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My Odyssey With LASIK Surgery

Seeing the Light


A few months later I made an appointment for Cavanagh to evaluate me for LASIK. Coincidentally, my editors had just assigned me to write about the controversial issue of using the procedure on children. Cavanagh was a good sport, and not only spent a lot of time talking with me as a patient, but also fielding questions on expanding the surgery to youngsters.

After a three-and-a-half-hour exam, Cavanagh explained that the shape of my eye made contacts impossible. The other option, considering the deterioration of my vision, was bifocals, then trifocals. When he heard that I ride a horse and a bicycle, he told me I'd be safer and could continue my sports at a higher level with LASIK.

I went home and thought it over for about six weeks. He'd given me much to think about -- not the least of which are possible complications, including loss of vision, double or hazy vision, increased sensitivity to light, dry eye, and the appearance of glare and halos around lights, any of which may be temporary or permanent. In addition, an ulcer may form on the cornea, or an eyelid may become droopy. After working for years as a science writer, I know that science is an art -- the doctors can't guarantee whether your vision will improve, or to what degree. And the surgery isn't cheap: $1,900 per eye.

Eventually, I decided to go through with it. So, on Dec. 28, 2000, I found myself reclining in a dentist-type chair, about to see -- literally -- what the future would hold.

The surgery itself is pretty simple: an assistant cleaned and swabbed my eyes and applied a numbing solution. Cavanagh asked me to open my eyes wide so he could tape my eyelashes, so they wouldn't be harmed by the laser. Next he put a speculum in each eye -- yes, a miniature device similar to the type used for a gynecological exam. These were then cranked so that each eye was open as wide as possible. This was the only painful part of the procedure, and prompted me to say, "Ouch."

I was told to relax, look at a red dot that was shining into my eye, and not move. But it was hard to keep my eyes totally still even with the tape and speculum, because the light has a slight pulse. They also warned me, as the procedure began, that I would hear a slight buzzing sound.

After both eyes were done and freed from the restraining devices, I was told to blink a couple of times, then read Cavanagh's wristwatch. It was very blurry. (He explained later that was partially due to the contact lens-like bandages he'd placed over my corneas to make sure the flaps healed in place.)

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