Eye Confess

I was OK with it even with my inner- Tiger Mom (the angry condescending voice in my head that berates and second guesses every action I take) telling me: “You’ll be blind! And then you’ll be a burden to your family! You better hope they kill you! At least then your family can collect the insurance! Stupid!” (TIger Mom’s don’t speak, they roar!)

I was OK with it until they showed me the video about the risks of having the PRK operation done. And then I made the mistake of watching a YouTube video of the operation; mistakenly thinking it would calm me if I knew what would go on.

PRK stands for Photorefractive Keratectomy. It is like LASIK in that it is surgery that uses laser technology to manipulate the shape of the eye. The major difference between the two is that PRK removes the entire layer of skin over the cornea, while LASIK creates a flap in the skin over the cornea. In my case, the goal of PRK was to flatten my cornea to reduce my myopia.

I remember over a decade ago, standing by a coworker’s desk, talking with her about LASIK surgery and how we both could really go for it, but how right then and there the fear of it outweighed the benefits. Over the recent years, new coworkers and friends of friends have had it done and have raved about the results. Over the past six months, I have been feeling like I needed a new prescription (again? Didn’t I just get a new one?) It was now time that I just did it.

The physical operation felt like just a few minutes. The doctor kept telling me to look at the blinking light, I was afraid to tell him that my vision was so bad that there was really no light for me to look at – just a big flashing red and green blur. I just laid perfectly still and stared straight ahead; which was the right thing to do because the doctor rhythmically mumbled, “Uh Huh… Good… stare at the light…” and then it was over.

The first hour with my newly lasered eyes was wonderful. I was infatuated with the fact that I could see without my glasses. The following 48 hours, however, are ones I am glad are behind me. My eyes were tearing so much that at one point in the night, I had to remove the safety goggles they had given me to sleep in and pour the tears out of them! Thankfully the pain never got over having a cat hair stuck underneath your contact lens.

The following 48 hours was like pre-operation mornings. Early hours trudging to the bathroom without needing my glasses because I had learned what the soft-rounded colored shadows represented. The irrational frustration set in during the afternoons when all the things I do on the weekends remain undone because I can not see enough to read a computer screen or my cell phone. I can not read a book and the soft, colored morning shadows are now on the TV. The visible world is now a blur.

I can’t help my mind from wandering into the Night Gallery (the show Rod Serling created after The Twilight Zone); the episode in the pilot where Joan Crawford gets Tom Bosley’s eyes. Fate plays a trick on her. Her vision is restored in the middle of a black out. I mind kept whispering “11 hours… 11 hours…”

When the doctor removed the contacts they used as bandages after the operation, I have to admit I felt a tinge of Gallery’s Crawford come on. After 48 hours of fuzzy vision, my eyesight had finally cleared. I was able to see clearly again. My vision was as good as it had been with my glasses. And while I did have more than 11 hours, the hours following the removal of the contacts, I did feel (if even for a little while) like Night Gallery’s Joan Crawford.

If not the Night Gallery, The Eye (Not the Jessica Alba remake, the Pang Brother’s original). I don’t see ghosts but it is interesting to think along the terms of Joyce; who I have been told because of his atrocious eyesight described things by sound and color, giving his writing a unique and poetic perspective.

In Araby he paints a picture of a busy street with ambient sound:

Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to romance. On Saturday evenings when my aunt went marketing I had to go to carry some of the parcels. We walked through the flaring streets, jostled by drunken men and bargaining women, amid the curses of labourers, the shrill litanies of shop-boys who stood on guard by the barrels of pigs’ cheeks, the nasal chanting of street-singers, who sang a come-all-you about O’Donovan Rossa, or a ballad about the troubles in our native land.

In The Eye, Ah Mun, who was born blind, receives a cornea transplant that successfully provides her with vision for the first time. The automaticity of vision in the morning is something the sighted seem to forsake. From what I remember, the movie didn’t make a very big deal about that (or at least I felt the filmmakers didn’t make a big enough deal about it). Imagine the movie’s meaning if Ah Mun, who can finally see, thinks the things she sees are normal. I mean what does she have to compare her sighted experience to? It’s the first time she can see!

Seeing without my glasses is still new to me. My brain hasn’t really acknowledged that I am seeing without the help of something else. My return to blurred vision (with the removal of the “bandage contacts”) perpetuates the blindness in my head.

The doctor assures me this is a temporary state; a part of my recovery. I hope I have the vision I had on the best day of wearing my contact bandages. Not that I would trade my new sightedness to return to my days of spectacles or contact care, but I do wonder what I will miss when I eventually grow accustomed to the visible world.

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