horse-sized tranquilizer. Then they explained the dangers of the procedure and had me sign a consent form. I asked how legal it was to ask for consent after you drug someone.
Believe me, I looked for the tie-down straps.
After they dropped some anesthetic into my eyes, they led me to a room with a giant white machine that hovered over a black chair. It looked a lot like the machine from Total Recall. This is when I started to freak out. The machine sits there and hums in the dark while you stare at it. I didn’t feel anything, but I still knew it was burning my cornea off. Had I been a religious man, I would have started praying. As an atheist, I still felt a need to mutter something quietly under my breath. Frank Herbert immediately sprung to mind.



They walked me into another room, with another giant machine hovering over another chair. The doctor took a sponge and rolled my cornea to one side. Everything went blurry. I started making wisecracks (encouraged by the staff, who seemed to think I was funny, but was probably just trying to keep me from going all Kwisatz Haderach on them). The machine hummed, turning my eyes into smoke. Then I put on some incredibly stylish glasses and was done.

That’s when the drugs kicked in. When I got in bed with my son to tell him a bedtime story, I kept falling asleep in mid sentence. I wore the glasses for a day. I took icky eyedrops for a week. I didn’t rub my eyes for a month. It was a pain, but the doctor said it was the best result he’d seen from such bad vision and didn’t have to schedule a correction procedure. Sure, one of my eyes has a mild problem still (I think it’s from when my younger son kicked me and got my cornea with HIS TOENAIL), but he told me it will keep me from needing reading glasses for another ten years.

Overall, I’m happy with the procedure. However, I just got a letter from the Millenium Defense Brigade; they demoted me to sidekick.
I suppose it could be worse.  He might want to show me his "Batcave."

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