I SEE SAID THE BLIND MAN!

July 2, 2007

Well, I was never blind, but my grandfather was. In fact, he never got to see my face while he spent his time here on Earth. It was always a troubling issue for me, but a welcomed Joy knowing that he now can. He was and remains the greatest man in my life.

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I recently had LASIK eye surgery.

WOW!! What a difference!! It was such a great experience that I simply felt compelled to share that experience.

Like many, I would suppose, having anything “surgical” done to your eyes provides plenty of anxiety. The fear that you might be the “exception” will likely creep into your thoughts before the procedure at least once, maybe more if you have a past reference to think back on like my grandfather.

Luckily for me, my doctor and his staff shine with professionalism and mannerisms that cultivate a more positive excitement. By the day of the procedure, I was as giddy as a kid about to go to Disney World.

I had considered LASIK surgery for quite awhile, but with little trouble from wearing contacts, I chose to keep wearing contacts a little longer. But, every time a different friend would have the procedure done, the desire would grow. Most recently my daughter-in-law and an uncle both had the surgery. Their stories were just as positive as those that I had heard in the past from others, but with them, I knew their prior condition better. Stephanie’s eyes were probably equal to mine, but my Uncle James had been wearing some, let’s say, substantial lenses in his glasses. Both have been totally thrilled with the outcomes and pushed me beyond critical mass.

To get the worst part of the experience out of the way, because I had been wearing contacts it was necessary to go without contacts for two weeks so that my eyeballs would shape back to normal and prior measurements could be verified.

I really hate wearing glasses.

I sweat like an ice cube on a hot rock in the summertime and glasses give the sensation of looking through a shower curtain, not to mention the irritating slide down the sweaty nose or the lenses fogging-up moving from outside heat to inside air conditioning.

That was the worst of it.

On my initial visit is when I met Shelley Letlow. Shelley is one of those people you simply expect to see with a smile on her face. She was wonderful. Her patience and thoroughness were only matched by her considerate nature. No question too small, no concern ignored.

I will not attempt to give the technical names for the different steps taken that lead up to the final surgical procedure, so the simplest layman terms will have to suffice. Shelley did the “measuring”. As in most “eye machines” that I have experienced, you put your chin in the chin cup and you put your forehead up against the upper rest, and “look in”. Shelley’s machine sort of maps out your eye and determines the thickness of your cornea. You see, if your cornea is not thick enough, you are not a candidate for the surgery. So, I was trying my best to be as still as possible while “looking in” at this little red light. Thank goodness, Shelley was very generous with the “breathing breaks” or I might have turned blue and passed out. I wanted those measurements to be perfect, and above all, I did not want to hear that I had a “skinny cornea”, so breathing seemed less important at the time.

Being somewhat suspicious by nature, I was immediately curious as to why an employee of a successful eye clinic would be wearing glasses. Shelley happened to be wearing glasses that day instead of her usual contacts, and blunt as always, I said, “Okay, so why haven’t you had LASIK?” It turns out that Shelley is not a candidate for the procedure because her cornea is too thin. It was not hard to be sympathetic because it was also easy to see Shelley would love to have the experience. Since there had been no determination on my cornea yet, a different apprehension crept into my head. I immediately began to worry that after all these years I would be turned away, forever “cursed” to wear thicker and thicker glasses. That made me breathe less.

Well, after several “okay, blink a few times for me”, or, “you can blink now if you need to” and staring into that little red light, I got the good news, “no problem!” and the blue in my face began to go away.

After having a very nice conversation about any remaining questions, but mostly about other things (turns out we have a mutual friend), Shelley turned me over to Dusti Brodi, Opthalmic Assistant, who put drops in my eyes to do a dilated eye exam and to check the accuracy of my contact prescription. This went very smoothly and with the completion of that exam, I got to meet Dr. Raymond Haik. Well, we hit it off just fine. Turns out Dr. Haik and I have a common interest, bird hunting. Immediately I knew this man knew EXACTLY how important this surgery was to me. After some close-up looks into my eyes and few more explanations, we spent more time talking about dove hunting. Dr. Haik’s hunting trips to Argentina sounded better than Disney World. I am certain Dusti knew how important it was to break the two of us apart, likely because of waiting patients, and I was eventually lead back to the appointment desk and scheduled for my next appointment.

By coincidence, I was scheduled to see my dermatologist to have some of those annoying little pre-cancer spots on the back of my hand frozen off just a couple of days later. On my right temple, just below the surface, and never a problem, was a small bump. I decided to mention it and a good thing I did. It turned out to be a squamous cell carcinoma. Given the seriousness of the matter and its location, I was referred to a plastic surgeon in Shreveport. I could see my LASIK surgery flying out the window, and felt like a kid that had traveled across country to find Disney World closed. It made little sense to me to have LASIK, when I did not know the degree of more pressing problems, so the eye surgery was canceled.

Well, so not to deviate too far from the eye surgery story, after several weeks,  the “cancer scare” was over. The plastic surgeon cut out what looked like a smooth pound of flesh, sewed me up to have a tiny little scar, and all was well with the world, except for the doctor bill. My disgust with insurance is another story too, but it suffices to say, my “eye budget” had been hit by a serious depletion of funds, and, of course, my wife was now looking at me as if she was weighing my true worth. Thankfully, likely as a result of true love, she was (finally) ;)  convinced the eye surgery should be rescheduled and I began my two week “ordeal” of wearing glasses.

Finally back at the doctor’s office, Shelley came out and greeted me in the waiting room with her inspiring smile and we went to repeat the same measurement procedures. My apprehension of being turned away as a “non-candidate” had returned, as eventually did the blue tint in my face, but all went well. Dusti took her turn at me again for a more minor exam, but on this visit I got to meet Princess Lillian. Well, when I asked Dr. Haik what her job title was, he said, “oh, probably, Princess”. Lillian Haik is Dr. Haik youngest daughter who is working in the clinic as a scribe. Lillian seemed to fit in quite well with the rest of the crew.

With all measurements taken, all last questions answered, and just a bit more bird hunting, we were on for surgery.

On the day of surgery there was an obvious uniform change. Everyone in the clinic was wearing maroon scrubs and the whole place seemed to have a different purpose, as they did, it was “surgery day”. Kathy Foster, Community Outreach Coordinator, was the first to greet my wife and me. Kathy was my official reference to the clinic, more because my wife and her are good friends and work closely together on the Twin Cities Mayors Committee on Disabilities. They, of course, began discussing Committee business and I was brought to the exam room to be fitted with my surgical shoes and hair net.

More importantly, Lillian gave me my preliminary valium and began to explain the post-operation rules. I was given a kit that included several single-use eye drop applications, a couple bottles of antibiotic eye drops, a bottle of steroid eye drops, and all the instructions for each. Also included in with the kit was a sleeping pill and sleeping goggles for when I got back home and a pair of sunglasses for later outside excursions. The first two nights after the surgery you have to wear the sleeping goggles so that you won’t mistakenly rub your eyes while asleep. Right after the surgery, the best thing you can do is close your eyes and allow them to rest. No computers, no TV, no bright lights. The very best thing you can do, and my experience, is to go to sleep. I have every reason to believe that is partly why my post-surgery has gone so well. Religiously using your eye drops will keep the recovery smooth. When Lillian completed her instructions, Dr. Haik came into explain exactly what was about to take place, making certain that I understood that the equipment would insure my eyes would be stable during the surgery.

After a very thorough instruction, Dusti and Lillian led my wife and me to the “laser room”. My daughter-in-law had left work early to sit in on the procedure so she could see what it looked like on the other side of the laser. Dr. Haik was more than willing to delay the surgery so that she could get there, but because she drives like NASCAR’s finest, we did not have to wait.

THE ACTUAL PROCEDURE

With my wife and daughter-in-law in the viewing room, I was situated in an armless reclining chair next to a large metal cabinet like machine. I did not really get to look it over as much as I would have like to, so I can only assume it was the “laser machine”. There were at least four technicians assisting Dr. Haik, but given the first thing they did at this point was to put deadening drops in both eyes and covered my right eye, there could have been more of less technicians in the room during the actual procedure. The calm and meticulous voice of Dr. Haik was the most I heard. By explaining every move he was making, his voice served well to keep down my anxiety.

With a device placed in my eye socket to hold my eyelids open, blinking was not a choice and the deadening drops made the insertion painless. A blinking red light was aimed into my eye and I was told to concentrate on looking at that light. At that point an eye ring/cup was placed over and around my eye that created suction and held my eyeball securely in place while a cutting device was put in place to cut a flap in my cornea. This procedure took only a couple of seconds but during those seconds you lose vision. Then the cutter is removed, the suction is released and the blinking red light becomes visible again.

Now Dr. Haik lifted the flap that had been cut in my cornea and laid it back. The laser was focused, the settings verified, the timer set and the laser went into action. The laser was on for about 45 seconds on my left eye and 50 seconds on my right eye. This made sense given my contact prescription was +2.50 for my left eye and +2.75 in my right.

After the laser treatment, Dr. Haik took small sponge like tools to close the cornea flap and smooth it out on my eye. When that was completed, in only a few seconds, the procedure was repeated on my right eye. Everything was totally painless.

In only a few minutes I was out of the chair, walking back to the exam room, and though my vision was “cloudy” I could actually read better than when I was wearing glasses. I was simply amazed.

With a brief look and conversation with Dr. Haik, who reassured me that he was on call for me and gave me his card WITH his home phone number should there be any question or difficulty, I was on my way home. Amazingly, my appointment was scheduled for 4pm, I arrived 15 minutes early, and at 5:05pm, I was walking into my house, just over 15 miles away from the clinic. This is an excellent testimony to the high degree of efficiency the Haik-Humble Eye Center operates. Making the experience the best was the caring attitude of everyone involved and especially that of Dr. Haik, who personally called my home around 8pm to check on his snoozing and very satisfied patient.

To say that I enthusiastically endorse the Haik Humble Eye Center and that I am assuredly one of their most satisfied customers, would be a major understatement, as would be the many thanks I could give to Dr. Haik, Shelley, Dusti, Kathy, Rachel, and Lillian.

I am, of course, thankful for my precious wife who really insisted on the surgery and left the sweetest note by the coffee maker the next morning. “Welcome to your new sight. Love you, Sweetest Pea.”

Today I go back for my one-week exam. I have had absolutely no problems and my satisfaction has never stopped growing. With close friends monitoring my success, it is very clear how “word of mouth” is so effective in getting out the facts about LASIK. With much gratitude, I hope my experience can help in those efforts, and I would wish for all my friends the same wonderful experience.


1 comments
Susan
Susan

I have a friend who could not see at all without her glasses and after LASIK eye surgery she has almost 20 20 vision.I hope you enjoy your new look on life and have a great july the fourth.

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