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Nihon Under the Knife - not really fo...

nihon_no_cook's picture

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Ok, so I'm back, have slept off the worst of the valium, and am ready to tell my tale, for those of you who have strong enough stomachs to read any further. Here's how my day went:

9:15 am - suffered power blackout at work; since I work in a lab where the loss of ventilation can be hazardous, all of us trooped over to the cafeteria to hang out. Nothing better than time to sit around with nothing to do right before surgery, so you can dwell on exactly how scared you are. Contemplated the possiblity that the power wouldn't come on in the next hour or so, which would cause the plant manager to send first shift home early for the day, which would mean that I could save 1/2 a vacation day. That was the bright spot of the morning.

10:55 am - power restored, first shift had to stay. Darn it!

11am - bid farewell to coworkers ("See you Monday . . . hopefully!). Felt sense of elation that in a few hours, I'll be able to stop worrying about the damn procedure. Thought about taking my safety glasses with me in the car so I could pitch them out the window on my way home after the surgery, but decided that littering wasn't the best idea.

11:15am - choked down a light lunch at Subway. Contemplated which toppings would look best if circumstances caused me to regurgitate them all over the laser technician. Fretted.

11:55am - arrived at doctor's office. There were only two cars in the parking lot, a parking lot that is usually full. Is the place closed? Has he been sued for malpractice? Or are they just slow because of the lunch hour? Remembered to bring inside the bag of pre-surgery stress reducers I've gathered (stone I use to keep my hands occupied instead of biting my fingernails; photos of loved ones; handkerchief from my grandmother who breezed through several cataract surgeries with no difficultes, and whose estate made the surgery financially possible for me; plastic baggie and napkins to use in case of nausea).

12pm - signed in. Signed disclaimer that boiled down to "anything that goes wrong ain't the doctor's fault." Took 10mg valium. Tried to read engaging book to keep my mind off of impending procedure (
i O is for Outlaw;
very good book so far). Held husband's hand. Fretted.

12:15 pm - young woman who just arrived is scheduled for the surgery slot after mine. She looked calm and ready to go. And skinny. Wished fervently that I was more like her, or at least looked that good in overalls.

12:30 pm - assistant came to prep me for surgery. "I'm supposed to be feeling less anxious, right, because that isn't happening yet." "We'll get you prepped and get you another pill."

12:40 pm - Began crying. Just a little. Reassured by assistant, who had laser surgery herself, that everything will be fine, but I don't have to continue if I don't want to. Gulped down another 1/2 a valium, preying for some dopiness to start soon. Eye area was swabbed with betadine solution, and I had to put on a little blue shower cap to keep my hair out of the way.

12:50 pm - Waited in small waiting room for doctor to arrive. Assistant stopped by every few minutes to make sure I was feeling ok, which interfered with my stress-reducing yoga breathing techniques. Panic was still there, but manageable.

1:10 pm - Doctor is here, ready to go.
* Sit in something like a dentist's chair, only it tilts so far back that you feel like you're going to slide off headfirst onto the floor. Head was positioned just so, then held in place with an inflatable donut-shaped pillow. They moved the laser in place over my eye, and the focusing ring around the outside was so bright I could barely look at it.
* They put a patch over my left eye. Had to stare at the light while they attached a suction ring to my right eye. This caused me to lose all vision in that eye, which was probably a blessing, but it was really uncomfortable - like someone pushing fairly hard on your eye with their knuckle. The keratome (translation - knife) attached to the suction ring, and after a few seconds of vibration, the flap was cut. They removed the suction ring, and I breathed for the first time in several minutes, or at least that's how it seemed. Probably would have been impossible at that time to pry the lucky stone out of my hand.
* Also luckily, with the flap cut I couldn't really see what was going on too well. First they attached a speculum to my eyelids to keep them open. Then they flipped back the flap, made sure everything was ready, and started up the laser. The trick to the laser is that you have to look right at that super-bright area (with a pulsing red light in the middle; that's the actual laser) without moving your eye, or it gets all screwed up. Unfortunately, to me it looked like the damn target light was moving, so I kept trying to follow it with my eye. Luckily the doctor has a view of the whole thing, and every time my eye started to wander, he'd flip off the laser. After the fourth or fifth time that happened, he was probably getting a little annoyed. Meanwhile, the laser technician was counting down how many seconds I had left to go. Longest 48 seconds ever recorded in the history of mankind.
* Once the laser was done, they flipped the flap back in place and used some sort of spatula or brush or something to smooth it back into place. Thanks to the negative pressure in your eye, there are no stitches necessary to hold the flap back in place. Then I had to sit there with the speculum holding open my right eye (so the flap could get nicely dried and stuck down before I blinked) while they started on my left eye.
* So the right eye was bad, but the left eye was even scarier, since I knew exactly what was coming. The suction hurt worse on that eye - was bordering on pain, instead of just being uncomfortable. I'm hoping that whimpering uncontrollably doesn't mean that I wasn't brave, since I made it through the whole procedure for that eye, too. Of course, I may be picking rock fragments out of my hands for a few days, but hey - at least there was not vomiting!
* After the left eye was done, they put some drops in my right eye, then took out the speculum. Then I had to wait for another few minutes with the speculum still attached to my left eye (and it pinched!) while the doctor and technicians made small talk. Then they put in the drops, took the appliances off, and damned if I couldn't see! Well, I could see pretty well until they taped some clear eyepatches over my eyes to keep me from scratching at them overnight - they blur things a little bit.

1:30 pm - All done, including the post-operative counseling to let me know what types of pain and/or problems are bad enough for me to call the doctor at home and drag him with me to the hospital. Arrived in the lobby, triumphant, and looking unbearably stupid with both eyes tremendously bloodshot from the suction r

Dutchess_'s picture

(post #57236, reply #1 of 22)

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Nihon, I have been thinking about you having this surgery, I'm so glad it's over - what a relief. I think you are very brave. This procedure is so amazing to me, my mother has lost most of her sight which makes me appreciate mine even more.

Jean_'s picture

(post #57236, reply #2 of 22)

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Nihon, I'm so glad it's over and it wasn't tooooo bad. Parts of your story made me LOL! I especially liked your thoughtfulness re. the lovely appearance of any possible emesis. You are just too considerate! Glad things are looking up --literally -- for you. :-) BTW, I'll bet the Betadine made you look like a racoon....LOL

kai_'s picture

(post #57236, reply #3 of 22)

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omg Jean "emesis"--you are so tactful :)

Nihon, SO SO glad you are doing well!

cam14's picture

(post #57236, reply #4 of 22)

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Nihon - you have a wonderful way with words and I think a unique story telling ability - I was "IN" the moment with you! I am happy the surgery part is over and am wishing you a complete success . My mother had the surgery and to say she was nervous would be an understatement since she only had one eye to begin with - she never needed her glasses again. She was overjoyed and I am hoping you will be too! Best wishes and thank you for sharing your story.

Cooking_Monster's picture

(post #57236, reply #5 of 22)

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Nihon, you are very, very brave. I'm proud of you. Congratulations.

Wolverine's picture

(post #57236, reply #6 of 22)

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Congrats, Nihon! Brave and no, you are NOT a wuss! Hope everything turns out perfect!!

Valerie_'s picture

(post #57236, reply #7 of 22)

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I had to kick DH out of the room while reading this story, he tends to fall under the squeamish category. He got all offended till I started describing the flap of eye-skin that needs to be sliced for the surgery. Then he beat a hasty retreat.

Nihon, knew you could do it! Hope those semi-permanent grooves in your head start to fade oh-so-quickly.

CLS's picture

(post #57236, reply #8 of 22)

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Nihon, you describe things too well. I'm not doing it. I can't read a book no matter how close it is to my face without corrective lenses, and after reading your account, I think it's going to stay that way. I think you are very, very brave. I would have more than wimpered - I would have outright had a panic attack!!!

I'm so glad for you! How terrific is it that you don't have to wear glasses for the first time in decades! I can't wait to see you in a few weeks and see how it is going.

Take care of yourself and do everything the doctor said.

Wolverine's picture

(post #57236, reply #9 of 22)

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CLS - it didn't really sound
i that
bad! Remember, You may not react the same way to all that stuff. If it meant correcting my vision to the degree she was / is looking for, I'd do it in a minute!

CLS's picture

(post #57236, reply #10 of 22)

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I'm not squeemish when it comes to others. Someone else hurts, I'm calm and cool and can handle things. But if I hurt - well, I even faint at the sight of my own blood. I'm a total woos when it comes to me. I know I couldn't do that without freaking -

EM_'s picture

(post #57236, reply #11 of 22)

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i or burning smells, thank you very much to whoever put that idea into my head!!!!),

Oops, that would be me! You fall into the minority of folks who don't catch the odor. You were tuned into other stuff, obviously....;-). But hey, you knew it to be normal if you had noticed.

Glad you got through it and hope you never need to wear the glasses again. I'm showing this to DH who wants the surgery badly. You write a great story, Nihon. You should make money doing this!

Catering_Chef's picture

(post #57236, reply #12 of 22)

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Glad to hear your good results Nihon. Have a great, restful week-end with all that behind you.

Holly_'s picture

(post #57236, reply #13 of 22)

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Nihon...thanks for sharing...one of my employees is contemplating the same surgery and I will share your post with her..there is nothing like a great first hand recount..!

Glad to hear you are doing so well..and I don't think you're a wuss at all, I have worn glasses since I was 4 years old and would never be brave enough to do what you did!

kai_'s picture

(post #57236, reply #14 of 22)

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Nihon, I think your recount of that experience could easily be sold to any number of magazines. You are a great writer! And such a brave soul! (Have you considered marketing it--this would probably be for free, considering their budget--to your local NPR station? The reason I suggest this is that your writing gift is such that it comes through with words--i.e., we don't need to see accompanying photos, as would be needed in other media.)

Take care and congrats for being so brave! Hope you don't need to do it again--I think I'm too scared to try it even once.

Chiffonade_'s picture

(post #57236, reply #15 of 22)

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Take care of those peepers!! Glad it went well :)

nihon_no_cook's picture

(post #57236, reply #16 of 22)

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>Hope you don't need to do it again--I think I'm too scared to try it even once.

Well, after my follow-up visit to my doctor, I'm starting to suspect that I may need a second go-round. My left eye is remarkably clear, but the right eye - the one he did first, where he had to stop the laser about 5 times - isn't nearly as good. I can now read the top two lines on the chart with that eye, which is two lines more than I could read before, but still isn't too hot. Of course, my right eye was the worse one to begin with, but not by this much. Methinks I squirmed too much and threw things out of whack. Right now I'm just hoping that I didn't squirm enough to make it so that the blurriness can't be corrected. Oh, well - I won't know for another two weeks, so I'll just be good and take my antibiotic drops and eat carrots until my skin turns orange ; ) Plus if I need to get the right eye zapped again, it's included in my original fee, and this time I'll know to take the pills WAY in advance of the actual surgery so I"m not a stress-ball again.

PS - Kai - writing something for NPR has been a dream of mine ever since I discovered it a few years ago (we didn't get it on any of the stations I had access to growing up or in college - poor deprived me!). I'm flattered that you think this would be good enough for them - you sure know the way to a girl's heart!

Wolverine's picture

(post #57236, reply #17 of 22)

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What line can you get to with the left eye? Or simpler, what did your vision in that eye correct to? ( and from )

As ever curious - Wolvie

nihon_no_cook's picture

(post #57236, reply #18 of 22)

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I can't quite recall, although I do know that it wasn't quite the superman-style x-ray vision I'd been hoping for. Maybe 5 or 6 lines down . . . but I was still ecstatic, since it's been a decade since the last time I saw the big E uncorrected!

Dr. won't tell me my prescription/correction until after the two weeks are over . . . Dr. doesn't talk much at all, which is minorly annoying, but at least he has steady hands! Btw, the drive to the gym this morning (in the dark, in the driving rain) was no picnic, but I did notice that my right eye is getting a little less blurry. Maybe there's hope for it after all!

(oh, and uncorrected I was a -10.?? in each eye, along with some rather nasty astigmatism.)

Wolverine's picture

(post #57236, reply #19 of 22)

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Well, either way, it sounds like a MAJOR league improvement. -10?? WOW. I would have this procedure, too. Hope for the best on the right eye - sounds a little better!!
5 or 6 lines down on the chart isn't so bad, I think the 6th line is the 20 -20: ( avg, mean, whatever you want to call it) anyway - 3/4" high letters read from 20 feet away.

freestyle's picture

(post #57236, reply #20 of 22)

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I have to say that was one of the best descriptions of surgery I have ever read! I am the world's biggest wimp, especially if a general anaesthetic is involved and would prefer to have major abdominal surgery with a spinal than have another ga. In a couple of weeks I have to have a couple of lipoma removed from very close to my spine - the surgeon is very laid back about it, and says he will do it with a local block, but I am still terrified, and it isn't happening until March 13. Help would be appreciated, anything at all to take my mind off such dire things.

kai_'s picture

(post #57236, reply #21 of 22)

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Freestyle, see if they will let you have a relaxation (or music) tape of your choice playing. Also, ask if they have "prep" classes to learn relaxation techniques. I'm sure a lot of kind folks on this board will come up with many other ideas for you. Thanks for asking for our help! We are with you, 100%!

Cooking_Monster's picture

(post #57236, reply #22 of 22)

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Valium. Lots and lots of valium. See if you can't get an amnesiac as well. That way you don't have to keep the memories.