Don’t try to outweird me, three eyes!
“Don't try to outwierd me, three eyes, I get stranger things than you with my breakfast” – Zaphod Beeblebrox
I think I was born nearsighted. I can remember thinking as a small child that I could see air. I never told anyone this, because after all, none of the superheros in my comic books ever admitted their super powers.
I found out different when I had my eyes checked. I remember my first pair of glasses, how clear and shiny (and bent and distorted) everything was.
I also remember being called “four-eyes” in school.
My eyes were bad; 20/400. That's incredibly bad; it means that what a normally sighted person could see at 400 feet I could see at 20. If your eyes can't be corrected to better than 20/200 you're legally blind. I wore Coke bottle glasses to correct my 20/400 vision. Of course, since this is slashdot I'm pretty sure a majority of you wear coke bottle glasses as well.
When I was a young man, I tried contact lenses. I couldn't wear them, it felt like there was glass in my eyes.
Contacts were made of glass back then. Yep, I'm gettin' old.
But glasses were such a bitch. If it's raining, you can't see. If you're mowing the lawn in the hot sun, sweat covers your glasses and you can't see. If you walk inside on a cold winter day your glasses fog up and you can't see. They get dirty and you can't see.
If you get hit in the face with a baseball you can't see.
By my mid 40s I noticed I had to pull my glasses down my nose to read.
One evening I walked downtown in a drizzle, looking forward to a drink or three and listening to some live music. I got downtown, went in the bar and sat down. I grabbed a bar napkin and started wiping the rain off the lenses.
One of them popped out of the frame, skittered across the bar, and went underneath a 3,000 pound cooler.
I tried to work the next day; no good. One lens wouldn't cut it. I knew they had eyeglasses at Walmart and figured they'd be faster than anybody else, so I took a bus down there. Drive? You wanted me to DRIVE like that??
They did an examination, and said they could have a pair of glasses in three days.
THREE DAYS??? Jesus H. Christ! I can't go without glasses for three days!!!!!
“Would you like to try contacts? you could get contacts today!”
Just try 'em? Why not, sure.
The lady showed me how to put them in and take them out. After fumbling for a few minutes I got one in my eye – and it didn't hurt! And I could SEE!!! WOW!!! No more glasses!
Well, not quite... I couldn't pull contact lenses down my nose to focus to read. You see, in middle age the eye's focusing lens, back behind the iris, gets hard. The muscles still work theoretically, but there's nothing for them to move to focus, as the lens is too hard.
I needed reading glasses on top of my contacts. Now I was six-eyes! Damn!
What a shitty century. My country was attacked; my President was a fucking moron hell-bent on making gasoline ten dollars a gallon and to hell with the country; my beloved uncle and grandmother died (not in the attack. My uncle died of lung cancer 25 years after he stopped smoking, and my grandmother fell and broke her hip at age 99); my wife left me and my teenaged daughters for another man; all of what they (not I) called “rock and roll” sucked ass; the record companies were suing their customers; the Democrats and Republicans seemed to become two arms of the same fascist party; they passed the “Patriot” Act (which should have been called the “Cowardly Government Is Scared Shitless Act”), the DMCA and the Bono act; without my ex-wife's added income my van was repossessed and my house foreclosed, and I declared bankruptcy. And I got another God damned eye infection!
So I went to Urgent Care and saw a doctor (I'd already canned my family doctor for taking me off the Paxil I was prescribed for “Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood” right in the middle of getting my house foreclosed). The doc gave me some eye drops.
They didn't work; the eye was redder and hurt even more. I went back to the doctor, who referred me to a specialist, who gave me some steroid drops. The eye stopped hurting.
A couple weeks after stopping the drops I noticed my vision in that eye was getting worse. When I ran out of contacts I went back to Walmart for more. I'd been wearing them a few years by then.
The doctor examined my eyes and said my left eye, the one that had been afflicted with the infection, had a cataract. I thought I was too young for cataracts, not even 55.
“It's a young man's cataract; you get this kind from steroids.”
Steroids? Like the steroid eye drops???
“Don't worry, just go to the Prairie Eye Center and see Doctor Yae if it gets much worse. She'll fix it and your insur-ance will cover it. Meanwhile I'll up your lens strength.”
That was last January, by April I could barely see at all out of that eye. So I went to see Dr. Yae (whose name I may be misspelling).
“You have a cataract,” she said.
She told me about the procedure, and said I should know about this new technology just approved by the FDA in 2003 called the CrystaLens.
Since 1949 (I looked it up) they have been replacing cataracts, which are actually an occluded lens, with an IOL, or Inter Occular Lens. It's a plastic lens that replaces the eye's natural focusing lens. Besides curing the cataract by replacing it with an artificial lens it also cured nearsightedness and astigmatism in patients like me who were so afflicted. You still needed reading glasses, of course, but no matter since everybody's lens gets too hard to focus before they're old enough for cataracts, anyway.
The CrystaLens lets you focus!
Before the surgery, I amused myself by grossing people out with graphic descriptions of what I was going to let them do to me. “They stick a needle in your eye, turn the lens to mush with ultrasound, and suck it out through the needle. Then they stick a piece of plastic in. My mom says it's a piece of cake.” She had the old fashioned IOLs inserted a few years ago.
“I guess that's what I get for saying ‘cross my heart and hope to die’ when I was a kid!”
The eye's lens is covered in a kind of bag, the “lens capsule”. When they insert an IOL they put it inside the capsule, which is still attached to the focusing muscles. The CrystaLens is hinged, allowing the muscles to move it forward and backward.
But it costs $1,900 more than the traditional implant, and this part comes out of my pocket. I normally eat at restaurants, but started eating TV dinners and ham sandwiches instead. And pretty much stopped drinking.
The area bars, in effect, paid for the part insurance wouldn't.
Now, I'm leaving a lot out here, they have to measure your eyeball, you have to get a physical exam to make sure you're okay to get a needle stuck in your eye and stuff, but the day of the surgery came around and I had barely paid the bill; it must be in advance, as they can't repossess your eye. My daughter drove me to the hospital for the outpatient procedure.
Most of the day was spent waiting. I waited for my blood pressure to be taken, weighed, etc.
Then waited for pre-op, where they dosed my eye with what seemed like gallons of eye drops that hurt like hell, and stuck an IV needle in my wrist. Then waited for the actual operation.
Doctor McCoy would have been jealous of the technology at a modern hospital; we've gone WAY past what the science fiction writers of the '60s could imagine.
They tied my arms down. “So you don't try to help the doctor.” They put a thing over my face.
I distinctly remember freaking out when they stuck the needle in. But my memories of the actual surgery are very, very dim; I do remember the only pain was in pre-op when they dosed me.
They finally took the thing off my face and untied my hands, and wheeled me into the recovery room. I could read the clock on the wall! With no corrective lenses at all! I'd never experienced this before!
They released me, and told me I was legally intoxicated for 24 hours and to not make any important decisions, sign any documents, operate dangerous machinery or drive. “If you get caught driving they'll put you in jail” I was warned.
The next day my daughter took me to the Eye Institute, where my eyesight was measured at 20/20. Now, the drops they put in your eye paralyze the focusing muscles, but in a week when I went back I was already starting to focus. My eye was now 20/16, meaning I can see at 20 feet what a normally sighted person can see at 16 feet. I'm now better than 20/20!
I was instructed to read at least ten minutes per day, without reading glasses, to build up the atrophied muscles I'd not used in ten years.
On a good day in good light I can now read the date on a dime! Outdoors, with a contact lens in my right eye, my vision is pretty much the same in each eye. Inside if I close the eye with the CrystaLens, everything gets fuzzy. And the more I read, the better my eye gets.
There is no lens needed for my left eye now. Dr. Yae says I'll need the other eye done in a year or two, until then I wear a contact in that eye.
Finally, something about this century that doesn't suck!
So just call me three-eyes. For the next year or two, anyway.
Oct 26, 2007