I was first told I needed glasses at the age of 10. This was possibly the prolonged effect of smuggling Ramona, Babysitters Club, and Sweet Valley High books under the covers with only a weak flashlight for visibility. While only in Semi-Awkward Phase at the time — Extreme Awkward, the Braces + Self-Cut Bangs and Dye Job + (Not Baby) Chub Edition didn't hit until the end of middle school — I refused to wear the glasses given to me by my optometrist for fear of looking like a dork. A year later, in fifth grade, I started wearing soft contacts. At the age of 13, my doctor told me of this brand new procedure, orthokeratology, in which I would wear corrective gas permeable lenses that reshaped my corneas, originally for eight hours a day, then slowly decreasing the time I wore the contacts, until my vision was perfect and I had to only wear them at night to maintain it. Sort of like once you get your braces off, you continue to sleep in your retainer for stability. It wasn't a bad procedure at all and definitely beat wearing soft lenses all day, every day — particularly with all the sports I played. The only catch was that if I forgot to put them in, or even had a particularly restless night of sleep, my vision would be far from perfect.
So for the past 13 years, I've slept with these fairly uncomfortable hard lenses glued to my eyeballs nearly every night. I kind of assumed this would continue the rest of my life. (And if Lasik's not an option for you, then Ortho-K is a great alternative to wearing glasses or daily lenses. But with my crazy travel schedule paired with my clutziness, I've been known to drop one down the sink in the middle of the Indian Ocean, far from access to a FedEx office to where my optometrist could send a new one, or even have the case come unscrewed and the lenses crushed in my suitcase.) It was after my parents had lunch with a longtime friend and Lasik pioneer, Dr. Stewart Shofner (he's performed tens of thousands of surgeries, went to Harvard and then UVA for med school), back in the spring, they called me up and said they'd like me to give the surgery a shot. Better yet, they were willing to foot the bill! (As I'm sure I've mentioned on many occasions, I was blessed with the most generous parents a girl could want.)(Even if your own parents aren't as generous, I believe most Lasik procedures fall in the range of $3,500-$5,500, depending on where you get it done, which is completely cost effective if you tally up the cost of lenses, solution and all other cleaning supplies, annually. Plus, if you ever need touch-ups in the future, that's included with your lifetime warranty.)
About My LASIK Experience
Dr. Shofner was so kind to even offer to come in last time I was home, the day before my half marathon in the spring and do the procedure then. But that made me a tad bit nervous, doing something so major right before race day — besides, I've come to find now, you can't sweat or do any other strenuous activity for a full week afterwards — so I booked a two-week trip home in November to coincide with UT's homecoming (this was planned back when we still had the potential to be good this season). I was long overdue for family time anyway. In the meantime, I found an amazing local optometrist in San Fran to do regular check-ups in the three months prior. Because I'd been in corrective lenses for a dozen years, it was imperative that I not wear them at all for three months (glasses only) and let my vision revert back to its normal blindness; Dr. Lee monitored my progress (or rather, digress, I guess I should say) and before long, it was as if I'd never even had 20/20.
I arrived at my pre-op last Thursday, hoping and praying that I would, indeed, be a candidate for Lasik. You see, many factors play a part: age (25), strength of prescription (-2.5), pupil size (massive), dry eye condition (check), strength of cornea (good). The pupil size was the main concern, as mine are 10mm, no matter how dark or light the environment. If you don't know how big that is in eye terms, let me just tell you that's likely three times your pupils' size, and it causes me a lot of distress (halos and glare, people always thinking I'm high on some drug or the other). Luckily, a new kind of Lasik accounts for this, custom treating each spot of your eye, so after a two-hour consult, in which I likely met with five different people — all of whom couldn't be nicer; my dad is their accountant, and they all seemed to know him and wanted to relay funny stories about him wearing funny pants in a dress-up golf tournament and the like — I was cleared to go. My surgery would be the following morning.
All night, I tossed and turned and couldn't sleep. I was terrified — what if I were to be the one who lost her vision during this process? SVV offered little solace. "You know you don't have to do this." He was more petrified then I was. They had given me a prescription for Valium the day before; being the ignorant one when it comes to any drugs, I thought Valium was for pain, not anxiety, and decided against filling it. I had two pretty major surgeries in 2007 and didn't swallow a single pain pill after. I'd be fine, this was gonna be a piece of cake.
Hooray for LASIK Surgery Day
But when I arrived in the waiting room the next day, my heart was pounding in my chest, and my mom was quivering in the seat beside me, having much of the same reaction as SVV. Carmen, the pretty woman at the Lasik center who was giving me the run through, took one look at me, immediately sensing my nervousness, and ordered my mom down to the pharmacy to pick up some Valium. (Note to all those contemplating Lasik: TAKE THE VALIUM.) Then, she gave me some awesome booties and an even more awesome hair net to wear into surgery (also a name tag, you know, so I remembered who I was and all). My mom returned, drugs in hand, the Valium dissolved under my tongue, and they called me back. Gulp.
Another pretty, friendly, Southern belle from the day before (boys, take note: this place was swimming with hotties) greeted me, "It's my big-pupiled friend!" and handed me the red devil Lasik Bear. "Squeeze him as much as you need. Heck, even rip his head off if you like!" Nirvana was playing in the background (Smells Like Teen Spirit, in case you're keeping track at home). It was nothing like the serious surgery environment I envisioned. Dr. Shofner and another surgeon entered the room. He first numbed my eyes with drops then marked them up with a pen just like the surgeon who performed my sister's ACL surgery drew on her knee. They laid me on the table, and put the first speculum (yes, speculum! ew, right?) in my eye. I'll admit, while not painful, this is by far the most uncomfortable part of the surgery. You can't blink for two minutes or so (luckily, they work on one eye at a time), which is a really weird feeling and only makes the need to blink seem even more imperative. Then they made an incision and the lights went out. Literally.
Luckily, I had been forewarned that I would lose vision for 20 seconds. It still didn't make it any less scary. But it returned, and the red light of the laser came on. I was to stare directly at it, trying not to flinch. There was a crackling sound, as if a bug had gotten caught in a heat lamper, and it smelled of burnt hair. I could feel pressure on my eye, but it didn't hurt. A tad bit uncomfortable, maybe, but no pain. Dr. Shofner chatted with me calmly, inquiring about my recent celebrity encounters as he did something with a tool to my lens (it was all a bit fuzzy, so I'm still not sure what went on at this point). I was too scared to answer him, afraid if I talked, my eye would move and that would alter the outcome of my surgery somehow. And then that was it.
They did the other eye, which was far less daunting as I now knew what to expect, and no more than 15 minutes after I entered the room, I walked back out, looking slightly more dazed and confused, but completely fine. Dr. Shofner peered into my eyes and declared me free to go. My mom said she and Steve, another man who is a friend of my father's and associated with the institute, hadn't even finished the conversation that they started when I was still sitting beside them. It was so quick and easy. So weird. Once through, you can already see nearly perfectly, only your vision is a bit cloudy anywhere from a day to two weeks. It's as if you're underwater and your masks fogs up. But they insist you go straight home and sleep for three hours to give your cornea time to heal. I'm an insomniac and incapable of napping, so I laid in bed and blind-dialed people on my phone. For three hours, I could sympathize with Carlos Solis. Oh, and you get to wear these smokin' goggles for 24 hours and every night for a week. They give me upward-turning eyebrows and the appearance that I have a permanently confused expression on my face. Jealous much?
Post LASIK Surgery
I couldn't really do anything that night. My eyes didn't hurt at all, it just felt similar to the sensation when you have an eyelash stuck in your eye and can't find the sucker. So I caught up on this entire season of Grey's, Desperate Housewives, and Brothers and Sisters, then woke up feeling as if I'd never even gone under the knife (or laser). (Oh, and you can't shower for 48 hours. Some people might find this repulsive; I embraced my inner hippie) I drove back to Nashville for my one-day pre-op, which lasted no longer than three minutes. They tested my vision (20/15 already!), and Dr. Shofner checked my eyes,"You have rockstar corneas — not a single worry!" and sent me on my way. I went to retrieve LP at the Starbucks in Green Hills, where she was nursing a typical Saturday hangover, as we had a day of leisurely shopping in preparation for another night of debauchery with John, Kellan and about 20 other Nashvillians we know. As I ordered my pumpkin loaf and tall skinny vanilla latte from the barista, I glanced back at our table to check on my belongings, and I saw JAMES MARSDEN walked in the door. And I realized that, yes, the surgery was totally worth it. Because I would not have wanted to miss that glorious sighting for the world.
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