Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The "Eyes" have it.

Or do they?

Huh, has she lost her brain, you're wondering. Nope, at least not yet.  This post is about eyes, vision and the brain. Obviously our eyes are critical in our ability to see. But our brains play a huge role that is often overlooked or taken for granted.  Where did this seemingly sudden interest in eyes come from?

As a child I had 20-20 vision. Somewhere in my mid-late teens, I started to need glasses for distance. I hated glasses. Not just because of the nerd/geek image that went along with them (as a straight A student I was aware of this though) but because they hurt to wear. I must have pressure points just behind my ears because no matter how well they were adjusted, within an hour or so, I was in pain. And it's not just glasses, I can't wear headbands either for the same reason (and not just the hard plastic kind, the soft ones too - which sucks).I think the day I was old enough, I switched to contacts. I've never looked back.

Now I know I was lucky with contacts. They were comfortable from the start. Other than some mishaps in University (like trying to take them out of really dry eyes the morning after a party only to find out that I managed to take them out before sleep already) and an incident where a kitten wanted to play with my eye lashes and managed to remove one (actually the contact probably saved my eye) I've never had issues with them.

I had an eye doctor more than a decade ago who encouraged me to wear them overnight for as long as was comfortable if I wanted. So I did. Up until a few months ago, I took them out monthly, tossed them and put a new pair in. And for day to day life it was as if I had perfect vision. I could see when I woke without fumbling for glasses. People would ask me if I'd have eye surgery but I figured why bother, I could see all the time. Almost.

A few year ago age started to creep up on me and I sometimes needed reading glasses, not always and only with the lowest magnification but sometimes. I didn't like these anymore than regular glasses but they were never on for more than a few minutes up to 20 or so at a time. I could live with that.

Then the worse happened. They discontinued my brand of contacts. Dang. The last time this happened, I went through 4 different types to find one that worked. And in between, I had to wear glasses again. Yuck. this time, though, I noticed that when I wasn't wearing corrective lenses/glasses that I did not need reading glasses. WTF? When I went to the eye doctor this time, along with trying to help me find a brand of contacts I could wear long term, he brought up something new, monovision. Mono what? Monovision.

This link gives you some information. What is Monovision. Basically what it comes down to is that the brain takes the images that ours pass it and translate it for us. In the case of monovision, one eye sees up close, one eye sees distances but the brain picks which parts from each eye to use. He asked if I wanted to try it. So off I went with one contact. My dominant and weaker eye is the right so that is the one I got the contact for.

It was weird at first. I found myself unconsciously closing my left eye when walking down the street. I'd force it back open and go on. After a few days though, it settled down and I stopped noticing it. But unfortunately these new contacts were not going to work for comfort, so back to the eye doctor for another try. He gave me another brand to try. But while there, I broached the subject of laser eye surgery. He said I could be a candidate and gave me a place they work with. He said some will do monovision correction too.

The place he gave me information was very expensive and did not include  the pre and post care. I put out a call to friends and had 7 different ones come back recommending a single clinic. Turns out, along with these rave reviews, it was less than half the cost of the one the eye doctor works with and includes the pre and post care. So I booked the consult only to be told I could not wear contacts for the 2 weeks leading up to it - it was in 15 days. Sigh. Glasses. This is one of the few and last pictures of me with glasses.

The consult went well. The place is a well oiled machine.The last step on the assembly line was with a basic eye doctor who told me I was a good candidate for PRK. I asked him about monovision but he said they rarely did it and I'd just have to get used to reading glasses. Okay. I put the deposit down.

Then two weeks after that (two weeks of wearing the dreaded glasses) I went for the surgery. I made plans for friends to stay overnight with the boys and for me to get a hotel room right next door. Some people have pain and the vision is the worse right after the surgery.

The appointment started off signing waivers etc and then paying the balance. Then I saw the senior eye doctors and the surgeon. This caused a lot of scurrying around, in and out by each and repeat vision tests by each. At one point, one asked if I had ever considered monovision. Seems they thought I'd be perfect for it. Some more scurrying and some more tests and we all agreed. They were going to refund a portion of the cost and I could get the other eye done in the future should I not like it. They gave me a months supply of weekly contacts for the uncorrected eye until the surgery results kicked in and a pair of reading glasses for the same period.

The surgery itself is quite painless and very fast. In the recovery room, I had to keep the operated eye closed for 10 minutes, but since my other eye wasn't done, I was in a unique position, I could watch the next person getting done on the close circuit monitor. So I did. Really neat. You can find it on you tube.

2 hours after I arrived, I left with (stylin') dark glasses and a bag full of eye drops. Friends met me and we went for dinner. Of course I could see. I still had one perfectly functioning eye. And the brain, being the amazing thing that it is, adapted. Honestly, unless I closed my left eye (the one not operated on) I had no idea that I couldn't see squat out of the right. But I still had the hotel room. I had the longest sleep that I've had in 2.5 years. I slept 9 hours straight in a bed all by myself. No one kicked me, or demanded TV at 3am. I missed them terribly.

Over the next couple of weeks, my right eye continued to improve. But again, unless I closed my left, I was sure it was functioning perfectly. The only thing noticeable was haloing of lights at night. After 2 weeks, I kept out the contact from my left eye and began the switch to monovision. My right eye was only about 50-60% healed though so it took some time.  It's up to about 80% or so now and honestly if this was as good as it got, I'd be very happy, but it gets better every day. I have another follow up the end of March and one a couple of months after that.

I can read without glasses (even the fine print). I can walk down the street and see the street signs or the number on the approaching bus without corrective eye wear. I can tell which kid is mine at the playground without being right beside him (although I usually am). I love it. Every once in a while I'm reminded of it though. I was reading one day, with the book in my right hand and a coffee in my left. Every time I brought the cup up for a sip, it would cross in front of my left eye and the words would go blurry for a few seconds.

I would highly recommend laser eye surgery to anyone contemplating it. Even if you cant get monovision, its still worth it. If my eyes continue to deteriorate and I need reading glasses in the uncorrected eye anyway, I'll have that eye done and wear reading glasses when necessary. It of course takes longer to heal if you do each eye separately, and may cost more, but there is no disruption to life if you do it that way. During the healing, if I closed my left eye, I got a taste of how bad it would be for a week or more if I had both done at once. I could have functioned, but I couldn't have worked for over a week.

And as a reward for those who stuck through this long email that was not about the boys, here is a picture of my favorite sets of eyes. This was taken while on the Christmas Train. It was right after the music changed to something out of Rudolf that Corwyn recognized.

1 comment:

K J and the kids said...

I'm so glad that you are a success story ! YAY for seeing !
I can't imagine how many people thought that you were winking at them on the street :)