Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Part 4: Implants
Having been a game player for my entire life, I had always been afraid of making a decision too early. In games, you are sometimes given decisions to make early on: what profession you want to play, what tools you want to bring, what character you want to marry, etc. Sometimes, hours later, you realize you made a mistake and have to start over, this time playing a wizard instead of a thief, bringing the red key instead of the green scroll, or marrying the helpful woman instead of the one with enormous tatas. In real life, as you know, if you make a mistake, it’s permanent.
So you can see why, three years after my laser surgery, I was heartbroken when I got another email from my brother about vision restoration. The article was about new macular implant chips that allow surgeons to increase a patient’s vision in remarkable ways. Not only do they compensate for myopia, they also remove the eventual need for reading glasses, and increase low-light vision. Unfortunately, the article said that it required removing more tissue from under my corneas and I had so much taken out last time that I didn’t think there was much left. Nonetheless, I wanted to go in and have my eyes checked out again.
There was only doctor in the San Francisco Bay Area working on MICs (Macular Implant Chips), and I had to drive for an hour to get to his place. Once there, he gave me all these funky tests with giant machines that made swirly patterns of light I had to stare at. There was also that annoying test where the machine spits air into your eyes, making you jump back out of your chair and bang your head on the far wall (I think they measure the bump on your head to see if you have glaucoma or something). Then they charged my insurance and made me drive all the way back for another appointment to tell me I didn’t have enough tissue left for the procedure.
There was, however, an even newer procedure they were testing. They would put in FOIs (Full Ocular Implants) in place of my eyes. You read that right; they’d yank my eyeballs out and put in cameras. Don’t get me wrong, I hate my vision, but I have me some spectacularly pretty eyes and didn’t want to part with them. Then the doctor took me to the show floor.
The show floor wasn’t big, but it was packed with dozens of spindly, conical pedestals that came up to my chest. Perched dangerously on top of each one was a tiny ball. They were all eyes. Signs told me what each one could do: allow me to see infrared or ultraviolet, store 8 gigabytes of data securely, shoot a tiny laser (for scanning grocery items), project movies, or even see x-rays (only bones, though, no nudity). A chart on the wall showed me the hundred or so colors I could pick for the iris.
My initial discomfort at having a part of my face removed and replaced with a piece of plastic dissipated. Quickly, I followed the doctor back to his office where I began signing forms. As an afterthought, I asked how much it would cost me. The doctor shrugged and answered: Eight hundred thousand dollars. Per eye.
I think I’ll stick with the red key for now, thanks.