Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Point of View

Usually at this time of night I’d be taking out my contacts, putting on my pj’s and cozying up with a good book.  So it’s strange not to have to do anything because as of the last two weeks, I’ve had refractive lens exchange surgery and I no longer wear contacts. Or glasses. I’m no longer blind waking up in the morning, trying to read the time on my alarm clock. Morning and evening rituals to the wayside, I can throw away the solutions, the contacts, the glasses. I hesitate, wondering if this really works, but it’s working beautifully. Amazing. I burned through the eye chart last week after my right eye was done for distance. I’ve never been able to read the bottom line of the chart before, even with contacts.  I started investigating this type of surgery about ten or more years ago and was told I’d never get 20/20 vision because my eyes were too nearsighted, I had stigmatism and the price was out of my reach. I investigated again this year and decided to get tests to assure the doctors my retinas were okay, and the price has come down considerably.  It’s still expensive, but worth every penny in my view.  Yesterday, my  left eye was done. When I say ‘done’ it makes it sound like cosmetic surgery, and I suppose it is, but it is life-changing, a new point of view.

Amazingly, it is ten years exactly to the month when I first had my retinas evaluated.  See
I didn’t plan it this way. The Universe agreed this time.

The surgery itself was a bit trippy. I’m in a rolling bed in a room with others, almost assembly-line, mostly older folks getting their cataracts removed.  I had a start of cataracts also, so I’ll never have to do this again. They take my vitals, and put drops in my eyes for dilation, and numbing and many other things, and hook me up to the IV.   I’m lying flat, under the microscope and sedated but still conscious. It is the “feel good” kind where I try to figure out where I am in the room and hear the doctor’s voice saying, ‘we’re putting in the new lens now’  and I’m looking from behind my eyes into bright colors of pink, purple, yellow  and a white flower stem like something out of Dr. Seuss that I want to ask the doc, is that what is really in my eye?  The nurse said I wouldn’t remember so I tried to and in about ten minutes max it’s all over, I’m wheeled off to recovery and offered coffee or water (I take the water) and after not eating all morning and not drinking for 2 hours ahead of time I’m ready to go home and crash on the couch and have something to eat.  My ride, Donna, is the designated driver and I’ve got my kit ahead of time with sunglasses and eye drops and she drives me home, I watch the scenery out of the car in perfect clarity.  My eye is still dilated so it’s a bit blurry, but I can tell it’s perfectly clear. Instead of reading (which was not recommended), I watch a movie, Melancholia, which is maybe a good metaphor for destroying the old world and opening the new.  The depressing saga is an odd end to my day.  If I’m ever caught in an apocalypse, I’ll have the clear vision to see it! The next morning I have my 8:20 am check up and the doc says it’s perfect, just where it’s supposed to be and healing fine and I can resume all normal activities like driving and working on the computer, just keep putting in my prescribed drops and avoid the hot tub.

For a week until my left eye is done, I wear my left contact, slowly savoring half a ritual. When it’s time to take out my left contact for bed, I am caught in a predicament of wearing my glasses with one lens for reading, but blocking out my right eye, since the prescription is off. My glasses are much weaker as I only wore them at home for reading and relaxing. I host a workshop on point of view, and wonder about first, second and third person, past and present tense, and structure of story. My eye will always be an oval-shaped near-sighted eyeball, but the lenses will be new. That is what I will always watch for, any signs of retinal detachment, like bright flashes or shadows. No signs of that.  Soon I am back, knowing the routine, and they are backed up a bit on the schedule, but once I get in and wait for that sweet dream of tantalizing colors, which this time I don’t remember, just the doc saying ‘it’s perfect’ and I wake up and request coffee this time.  I’m ready to go home and watch more TV, this time the British Baking Show holiday cook-off, something light and festive.

I put my glasses on the table in my studio, where they may become some future art project. I’ve worn contacts since I was about 14, around 1976, when there were only the hard ones and I had to go on a wearing schedule and take them out in the school bathroom sink. In two hours, out four hours.  Trying not to lose them along with my retainer after my braces were off.  I would search for a lost lens in the grass, when we went camping (in those days I only had one pair and could wash them off with plain water). I would avoid water sports at the beach and swimming was a big blur.  I found out that when I wore a scuba mask I could see clearly underwater, which was a pleasant way to spend the time. I did try waterskiing and got up a few times but without my contacts I didn’t know what dock was ours on the lake, all the cabins were a blur, so I told the boat driver to just swing around when we got close and I’d let go.  Books were close, accessible, and within my range of vision. I could do anything in my imagination, unhindered by poor eyesight.  A guy friend in college wanted to join the Air Force so bad but he had poor vision. Those were the days before lasik so there were no options. Soft contacts appeared on the market and were a lifesaver for comfort.  The extended wear ones you supposedly could sleep in, but they never worked that way.  Late night dating had its challenges when I would decide whether to spend the night sometimes based on how my eyes felt and if I had any solution or my glasses with me.  If it was a boyfriend and he wanted me to stay over, I had an excuse to leave because I didn’t have my glasses or I didn’t want to put my contacts in a jar and risk losing them, or if I did bring my glasses in my purse I didn’t want it to look like I was anticipating something that I did not want to reveal.

The tipping point was when I had to have special order contacts in order to get enough power to see clearly.  I decided to spend my money on surgery instead of lenses. Driving at night now is clear, those hazy shadows of confusion mostly gone. My point of contact with the world is permanently altered to a new point of view, an almost-full moon night sky view, my white eyeball flower of resurrection.

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