I remember the day I got glasses – I came home and cried on my couch for what seemed like an eternity to my 10yr old self. It was probably five minutes. I got contacts as soon as I could but ended up not being able to wear them very often as they irritated my eyes. Instead, I got a variety of interesting (and some regrettable) frames.
GLASSES = COOL
I really never had a problem with glasses aesthetically. Especially as an adult, they’re trendy now and everything. But I certainly didn’t feel good wearing them. My prescription was quite strong – minus nine in one eye, and minus nine and a half in the other. If you’re not well versed in what that means, I could only see about 4 inches in front of my face. Even with the most science-y lightweight techniques, they still left deep indents on the bridge of my nose and a complete lack of peripheral vision.
It was dangerous to cross the street – I remember an ex-boyfriend having to escort me home on the streetcar after losing my contacts. I was worried when traveling (which I do a lot) or swimming. Where would I get replacement glasses in Calcutta/Surin/Wuxi if they were to break? When I was in the shower, I couldn’t even tell where the shampoo was. I’d never make it home alive. It was time – with the miracle of modern technology – to fix my face.
Laser correction is always the first thing to come to mind when contemplating these things, but unfortunately I am one of the few ineligible for Lasik or PRK. Both require a certain thickness of the cornea – in the first case, to create a flap, and in the second case, to have enough to burn away to create a new lens shape. Mine are quite thin, which is a hereditary thing, and would never be suitable for lasers. The danger is that they are so thin that they would collapse under the laser, thus blinding me for real.
INTERVIEW YOUR SURGEON
I met with four of the big centers for eye correction – LasikMD, Herzig, Bochner, TLC, to suss out my options. They all turned me down flat for lasers (except LasikMD, which said they could do PRK, but after 3 other refusals, I didn’t really trust them). The only remaining option presented was ICL – Intraocular Contact Lenses. Super thin bio-compatible lenses implanted into your eyes, over the iris (or under if your astigmatism is really bad). Right in there! The newest versions have really come a long way since they first started making them and actually give better results than lasers. Plus, the military is on board, and that makes it totally legit. TLC said they’d do it, but in London. Bochner said they’d do it too, but their rugs are dirty – seriously, these are my EYES. Not only does LMD not do it, but they clearly were just in it for the money, promising that PRK would be fiiiiiiine and offering a deal if I signed up that day. No thanks (cue camera pan to Emma shaped hole in wall).
HERZIG WINS – NOT JUST BECAUSE OF THE COOKIES
So Herzig it was. They have a shiny fancy office at Bloor & Avenue. Sterile looking, cookies at the front desk and a packed waiting room. So far so good. I met with several doctors, all excellent, friendly (unlike the TLC guy who I kind of felt like drop-kicking by the time I left), and immediately felt at ease. It took about two months to organize – several visits to Herzig for measurements, a torn retina involving two visits to St. Mike’s (which Eyeborg had to reassure me has a splendid reputation for eye work despite the decrepit appearance – but that’s a whole other story, panic button, terminator lasers and all), and many hours of me watching Clockwork Orange type videos online psyching myself completely out.
DR. SHELDON HERZIG
Before the final visit, I met with Dr. Sheldon Herzig who owns the clinic. He’s extremely rich. This comforted me since I got the distinct impression he didn’t need my money. And it’s not cheap. It’s the most expensive operation out of all the options – eight thousand dollars. EXPENSIVE. But probably only 1/20th his monthly rent for the two story private elevator complex across from Hermès (swoon!).
PARANOIA SETS IN
Out of all the visits I had there – and there were about 6 leading up to it – they had all the time in the world for my paranoid and repetitive questions which I know they’re answered four million times already. I probably saw 5 different people – technicians, doctors, consultants, and got nothing but direct gentle facts and immediate replies to my many panicky one line emails. Which I like. Their attitude was more or less “Bro, we got this, don’t even WOOOORRRY” in that I’m-so-good-at-my-job-I-just-don’t-even-need-to-explain-to-you-how-good-I-am confident way people get when they’re just the best at stuff.
BLACK DIAMOND KNIVES
Which is seems they are – the name of the lens I got is Cachet. When Acrysoft wanted to bring it to Canada, they approached Dr Herzig directly to have him kick it off. He’s done more implants than anyone else in the country. Since this is not a computer guided laser – rather, a man’s hand with a knife (made of black diamonds!) cutting into your eye – manual skill and practice become paramount. In the face of my mounting anxiety (me: “So, like, how many people have you blinded, like ever, doing this?” him: “(pause)…Um, nobody.”) he told me that there was no reason I had to go through with it and had up to the day, the minute of, the operation to change my mind. “If you’re worried about it, just… you know, don’t do it”, he said with a casual shrug. I found that incredibly comforting.
THE FIRST EYE & ALL OF MY MONEY
So I did it. They do it one two days, which is required by law. I mean, as Rob says, you really only need one eye. And come on – everyone loves an eye patch. First was Monday at noon, second was Tuesday at 7am. They do three days of operations a week, 20-25 people a day. Noon sounded good to me, as he had the whole morning to warm up. I just crossed my fingers he was a morning person for the second one. I got there more or less on time and had to initial about five million paragraphs all detailing how it would/could/might blind me by opting to do this. I think it was 8 pages, double sided. I suggested to the receptionist that it was perhaps not the most encouraging thing to read the day of, and she just laughed and said something derogatory about lawyers, telling me that not one of those things had ever, EVER, happened. I handed her my Aerogold (MEGA-POINTS) and tried not to look at all the zeros. I’ll be paying this off for a while.
OH, HELLO LORAZEPAM
They took me to the back with four other people, brought me some tea, eye drops (antibiotics and numbing agents) a Lorazepam (standard procedure), and gave me a very lovely hand massage. By the time I walked into the operating room (a full on operating room, which I wasn’t expecting at all and tried to back away from at first), my anxiety was lessened marginally. It was still there, but the drugs made it so I just didn’t really care. Dr Herzig asked me how I was doing (me: “I’m okkkkaaay, but I’m really more concerned with how YOU’RE doing”). The whole thing took about 10 minutes, most of that prep work. After covering me in a full body plastic sheet with only a small hatch for the eye they were operating on, the actual operation only lasted five or six minutes. Having obsessively watched youtube videos for the past two months, I tried to make out through the bright light what was happening. Now he’s making the 3mm incision, I guessed. Then a gel is inserted to protect the cornea. Then they load up the custom made lens from Switzerland (naturally) into a syringe, and inject it into the incision. It unrolls by itself over the pupil, and a little metal wand is used to tuck the feet under the iris to keep it in place. Then they suck out the extra gel, and presto, all done. Didn’t feel a goddamn thing. I’ve had splinters that were worst. Scratch that, splinters really hurt. I’ve had more painful haircuts. Hugs that hurt more. Seriously, it was nothing, is what I’m getting at.
THE SECOND EYE AND NOW I’M AN EXPERT
By the time I got there at 7am the next day, I was reassuring newbies in the waiting room ‘Don’t worry, you’ll be fiiiiine’ and anticipating my follow up cookies & tea. Because there’s so little damage to the eyes, unlike lasers which require some healing, I could pretty much see right away. With a touch of swelling from all the prodding, they checked them the next day and I was already at 20/20. He anticipated it would get slightly better within three weeks as it all settled in. And now those bio-lenses are in there for good. It’s for life. Forever. Totally reversible if desired, but otherwise permanent.
SHINY GLOSSY WORLD
Things look brighter and bigger. Literally. My eyes receive more light, and the strength of my prescription made things look smaller. At night I used to see giant glowing balls of light where car head & tail lights were, four, five times bigger than the light itself. Streaks of light from streetlamp bulbs all the way to the road and high into the sky. Now I can see that lights on cars have an actual shape, definition, outlines. There’s plastic in there! Not everything is just a giant light show. I can find the shampoo in the shower. I can go swimming without worrying about losing the shore. I can fly without worrying about breaking my glasses or falling asleep in my contacts and destroying my corneas. I can grow my bangs longer, past the top edge of my frames. The world looks like a glossy photo instead of matte. My eyes don’t ache all the time. They’re shinier, because of the implant’s reflective surface. I also lost 15lbs. No, just kidding. But I did discover that I’m still clumsy – I ran into two walls this morning. But maybe that was last night’s scotch(es). And I’m still waking up slightly panicked that I fell asleep in my contacts.
If you’re really curious, and think science is AWESOME, watch the video of how they do it.
If you’re squeamish… uh, don’t. It looks way scarier than it is.
If you’re thinking about doing it, go. It’ll get paid off eventually.
It’s pretty great.