Saturday, December 12, 2009

A New Pair of Eyes

A week ago, I elected to get refractive surgery, or otherwise known as LASIK, done to my eyes. For almost two years, I had wanted to get this procedure done, but a combination of procrastination and a busy schedule prevented me from taking that leap…until now.

I chose to get my surgery done at TLC Laser Eye Centers in Newport Beach, CA, based on a recommendation from my roommate who had his procedure done there two years ago. Dr. Tom Tooma, Medical Director, TLC California, would be my surgeon. According to his profile, Dr. Tooma was the first in California to perform LASIK Surgery and has personally performed over 80,000 procedures. And judging by the many autographed pictures and personal notes of gratitude from athletes and other celebrities on the walls throughout his clinic, quite a few of those 80,000 procedures were performed on the who’s who in the sports and entertainment industry!

A few days prior to surgery, you are required to go through a series of very thorough eye examinations. In particular, there are three machines that you sit through in succession. The first, I call: “peep hole with cartoon on the other side”. Is that a house I see? A tree? The cartoon image goes from blurry to clear, blurry to clear. Now you see it, now you don’t. The next machine can only be described as “psychedelic lights and circular swirls”. It reminds me of that game in amusement parks where you are made to stare at a spinning wheel with radiating swirls before attempting to walk across a plank without falling over! Well, except here, they don’t make you walk the plank. And finally, I’m convinced the last machine is only there to test how long you can keep your eyes open without blinking. “Alright blink for me…now keep your eyes open…five…four…three…two…two and a half…two and a quarter….” Yup, you get the idea!

The actual surgery itself was surprisingly quick and painless. Upon arrival, you get to have your eyes checked all over again just make sure all of the readings are accurate. You are then led into a waiting room with lounge chairs quite like those you find at an up-market spa. “Do you need anything? Water? A blanket?” The nurse asks. “Wow, this is like a full service spa.” I reply. “No, I’m fine thanks. But I could really use a foot massage!” She laughs.

The one thing that puzzled me was a procedure that was done right before I went under the laser. In this step, a nurse takes what looks to me like a Sharpee marker, and places dots on the whites of your eye. Sure, by this time all the drugs have taken effect, and you don’t feel a thing, but think about this for a minute! You are trying to focus away from a bright light shining down your eye, and all you see is the pointed tip of a marker closing in. I think God gave us eyelids so that we can shut them when long pointed objects come towards your eyeballs! With each attempt at dotting my eyeballs, I uncontrollably blink just as the marker is about to touch my eyes and I get a dot placed on my eyelids instead. I can sense the frustration of the nurse growing as each unsuccessful attempt puts another dot on my eyelids. Many dots on my eyelids later, the nurse is finally happy with the dots that actually made it onto my eyeballs, and waves me off to the next station. I guess this full service spa also provides eye makeup services!

A week into these new pair of eyes, I enjoy them very much. No more fumbling frantically for my glasses. I can jump straight into bed after a late night out. Recovery took no time at all. The day after surgery, I was tested at 20/20 vision, and now a week later, I reckon it is even better. My only regret is not having done this sooner. All of the doctors and nurses at TLC Laser Eye Centers in Newport Beach, CA were very friendly and professional. I could not have had a better team working on my eyes!

Right after completing surgery, and as I was helped off the laser table, Dr. Tooma asked me to take a picture with him. “Sure!” I said. Wow, does he do this with every one of his patients? Does he want my autograph too? Is he going to put my picture up on the wall? Hey, I’d like my picture put up right there….yeah, right there in between Troy Glaus and Tiger Woods.


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