Everything’s a Blur

By Brett Battles

Those of you who had been following along with my Facebook status will already know this, but Monday I went in for laser eye surgery. There are two main types. The one most people are familiar with is Lasek. Not to gross you out or anything, but this procedure involves cutting a flap on your eye, then doing the laser work underneath. The second method is called PRK (Photorefractive keratectomy), in which the flap is not created but the “pithelium removed is discarded and allowed to regenerate” (Wikipedia).

The reason Lasek is most popular is that within 24hours you’re usually ready to go. See, by cutting the flap you’re tricking the eye into thinking nothing is wrong, and nothing major has been done. So as long as you don’t rub your eye that first night while you’re sleeping (they give you goggles to wear to prevent this), then everything should be fine.

With PRK it’s different. Because the assault (because what else can you call it) happens in full “view” of the eye, it suddenly goes into defense mode. That means recovery time is longer. Approximately four days, so they tell me…(my forth day won’t be until Friday.)

That’s right, I got the PRK version. Why? Well, apparently my corneas were just a little thinner than normal. When that happens, the success rate of the regular Lasek procedure decreases…not by a terribly large amount, but by enough that the doctors recommended using PRK. Strongly.

Fine, I thought. At least I work at home so taking the extra time off won’t be the end of the world. I was told I wouldn’t be able to drive for a few days, and that the full effects of my correction wouldn’t settle in for a month (apparently that’s what they tell Lasek folks too, but I hear it never takes that long.)

So Monday morning my girlfriend drives me to the clinic and I go under the laser. Really, it’s a quick procedure. I was in and out of the office in 60 minutes, and really, each eye took under a minute beneath the laser. As soon as they were done, they put protective contacts over my eyes to act like bandages, and told me I should have an increased sensitivity to light for a little while.

So off I went, and BOY was the world bright. I don’t mean just a little bright, I mean surface of the sun bright. (Here it is two days later and I’m typing this in a darkened room wearing my sunglasses. Which actually aren’t needed much as most of the time I’m typing with my eyes closed, and when their open, the screen is blurry.)

An interesting thing I noticed, though, as we drove back to my place. Things that were close to me were now in sharp focus. In other words my reading vision was fantastic. It was just distant things which were still blobs. (I’m told my vision will remain blurry until the end of the week.) Still, having this small victory was enough to excite me!

That first day progressed fine…lounged around, took a long nap, even read some of THE FOURTH WATCHER by Tim Hallinan. Then at around 7:30 that evening, minutes before my girlfriend was to pick me up because we were going to go look at a few potential places she was thinking of buying, the contact in my left eye popped out. Crap.

If I remembered the instructions I’d been given, I was to not worry too much about it and throw it away. So I did, then got in the car to go. The next two hours were two of the most uncomfortable of my life. My left eye felt like it had twenty eyelashes under the lid scratching and cutting my iris. I put as much lubricant as possible in there, but it still went on. I was a bit of an idiot because I’d been given some numbing drops that would have helped a hell of a lot (and did later), but had left them at home. Still I soldiered on, opening my eyes up long enough to get a quick view of the properties, then retreating into a fetal position as we drove to the next place. My poor girlfriend, all she wanted to do was drive me home. She even thought I should probably call the clinic. But NO…me macho man…me say it’s no problem. Me say, since we are in the area already, let’s continue to look. Me a big, stupid idiot.

That night dosed my eye with the numbing drops and took one of the sleeping pills the clinic had provided, knowing I had a follow up visit the next day so could get the situation solved then.

But first, boys and girls, before my appointment at the eye clinic on Tuesday, I had an appointment to get my teeth cleaned at my dentist in the morning. So imagine me sitting back in the dentist chair, my left eye liberally coated with numbing drops and both eyes covered by sunglasses, AND the dental hygienist leaning over me and digging around my gums. My girlfriend says I have a high tolerance for pain, but come on, this was ridiculous!

Any way, 1 p.m. finally rolls around and I’m back in the eye clinic. “So how are you doing?” the clinical tech asks. “Well, my left contact fell out last night.” “Last night? Did you call our office?” Ugh…no, I was too manly, man to call. “Ah, no. I didn’t.” “Come on back, we’ll get you fixed up.”

Ten minutes later, a new contact in place, it was like I was a new man again. Today is even better. Though, as I’ve mentioned the light sensitivity is still there, but if I gradually brighten things, I can usually go outside after a while.

What’s any of this got to do with writing? Like the laser that reshapes an eye that works but could be better, a great editor does the same for a manuscript. Because no matter who we are, there are just some changes we can’t see without help.

HA! See, tied that one in nicely.

So let’s hear your medical stories…but nothing too gross, I prefer the funny ones that have a happier ending. So if you die in your story, please save it for someplace else.

OH…and because I can barely read the screen because of the brightness…there are probably even more typos than my usual post. I ask your forgiveness.

HEY…If you’re interested in taken a look at the cover to my new book (out next July)…click here


Today’s song: I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW by Johnny Nash

24 thoughts on “Everything’s a Blur

  1. Margaret A. Golla

    I had Lasek done to both my eyes about ten years ago. I cried when I could read the wall clock for the first time in my adult life without glasses or contacts. Before Lasek, I couldn’t even see the person standing in front of me!But now that I’m in my mid-forties I have to wear reading glasses–bummer.

  2. Jim Winter

    Somehow I managed to get to 42 without glasses despite a history of poor eyesight and diabetes in my family.

    My medical story: I had what’s called Wolf-Parkinson-White, which is a short circuit in the heart that causes it to race.


    They fix this by cauterizing the offending nerve in your heart by catheterization. I had to go under three times. Normally, you’re awake for this, but the third time, I said, “I stayed up all night. Just knock me out.”

    They did with a drug called vercet. I don’t remember a thing while I was in the hospital. However…

    My then-wife thoughtfully got me copies of Apocalypse Now, 2001, and Pink Floyd: The Wall on VHS.

    They all made perfect sense in the two days I had off to recover.

  3. Jake Nantz

    Mr. Battles,Glad to hear your vision is already clearing, and that it appears it was (relatively) painless. I love how you brought this back around to writing, but I’m curious…What does the, “I lost my protective contact but was too manly to call the doctor” equate to in terms of a manuscript?:D

  4. Jake Nantz

    Oh, and for my injury story, I am terribly phobic about hospitals, we’ll just say that up front. I go in to have my knee scoped, and I had planned to get an epidural so I could watch (don’t ask, I have no clue what I was thinking). Little old lady nurse comes to put in my IV (well before the epi), and she is having trouble. Now, by trouble I mean she is digging around with the needle INSIDE MY HAND because she’s having trouble with the vein. I felt the point scrape the wall of a blood vessel, I swear.

    At that point I hyperventalate, my mom is very disappointed in me for doing so (didn’t give a shit, then or now), and I wound up getting a shot in the butt. Don’t remember the surgery at all.

    I like it better that way.

    In a fun little postscript, my mom is showing me the pictures taken with the arthroscope from inside my knee AS I’M WAKING UP.

    Hospital food tastes worse the second time around, I do remember that.

    But dude, they CUT your EYE? I don’t know if they make drugs strong enough to knock me out for that. Good on ya for tackling it so tough, even if it wasn’t what the doctors would have told you to do. Damn.

  5. Tammy Cravit

    Now I remember why I’m not getting my eyes laser’d, even though my uncorrected eyesight is 20/200 or so.

    As far as medical stories, the most interesting for me was probably the time I was hospitalized (3 days in ICU, 4 more in a normal room) for a severe asthma attack. Nebulizer treatments every two hours, the whole nine yards. The doctors were drawing blood from every two hours or so to do an “arterial blood gas” (measuring the oxygen level in my blood). In case you’ve never had the delight of having arterial blood drawn before, let me just say it HURTS. A lot. The arteries are deep, and their outer layers tough. It took a big needle and no small amount of effort to do. Finally, after the third time, they jammed a needle with an attached (mini-) faucet-like thing into the artery and taped it into place. For the rest of my hospital stay, they were able to draw blood just like serving beer on tap. Much better.

    Apparently, though, nearly-fatal asthma attacks are not common in 20-something year olds, and I had streams of medical students parading in and out of my room all day long. I felt rather like the frog at the front of the biology class, wondering just what everyone’s doing with the shiny pins.

  6. Dana King

    I can relate to the part about suffering needlessly because it wouldn’t be “manly,” though my story is somewhat farther south anatomically.

    I was home after an eventless vasectomy, watching a baseball playoff game. (What better way to pass the time while your groinal area is packed in ice?) After an hour or so I started to hurt. No big deal. They told me it would hurt. I just need another ice bag.

    Got the ice bag, Hurts worse. Now I’m starting to worry, because the pain isn’t where they cut. It’s higher up in the bowel region. Is something wrong? Am I having some kind of reaction? Where’s the doctor’s number? This hurts a LOT. Feels just like I’ve been kicked in the…

    Oh, yeah. They gave you drugs for that, dumb ass. Take one. Ten minutes later I’m not just fine, I’m better than fine.

    The really funny part is when I found out I’m allergic to Neosporin, which they recommended for use to help the stitches heal. (Pause here a second to remember where the stitches are.) Big fun for about a week.

  7. Brett Battles

    Thanks everyone for the comments and the great stories. Keep them coming.

    Oh, and I hope you don’t think I was advising against the eye procedure. I pretty sure I’m going to be extremely happy with the results. It’s just getting through this initial period that’s sucky.

  8. R.J. Mangahas

    That’s great you vision is clearing Brett.

    As for my own eye surgery stories, I had five in a year and a half (these were medically necessary) and I’d rather not remember them. On the plus side, my vision is at least better than it’s been in a VERY long time.

  9. Becky Lejeune

    I had lasek done and no problems at all. I love the results especially since my eyesight was getting so bad at such a young age that they had to custom make my contact lenses each year! Losing or tearing one was hell.

    As for other medical procedures, I tend to avoid doctors at all cost. Literally. This summer, though, my boyfriend was working in NYC for a month and our roommate was actually gone as well. We don’t have a lawnmower (because we rent and the house didn’t come with one) and the grass was getting pretty bad. I actually started hacking away at it with scissors and then hedge clippers. Finally, my boyfriend suggested a weed whacker – the grass was too long by now for a regular mower anyway. Stupid me, I ran over my foot with the thing (yes, I am admitting to my major klutziness and the fact that I should not be, and actually have not been, allowed around any sort of yard equipment). I freaked. Toe was intact, but blood was getting everywhere. The bruise under my nail has only just cleared up.

    I did head to urgent care for this one, though. They wrapped the toe in gauze and gave me a tetanus shot and some advil and sent me home. Worst part was that I had to wear closed toed shoes until it healed and I headed up to NYC for a visit the next week – during a heat wave – wearing full jeans and tennis shoes. My fault, though, I deserved it.

  10. Louise Ure

    Erk. I need a sedative just to read the magazines in a doctor’s waiting room. TMI for me here. Think I’m going to take a pill and chill. (But I did love the tie in to editing.)

  11. Allison Brennan

    I considered Lasek a couple years ago, but then my eye doctor told me in my mid-40s I’d need reading glasses and so I decided against it. I have contacts, but never wear them.

    After having 5 kids, I have many stories, but I’ll spare you most of the details. Some things I’ve learned:

    1) When you’re in labor, you are right, or so help the man who tells you otherwise.

    2) Men have little tolerance for blood and needles. You’d think my HUSBAND was the one getting the epidural needle in HIS spine. And no, I don’t care that his feet were sore from standing so long on the hard floor.

    3) Most nurses are great. But the ones who are bad are really, really Nurse Ratchet bad. Or Bobbie Faye with a needle. You’d think after all the times they put in an IV they’d know how to do it without getting blood on the ceiling tiles . . .

  12. pari

    auggh, Brett. I think I’ll just squint, thankyouverymuch.

    Most recent hospital visit was for a Tae Kwon Do injury when a woman punched me in the face. Normally, that’s not so fun, but I can handle it. But she had long finger nails and dug out a chunk of my cornea.

    After a hellatious night, I called my doc Sat. morning and asked him for numbing drops. He told me to go to the hospital. You should’ve seen the doctor’s face when she looked at all of my bruises; my husband was quick to tell her they were from TKD so she wouldn’t think I was abused.

    Three days of eye salve and I was as good as new.

  13. toni mcgee causey

    Allison, I saw that. God forbid Bobbie Faye get anywhere near the business end of a needle.

    I am very curious about the Lasik. I’d have to have really serious amounts of valium to let them near my eyes, though, if I had to stay awake for the procedure. Probably for at least a week ahead of time, or I’d chicken out.

  14. PK the Bookeemonster

    Ewwww, my sister had the laser eye surgery a number of years ago and told me in too much detail what it entailed. I’ve had glasses since the 3rd grade but NO ONE will ever. touch. my. eyeballs.

  15. Brett Battles

    More great stories!

    And Naomi…if I understand it correctly, both LASEK and PRK are forms of LASIK, branches of the same tree, I guess. Though don’t hold me to that answer.

    On, I forgot to mention to everyone, I actually had monovision done. Meaning my eyes didn’t have the same prescription done. My left was focused more for reading, and my right for distance. It creates kind of a weird sensation at first, but in the long run you’re not even suppose to notice it anymore.

  16. Brett Battles

    More great stories!

    And Naomi…if I understand it correctly, both LASEK and PRK are forms of LASIK, branches of the same tree, I guess. Though don’t hold me to that answer.

    On, I forgot to mention to everyone, I actually had monovision done. Meaning my eyes didn’t have the same prescription done. My left was focused more for reading, and my right for distance. It creates kind of a weird sensation at first, but in the long run you’re not even suppose to notice it anymore.

  17. Catherine

    Things I’ve learnt through being awake through procedures…

    1) It is unwise to laugh when being resutured three days after giving birth, just because the student doctors are making jokes.

    2)Oral surgery is no time to test your psychic bond with a partner because the dentist is placing way too many needles into your soft palate to ‘numb’ for the proposed surgical digging of a wisdom tooth out of your jaw…(at the point you’re trying to beam the image of your dentist being tossed out of the window)..there are no drugs to compensate for finding that your partner and you don’t really mind meld all that well after all…

    3) See 1&2 for reasons I’m unsuitable for any type of eye surgery I may be concious for…

    Brett it is good you sound on the mend though. Great cover too.

  18. Brett Battles

    More great stories!

    And Naomi…if I understand it correctly, both LASEK and PRK are forms of LASIK, branches of the same tree, I guess. Though don’t hold me to that answer.

    On, I forgot to mention to everyone, I actually had monovision done. Meaning my eyes didn’t have the same prescription done. My left was focused more for reading, and my right for distance. It creates kind of a weird sensation at first, but in the long run you’re not even suppose to notice it anymore.

  19. woodstock

    I have, especially between waist and shoulders, what might be termed a “generous figure.” I occasionally get oddball results from mammograms, and so far (knock wood) all the resulting tests have dished up the results one hopes for in that scenario. A few years ago, I was advised to return for another one of the follow up exams, which involves disrobing from the waist, lying facedown on a table with a strategically placed opening, being cranked up to the ceiling with the part to be examined further hanging down through the hole (the better to place it at eye level for the doctor) and having a digital photo machine locate the specific part to be biopsied. This is usually (for me, at any rate) about a 5-8 minute procedure. HOWEVER, on this occasion, the computer driving the digital camera would not boot up properly. I lay there, on my lofty pedestal, with all action taking place below my field of vision, listening to the technician on the phone with tech support, striving mightily to keep her patience while the person on the end kept instructing her to try all the work arounds she had already attempted, to no effect. Eventually, some rogue little piece of electronic magic decided to spring into action, and they completed the test. I decided never to go back to THAT testing center, and I haven’t.

  20. Fran

    I long for Lasik or PRK (if mountains of valium are included) since I have 20/400 vision and have desperately wanted to be able to wake up and see clearly.

    However, I have unexplained scarring on the back of my left eye, right by the optic nerve. So I have a hole in my vision, and there’s no surgeon who’s going to touch my one fairly-decent eye.

    But when the glitch in my left eye first presented, I had a parade of optical personnel traipsing through my little room, staring into the gizmo that was letting them see the scar.

    There’s just nothing like your doctor stepping out of the room and saying, “Hey, you’ve gotta see this!”


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