Musings, Travel

A Fresh Set of Eyes


My heart thumped through my loose fitting T-Shirt. If I could have squeezed my eyes closed and dreamt of London until it was over I would have. But I couldn’t. My eyes were clamped open, and the apparatus pressing down on my left eyeball was blurring the line between ‘pressure’ (as it had been described) and pain. I tried to brush reality from my mind – this thing was cutting a slice – OFF MY EYEBALL!

It had taken me twelve long years to get to this point. Twelve years of blurred vision, contact lens irritation and eyes dry enough to have me heading to bed with Fat Cat . . . especially after a glass of wine. Twelve years of Colby trying to convince me that Laser Surgery was the only way to go, and twelve years of me, rebutting with the argument that this was my eyes. I’d rather put up with discomfort and blurred vision than risk something going wrong and ending up with really bad eyesight. Or worse still, going blind! It was a ridiculous argument, I know. Not only had I never heard of anyone having had anything go wrong, I’d never even heard anyone say, ‘Yeah, I had Laser Surgery, and it was OK.’ Every single person I’d spoken to had said it was the best thing they’d ever done. It changed their life. They wished they’d done it sooner.

Three months out from our departure date and I finally realised it was now or never. Did I really want to be spending the next two years battling irritating contact lenses and traipsing around foreign countries in search of the correct contact solution? So out of nowhere, my decision was made.IMG_1242

By the time I stepped through the doors of the Laser Vision clinic on the day of my surgery I was almost past my fear. I’d accepted that the risks were extremely low, I’d reassured myself that the
recovery time was extremely brief, and adorned with my new fake eyelashes, I’d even (almost) found peace in the idea that I was not to wear eye make-up for an entire month. At least that’s what I thought, until the nurse sat down beside me and tears started to trickle down my face. She was very kind, reassuring me that the procedure was completely low risk, that everyone raves about their results and promising me the doctor was lovely, very good at what he does and would talk me through every step of the process.

‘Lovely’ was not what I recalled from my pre-surgery appointment, and ‘talking me through the process’ was not how I would describe his approach as he taped my left eyelid to my eyeball, yanked my flinching head sideways and demanded, “Head back in position!” Arrogant was more the word I’d use as I lay shaking on the table. But, I consoled myself, he’s arrogant because he’s good at his job. (That is, if you don’t include bedside manner on the good-at-your-job scorecard).

“Look at the green dot!” he demanded.

Sweat beaded on my clenched palms as the green dot morphed into a green blur, then a red blur and then disappeared altogether. But I didn’t dare clarify where I should be looking as he had already made it quite clear that “Everything is normal!” For a moment, the unnerving scent of burning flesh filled the air and I hoped to God I’d been looking at the right dot . . . or blur. I couldn’t feel a thing, but my logical brain could not ignore that this was the smell of my burning eyes. My eyes, which until now, I had taken for granted. My eyes, which I used every day to function normally, efficiently and independently. My eyes! He was burning my eyes!

“You’re cured,” the doctor finally said in a God-like tone as I was dismissed from ‘the position’. “You’re no longer short-sighted.”IMG_4721

I could barely bring myself to utter a thank-you as I floundered into a seated position and took in the room swimming around me. The smudged image of Colby sat, smiling behind a glass screen and a foggy nurse offered me her hand. It was all a blur, and a huge disappointment, but I dared not ask if this was normal within earshot of ‘God’. At least I wasn’t blind. I stumbled out of the clinic wondering what the hell had just happened, and how on earth I had ever come to allow someone to burn my eyes. The corridor clouded ahead of me, and tears began rolling down my cheeks again. “Nothing’s clear.” I sniffed. “Everything’s blurry.” I had paid a small fortune, and all I could see was a muddle of shapes.

Colby took my face in his hands. “You’re looking through two scratched up eye shields, Kate. You’ll be able to see when they come off. Trust me.”

In the three hours I spent writhing around, counting down my fingers until I could pop my next pain killer, I still wasn’t convinced. I couldn’t even bring myself to pry my eyes open. But as ‘God’ removed my eye shields the following day, pulled up the 20/20 line and correctly predicted that it was easy to read, I let out a sigh of relief. Not only could I still see. I could see more clearly than before.

The trauma is still too fresh in my mind to warrant the question: Why didn’t I do this years ago? But I have no doubt that when I roll out of bed and see the world without having to shove plastic lenses in my eyes, and when I the 1kg of luggage space usually reserved for glasses and contact lens gear with a frivolous selection of extra clothes, I will be telling everyone that this has changed my life.