Temporary Blindness

My eyes, age 43.

Yesterday, I had my annual trip to the eye doctor for a check-up.  I learned two new things… one, my vision is still unique… and two, I am getting old.

So a little backstory first… I had lasik surgery in the 90’s before anyone knew what lasik surgery was.

I was born with bad eyes. I was in coke-bottle glasses before I could even write my name in elementary school. I was in hard contacts by 4th grade, not for vanity, but with the intent to stop my eyeballs from morphing into an even more serious astigmatism. I lost contacts on a regular basis and could often be found with my hands grasping on the ground searching for a lost contact or on the ramp of a giant cruise ship crawling around crying.  The thought makes me uneasy and sad.

How bad were my eyes?

Bad. On the verge of blindness.

I could see (maybe) one or two inches in front of me. INCHES.

My regular eye doctor reminded me yesterday that he has yet to have a patient with worse eyes in his practice.

The Opthamology God that gave me 20/40 vision in 1997 is my hero. He saw my case and literally salivated at the thought of correcting my vision using his just patented FDA-approved laser. I salivated at the fact that I no longer wanted to be a slave to my contacts. I mean, when you carry back-ups to the back-ups to the back-ups and live in constant fear of losing a contact life becomes very isolating.

Before lasik became commonplace like teeth whitening there was this crazy head-on collision of radical laser eye surgery and brave people like me that had nothing to lose. I was the test rat. I paid an obscene amount of money and it was the best money I have ever spent in my life, hands down. EVER.

One month after my vision was restored I did something I NEVER attempted in my life. I swam underwater in the ocean. It was exhilarating.  I was finally free from the anchor of bad vision.

How has my vision been since? Pretty awesome for the last 14 years. I have some issues driving at night with the halos from car headlights (a side effect of the “old” lasik method). I have minor issues with reading restaurant menus in dim lights. But guess what? I have a cool pair of glasses with insanely thin lenses to help me out. When I put them on, I feel smart, not self-conscious.

But now, age is creeping up. I haven’t been able to read labels with tiny print and working in the computer business hasn’t helped for sure. It looks like someday I’ll be needing reading glasses too. Like real soon.

Like today.

And, upon dilation of my eyes, the eye doctor observed that my retina is still thin (always will be) and continues to remain under constant surveillance. I’m like a old car with a new paint job. My eyes look great on the outside but the inside is still really ugly. Throw in the fact that glaucoma and macular degeneration runs in my family, and well… I have a potpourri of things to look forward to.

But nothing beats the fact that I can see.   Because for 29 years of my life, I could not.

And today, 14 years ago I walked out of a surgery center with a new lease on life.

Reading glasses? Seriously, I can handle that.

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7 thoughts on “Temporary Blindness

  1. I'm at -9.00 in contacts (which I've worn since I was 10). My mom is -13.00- which is why I was allowed to get contacts at age 10. When I went to the optometrist last month he told me my chronic contact usage has caused blood vessels to start to grown into my cornea, and that if I don't change the type of lens I wear, or how often I wear them, I won't be able to wear contacts in a few years. I nearly cried right there. My glasses are solely for the walk between the bathroom and my bed! It's not vanity, it's that I just can't see with them the way I can with contacts. I've been considering Lasik, but every eye doctor I've seen has told me that my eyes are too bad for it. While I'd love 20/20 vision, I'd be happy to see my alarm clock in the morning, or discern whether it's my child or a axe murderer sneaking into my room in the middle of the night!

  2. I completely understand! My vision has been HORRIBLE since I was 8 – I have actually said this, when talking on the phone in the early morning – "hang on, let me get my glasses, I can't HEAR you!". I had Lasik (PRK) a few months ago and I literally cried in the office because I could see! Awesome post!

  3. Well be thankful for what you have..my son is 3 1/2 years old has congenital glaucoma, tube shunts in both eyes and has had two cornea transplant. His vision is 20/800 with a whole lifetime of uncertainty ahead of him. I would give my right arm for him to be able to have any surgery that could give him better sight..but the reality is there isn't one!

  4. Grr…my comment was eaten. 14 years of not needing anything is awesome! I'm going to share this tidbit with my husband, as he has astigmatism and can only get a certain pair of contacts that he still can't wear all day because they irritate him. Love the pic of your eyes – beautiful!

  5. Oh, I am right there with you. I got my first pair of thick glasses in preschool. I wore semi-rigid gas permeable lenses from the age of 13 to 28. My eyes were constantly red and dry, and my favorite part of the day is when I could take them out and rub my eyes for a solid three minutes. I got Lasik a few years ago, and it was the best thing I ever did. I would be a spokesperson for the Lasik society if they needed me. My vision is not perfect, and I have no doubt I will need reading glasses too, but it is so much better than the horrible vision I used to have and the constant pain of hard contacts! We just found out my pre-school aged son needs glasses. Poor guy got my bad-eye genes!–MM

  6. I too had huge bifocals from an early age. I had to wear a patch over one eye most of my kindergarten year in order to strengthen my left "lazy eye." I'm in contacts now and was diagnosed with astigmatism last year…I think you rock! I admit I am a total chicken about Lasik. The thought of having surgery ON MY EYE while AWAKE….AAAAAK! Freaks me out! 🙂

  7. I got my first pair of glasses in fourth grade and contacts in sixth. I've been wearing contacts ever since. But my eyes are no where as bad as yours were – wow! I've been thinking about lasik a lot lately because I've been having so many problems with my contacts, but I'm scared something may go wrong and I'll be even worse off. I can't imagine what it was like for you to be among the first – you were very brave. I'm glad to hear it worked out for you so well – sounds like it was a great decision.

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