Tuesday, May 23, 2006

What LASIK is Like

Last Thursday I had PRK, photorefractive keratectomy, performed on both eyes. So here's how it went. PRK is like LASIK, which is mostly what is performed these days, the main difference is in LASIK the surgeon cuts a flap on the surface layer with either a knife or a laser. In PRK the surface layer above the cornea is dissolved by a solvent and rubbed away and allowed to grow back instead. The difference, as far as I can tell is that LASIK is more comfortable with faster recovery since the surface layer of cells is kept intact and flapped back over the cornea after the laser ablation.

So on Thursday I drove the vanpool in as usual and dropped myself off at the Jules Stein Eye Institute in the UCLA Med Plaza. Its pretty much the nicest building on campus, UCLA must have really done a great job on Jules Stein's eyes for us to get such a generous donation. I do find it kinda weird that one of the most aesthetically pleasing buildings here, inside and out, is for the patients who have trouble seeing. Honestly if I designed and decorated the building with my usual particleboard furniture theme, I don't think the patients would notice the difference. I guess on the chance that someone's vision is magically, or medically restored, the first sight they behold should be a thing of beauty. Thats good, but they might realize that the rest of the east side medical plaza has some hideous brick thing going.

Anyway I gave the receptionist my name but they didn't seem to have me in their appointment book. "Psst, go in the elevator and press B. You will find the man you are looking for." I look over and some old facilities guy pauses his window washing and point to the elevator I just got off. I'm confused but nod and get back in the elevator.

I get off at B and hear, "Mr. Kuotiong please get in the van."

Who am I to argue with a man that employs formal titles? So I peer in the van, I see medical equipment, a wooden chair and a round faced man with square glasses and a dark mustache to match his black hair. He shakes my hand, "I am Dr. Xer Niyazov. Call me Dr. X. Your ambulatory laser surgery has been contracted to my clinic," he taps the van. I look on the side, sure enough, it reads "Dr. X's Mobile Laser Refractive Clinic."

So I am still quite reluctant, "Of course our rates differ, and today we have a $999 special..." he mentions offhandedly.

I get in the van.

"Mr. Kuotiong, you are my first customer today, we will yet get through the day. This is our driver Carl, he nods to the other man in the van, a younger fellow with a similar but lighter mustache."

The van is surprisingly well equipped. Its no bigger than my vanpool but there's a chair, which I'm sitting on, but it kind of resembles an electric chair. On the sides there's a microscope and other fancy stuff. The doctor administers an eye exam and I read the letters which are projected on the rear of the van. I've already done it a few times and it looks like my results haven't changed.

"Ok, we are ready!" Dr. X exclaims and starts strapping me into the chair, tightly.

"How many of these have you performed Doctor?" I asked.


"And one?" I asked.


"Oh," I nod in acceptance.

"Yes, in my homeland this procedure has been performed for 20 years. It was only recently that the west has caught on with the techniques. Its reached such popularity that Crescent Frames, the state run eyeglass factory, is on the brink of insolvency."

"Oh," I nod again.

"Please stop nodding Mr. Kuotiong, I must strap your head to the chair."

As soon as I was secured Dr. X pulls out a plastic contraption. It looks like the blaster from my old Nintendo, the one that came with the Entertainment Pak but pretty much only worked with Duck Hunt. In fact I think it is. But it was hard to see, it was pretty dim in the van. "Please look at this screw," He points to a a spot on the blaster as he point the thing at my right eye.

"What screw?" I ask.

"This.." BANGGGG. Someone has slapped the side of the van, "Dr. X I told you, ya can't park here!"

Dr. X slides open the door and a meter maid, except that he was a man, looks in, looks at me, looks at the doctor, "get your van out of here." His expression didn't change the entire time.

"You heard the man Carl, lets go." Without a word the van fires up and we are driving out of the parking garage.

"Ah I forgot to collect my fee, Mr. Kuotiong!" He sticks out his hand. I'm a little restrained at the moment so I tell the doctor that my Citi dividend card is in my wallet.

"Ah, I'm sorry cash or bank check only." He replies cheerily.

"We have to go to my bank then, Dr. X." So we head over to the credit union. We, or Carl, hastily parks, the restrains are loosened and the three of pile out of the van. It's pretty bright now so we're all squinting at the morning sun. The Nintendo IR blaster is tucked into the doctor's belt, the cord trailing a little bit as we cross the parking lot. His hand is playing with the red pistol grip. The red is really bright. its like that red you see when the sun is in your face and you close your eyes. Its nice to be inside the bank and out of the bright sun. I ask for a cashiers check and am given one for $999. I hand it to the doctor who happily receives it and we are back in the van. I am strapped back in the chair, as uncomfortable as it is. The doctor slings the blaster from his belt and aims it at my left eye now. I am told to stare at the screw again and this time I see the doctor's stout finger behind it quivering a little as he applies pressure on the trigger. It relaxes.

"We forgot the auxiliary power! My apologies Mr. Kuotiong. Carl can you run up and plug into the grid?" I hear Carl get off his drivers seat and soon see him sliding the van's door open. He put on crampons and a belt and starts scaling the telephone pole behind him. A hefty black Romex wire follows Carl up the pole like a tail. Soon his feet go past my frame of view and I watch the plastic wire inch up.

"Patched in." He yells down.

The Doctor and I both assume the position again and I'm looking into the barrel of the blaster. CLICK. "Ok, now we do the right eye." The Doctor shifts his aim. CLICK. "Congratulations! You can get down now Carl!" he yells out the door.

As he unfastens the leather straps Carl gets down and tidies everything on his end. "Now Mr. Kuotiong here are some goggles," he hands me what looks like swimming goggles, "Keep these on for a few months. The lasers, they dry out and shrink the eyes, they will keep them in your head in the meantime." He laughs. He also hands me a Ziploc bag with a couple hundred pills, "and here is your Vicodin, take it with water."

Soon enough we are speeding away and headed back to Westwood. We have sandwiches, mine is seasoned with the peach colored pills and I am dropped back off at my office.

>On 2006-05-24,19:22:31 Sheila wrote:

>>okay, that sounds way shady. was funny. but i would have ran.

>On 2006-05-25,09:30:08 Kathryn wrote:

>>Whaaaaaat!! Are you for real!

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