Saturday, February 28, 2009

My LASIK experience

In one word so far - spectacular!

Week before
I spent the week before preparing myself by staying up 1 hour later than normal every night. This sleep deprivation worked - by the night before, I was so exhausted I fell asleep completely involuntarily in the most awkwardly convoluted pose on the couch. I just wanted to be able to come home from the surgery and sleep most of the day away!

My nerves acted up a little bit, but overall I was fairly cheerful and optimistic about the results. I figured there would be some overall discomfort, pain, and trauma, but in the end it would be worth it to not have to struggle with glasses while I was running, or deal with the dry blurriness that contacts caused me. Plus, I was so busy at work, I didn't have much time to just sit around and dwell on the thought of a flap being cut into my eye with a laser.

Day of
I packed up the valium that they prescribed, dropped the dogs off at daycare so I could sleep all day without them trying to lick my eyeballs, and arrived at the surgery center at 7:30. Jamie had been planning to drop me off and pick me up since we live so close to the center, but of course, work has been pretty crazy for him this last month also, and he really needed to be in the office. So I just drove myself there, and my mom planned to pick me up after her Friday morning work.

Just a few minutes of waiting, and I paid the fee (the point of no return!) . Then I got shuffled into the back where one of the techs re-did the scans and tests they did on my initial visits. After that, she walked me back to the "on deck" circle where she had me take 1 of my valium pills along with some Benadryl to help me rest when I got home. She said I could take the 2nd of the valium pills when I got home if I needed more help sleeping. She swabbed my eyelids with some kind of iodine, and then pointed me to one of the massage chairs in that area. Let me tell you, massage chairs plus valium is a pretty awesome combination. I actually felt decently relaxed for the next 20 minutes or so while I waited. A few other people filed in for the same treatment, and we chatted about some of the things we were looking forward to doing without glasses/contacts, and it turns out 3 of the 4 of us all owned Harleys! Crazy. Honestly motorcycle riding has dropped far enough in my list of hobbies that I wasn't even thinking about that much. It's mostly those rainy days of running, or those late night volleyball games where I have to force contacts in and then end up with blurry vision anyway, or those days at the pool where I just go in with no vision correction and I just hope I don't see anybody I know, because I wouldn't recognize them anyway. Oh and now that I think about it, a triathlon would have been a real pain with contacts! Guess I won't have to find out.

I was the first up, so I was called into the first room for the procedure. The surgeon greeted me, was very nice, tried to soothe my nerves (which at this point thanks to the valium and massage, were no worse than when I had to get a tooth drilled at the dentist), and then explained what would happen. He also chatted a minute about my eye condition - Dwayne's syndrome, which is basically a muscle problem with the eyes where I can move one eye independently of the other. He asked if I ever saw double, and I said if I thought about it, I could force my eyes to move in a fashion that would make me see double, but it didn't just spontaneously happen. He asked if I ever saw double in my contacts, and I said no, so he said the laser correction would have the same effect on my vision as contacts.

Now on to the part where they cut the flap with the laser. First they put numbing drops in and let them sit for a minute or so. Then, he had to put a device over my eye, I felt a little bit of squeezing, I couldn't even really call it discomfort. Then I pretty much lost my vision, it was just a bunch of whiteness, maybe a few seconds, then the right eye is done, and they put the shield back over it. Repeat on the left eye, again, barely felt the squeeze, and when it was done, the surgeon said the worst part was over. What? That was nothing!

Now the flaps are cut, they had me walk to the next room that has the giant laser machine. I could still see, it was just blurry, and they pretty much hold your arm so you can walk easily. Again they explained what would be happening here, demonstrated the loud clicking sound the laser would be making, explained I might smell something burning (that would be my eyeball but I don't think they worded it like that). The surgeon took a minute it seemed to (I presume) lift the flap up, and otherwise prepare my eye for the laser correction, I saw eye drops, I could see things that looked like a little brush sweeping off my eye, but I felt absolutely nothing. Vision blurred in and out while he did this, but I could faintly see the red blinking light at all times. When time came for the actual laser, it seemed everything in my vision went dark except the red blinking light, and I stared at that sucker like my life depended on it. Clicking sound, burning smell, almost as soon as I registered all that in my brain, it was over. Then another minute to put the flap back on, more eye drops, more little brushy things. Repeat on the second eye.

Then I'm done. What? Done already? I cannot believe it is so easy to do something so complex and amazing. I have felt much more stress in the dentist chair with the novocaine needle, and all I get out of that is a filled cavity, not even anything that improves my quality of life. Well, I suppose having a bunch of decaying teeth isn't really a good thing, but still, I don't actively notice an improvement in my quality of life when I leave the dentist's office.

I go into the third room now, and surprisingly, things are a bit blurry, but I can definitely see. The techs put plastic shields over my eyes, go over the eye drop directions again, and send me off with a bag of goodies. Then they give me giant, very fashionable sunglasses for the ride home, and I go into the waiting area until my mom arrives. 10 minutes later they come back and get me and say she is here, and I can walk up front and spot her (and nabbed a cookie from their hospitality tray on the way).

I feel a bit drowsy and strange, and hungry, thankfully my mom brought me a bagel that I munched on with my eyes shut in the car. It is really fortunate to live so close, because within 10 minutes I was home. I gave a quick call to Jamie to tell him everything went fine, and then I plopped down in bed. The sleep deprivation plus the valium plus the Benadryl really worked. I slept for 5 hours. At 3 PM when I woke up, I opened my eyes and was surprised that I could see really well. Like almost up to what I see with my contacts! I was also surprised that I felt no pain. No burning, no stinging, no tiredness, nothing. Every once in a while (maybe 5 times during the day), when I blinked my eyes, it felt like I had something in the eye. That's it. Again, much better than what I expected.

I got up and had a quick snack, put my eye drops in (every 2 hours while you're awake the first day). I decided not to push my luck, plus I had several books on CD, so I just went back to bed and listened to a book for another couple hours with my eyes shut.

5 PM I got up again for dinner and to put more eye drops in, and my sight is even crisper. Now I would say it matches what I see with glasses, the only weird part is up close I have a harder time focusing. I don't know if this is the plastic eye shields, or just something that my eye muscles have to adjust to. I went back to the audio book, I was enjoying it, and I might as well spend as much time as possible with my eyes closed, since it helps healing. 6:45 PM I hear Jamie coming home with the dogs, and it's almost time for eye drops, so I get up for a little bit and have some of the cookies that he brought home for me. I stay awake with eyes open for maybe a half hour and then go back to the audio book, which in turn, makes me feel sleepy. So I slept again from 7:30 PM until close to midnight.

I got up around midnight for a few more snacks, and I am beginning to think my eyes are better than with glasses now. Already! I was not expecting this. Although my eyesight was not that bad before, and they do say people with worse vision take a longer time to recover. I listened again to the audio book until around 1 AM when I felt tired again, and then I slept until 6:30 AM.

The next day
Today I can take off the plastic eyeshields. I could tell from the second I woke up that my vision is even better than last night. Now things look better than they did even on my best day of contacts (which were very few and far between).

Wow. The backyard is amazing. Every little blade of grass is so crisp. The branches of all the trees are so well defined. This is better than I've ever seen, contacts, glasses, anything. I can see the computer screen - I've been typing all this up and no tiredness. I have tried reading things up close, and it doesn't feel weird. I still don't have any pain. I do have a couple red spots on my eyes, and my vision is so spectacular, otherwise I would almost feel as though they did nothing to me.

I'm going to go stare out the window, it's just so amazing. Ooh, I wonder what HD TV looks like now! This is so exciting.

The next day, continued
I went for my day after follow-up and the doctor said everything was looking good. I was encouraged to get back to my running, although I do have to wait 1 week for volleyball (which is okay because I believe our Wednesday work team is playing the team with one of the hardest hitters I have ever seen and I don't want him anywhere near my eyeballs), and 2 weeks for swimming. Two weeks sounds so soon for swimming, I don't know if I'll rush right back to that. I mean, I just need to be able to do a half mile by July, I think at the point I'm at now, that won't be too much of a struggle.

Around noon I put my usual eye drops in, two different medications, and then one thing of artificial tears. The tears stung a bit in my right eye, so I went to lie down for a little bit and promptly fell asleep (did the 18 hours of sleeping in the previous day not do anything?) .

I woke up and felt better, so continued on my normal every day things, we went out for pizza and Starbucks (mmm...) I can see a bit of the halos people talk about around street lamps and stoplights, but it's pretty mild and really nothing annoying. Overall my night vision is much more crisp than what glasses or contacts provided. At around 10:30, my eyes started to actually feel dry, they hadn't felt that yet, so I put in some of the tears. They stung again, this time a lot worse in the right eye. I am beginning to wonder, my right eye's prescription was worse than my left's, and it's the only one that's stinging, so I wonder if people with much worse eyesight than me have a more painful recovery time. Because really mine has had very little associated pain.

We went home shortly after the stinging, and after a car ride with my eyes shut (I was the passenger!), everything felt good again. I taped on the eye shields needed for 3 nights and went to sleep. I was glad for the eye shields because I woke up 2 hours later and my left eye was itching like crazy! My mostly asleep self could easily have just reached up and scratched it without thinking. Yikes that thought gives me the willies.

Two days later
I woke up around 7 AM and my eyes felt really really dry. Like my bad contact dryness. Slapped in all the standard drops and they feel better now. Will rest them a bit more than I did yesterday, but tomorrow staring at a computer at work all day will be a real test!

After that initial morning dryness, they were pretty comfortable all day.

Three days later
Today was my first day back at work. I woke up again to some serious dryness, but my usual eye drops and they were good to go. I was a bit worried about staring at a computer screen all day, but that turned out to be fine, no discomfort at all.

I came home, and got Stewey (custody for a week!) Stupid me, as soon as I see him, I pick up his little squirmy wiggly puggy self and hold his head up to my face. I am guessing everybody else who's ever met Stewey could see where this is going, except me of course. Yes, he sneezed directly in my face. I felt droplets on my eyes. Oh I bet that's gonna be good for me! Then I took him to the groomer for his nails, and the groomer found that the grinding tool worked much better than cutting. Of course, it also ground nail dust into my eyes (I am supposed to avoid dusty and dirty environments for 1 week - no jokes now, Jamie has been keeping up very nicely on the house cleaning). So let's hope I didn't do any damage to myself. Still feel fine! I have another check up on Thursday so I'll mention all the dog germs likely living inside my eye flap now.

One week later
Thursday's check up went fine, everything is looking good. I feel totally normal, although I am still paranoid about poking myself in the eye. My vision has remained as good as it was, and I am down to eye drops just twice a day, along with the Restasis to proactively help out with dry eye. I am still not used to seeing so well, I stepped in a few giant puddles while running, because I was looking around in amazement at all the fine details I see in the woods.

I went shopping for sunglasses, since I will be able to wear them so much more now!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The vacation that inspired me to start a blog (Utah)

The next part of the trip was 5 days spent at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary - a wonderful place in Kanab, UT that houses at any time up to 2,000 animals - dogs, cats, pigs, horses, goats, wildlife. If you've seen Dogtown on National Geographic Channel - that's the place.

Monday morning, Liz and I left Death Valley earlier than we expected, when we saw that the 2 hour route from there to Vegas required chains (wait, didn't the people at the Enterprise counter say this wasn't possible?) Luckily the front desk at the Furnace Ranch had maps with alternate routes that were not snowy, so we had a 2.5 hour trip ahead of us, and so we left nice and early just to be conservative.

It was a fairly easy and uneventful trip back, and 2 minutes after I dropped off Liz at her terminal, Jamie called and said his plane had landed. Perfect timing! We decided to get on the road to Best Friends right away since it was estimated to be 4 hours. This ended up being a long 4 hours, my head was still pounding after my marathon-induced cold relapse. But the views as you crossed through AZ and then into UT and then back into AZ and then back into UT are well worth it:

Almost as soon as we drove into the beautiful Angel Canyon, and checked in with the really friendly people at the Welcome Center, I started to feel better. We were staying the first three nights in the cabins at Best Friends - it was a cute cozy room big enough for 2 people and 1 dog with a gorgeous backdrop.

I knew what to expect with the climate - cold nights, a bit of snow, but the sun almost always warms things up nicely during the day. Much more tolerable than snow in Cleveland! I was walking around with just a light jacket most of the time during the day even though we got snow twice.

Tuesday morning we had the day planned out at Best Friends - meet with volunteer coordinator, take the tour, go for the $5 vegetarian buffet, then volunteer with the potbellied pigs. The tour was helpful in finding our way around, but it only gave a small view of all the areas - if you go and want to see more in depth and spend more time with the animals, I would really consider volunteering. The $5 buffet they say is for employees and volunteers, although sometimes they can fit guests in also. It had a really good salad bar and then another dish which was different every day. Really good & healthy food. It was nice to get a good meal in at lunch, because there weren't many restaurants open in Kanab during this off season, and so we just shopped at the grocery store and ate microwavable food in the kitchenette in the cabin all week. The cabin had a microwave, refrigerator, sink, and bowls/utensils. Nice setup for a cheap price!

After the buffet, we went over to the pig and horse area to work with the pigs. Our first job was to walk the pigs. This was accomplished by throwing popcorn in front of them. Still even with the bribery, it's not always easy for 1-2 people to keep 4 pigs from running into the road.

They sort of can be bribed, but sometimes, they're just going to do what they want to do. The first group we took out was very friendly, we could crouch down and pat them on their side, and they just kind of snuffled along looking for popcorn. A few more groups, and we get to Metro and Penelope. We were warned that they have tried to bite people before, so we should watch out for our legs. I got Metro down to the road, and when he tries to step into the road, I moved my legs in front of him like we were told. Unfortunately, he did not like that, and he nipped my leg. Not a full out bite, but I did bruise up, with a bit of broken skin. Here's the perpetrator.

We moved on to the friendlier groups, and got this cute picture with Jeffrey and Hogan. I was amazed at how strong their personalities are. I could pick up on them just with a few minutes with each pig.

Our next job was to chop up vegetables and prepare dinner for the pigs. Each pig had a card that described their dinner - how much lettuce, how to chop it (some like it chopped up fine, some just want a head of lettuce chopped in half), how much of the grain pellets, other vegetables, and then supplements. Now it's time to feed them! All the time spent preparing, and two seconds later the lettuce is all over the pen, because the pigs dive for the pellets first.

We left the pigs at 4 PM to go up to DogTown to pick up a dog for a sleepover. Jamie had sponsored a really shy girl named Tabitha for me for Christmas, and so we were thinking we at least wanted to meet her, and maybe bring her for a sleepover. We walked in and told the woman at the desk we were interested in a sleepover dog, and she must have spotted our running t-shirts which I'm sure we were wearing, and she immediately volunteered another dog Arrow who supposedly would have as much energy as both of our dogs at home combined (ha! little did she know!) He came out, and he was so handsome! A little energetic, all sweetness, I loved him right away. He was not shy with the kisses and jumped up to say hello right away. We went back to the cabin and changed so we could take him for a long walk. We went on the dirt road that led from the Welcome Center in the lower canyon up to the upper canyon. They were right about his energy on the walk - he was a strong boy, especially when a jackrabbit crossed our paths. He had a bit of hound in him, I could tell both from his jowls and the way he stuck his nose to the ground and tracked animals. Just the kind of dog I would have fallen for if it hadn't been for our two crazies already at home.

After an hour walk, he was behaving pretty calmly. Amazing what exercise can do! We went back to the cabin, and he was so well behaved. Gentle and sweet, he was very good while we ate, took treats very gently, and always up for snuggling or petting.

Wednesday morning, we dropped Arrow off at DogTown, and then went over to Cat World to volunteer. They asked us if we would rather clean or socialize with the cats, and we figured they needed help cleaning, so we dug in. Somebody had called in sick, so they did really need help, and we dug in with the cleaning (yes, I can clean!) We of course got to visit with the kitties while we did so. Frodo was one of the ones who started following us around, he was sweet and gorgeous!
All the cat rooms have an indoor space, with beds, cubes, shelves, anything a cat might like to live in, and a screened in outdoor space, and the outdoor space has rafters so the more shy or feral ones can hide out there. They put food and water up there for them.

Wednesday afternoon, after the buffet lunch, we drove into Zion. It was 30-40 minutes from Best Friends, and absolutely incredible. Just the drive in was beautiful. We saw a bald eagle on the side of the road - I had never seen one in the wild up so close before.

We settled on a hike to Angel's Landing, which was 5 miles round trip, around 1500 feet of elevation gain. It looked like it could be snowy, so we hoped we could make it the whole way. The last 0.5 miles had a chain on the mountain you could hold on to for safety, so that promised to be interesting. It was a gorgeous and challenging hike.

The last part was indeed challenging - the chain was very necessary with the snow and ice. We we warned - but we went ahead anyway.
Climbing back to (relative) safety!

Zion was really beautiful, I would love to do more hiking here in the future. Unfortunately, dogs are only allowed on a 3.5 mile paved path around the visitor center, probably the most boring (again, relatively) path in the park.

Thursday, we had planned to volunteer with the dogs, then do a bit of shopping at the gift shop, then more dog work, then pick up another sleepover dog. We went to the headquarters to watch the safety video, when a worker came in from dog walks with our buddy from Tuesday - Arrow! He hopped right up on my lap and planted a kiss on my face. What a sweetie. He is going to make somebody active a wonderful pet!

When they were deciding where to send us, we asked for them to put us at Maggie's, which was where our sponsored girl Tabitha was. No other volunteers were there, so we went on over and got started walking the dogs right away. We managed to walk every dog who was volunteer friendly at least once. One of the ones whose personality really reached me was Josie. She was so excited to go on her walk, she tugged the leash for a good 1/10 of a mile.
We also took Tabitha out, she was very gentle and sweet, but a little timid around us.
Houdini was cute - he seemed to know how cute he was, and turned toward the camera to pose his cute little floppy ears which bounced while he walked.
Then there was Charles, his face just says it all.
After another great lunch at the cafe, and some shopping, we went back to Maggie's to help out some more. We had talked with Cathy, the main caretaker here, about Tabitha's personality and whether she would do well with a sleepover, and if it would help her more than it would traumatize her, and she seemed to think it would be good for her, and she would warm up to us. So we decided to help out here until around 4, when we could take Tabitha home with us. We petted the dogs, and threw the ball a bit for Josie - this is such a happy face. I would love to take her home also, just seeing her happiness chasing the ball was wonderful! But she was in a run alone, so she must have some problems with other dogs.

4:00 came, and we took Tabitha. She actually went into the car pretty easily, and when we got back to the cottage we moved into since the cabins were booked up Thursday night, she came right out of the car, and helped us explore the new space. The kitchens in the cottage were even more decked out - they included a hot plate, a toaster oven, along with all the rest. You could make even closer to real food here! We will remember that for next time. Tabitha hopped up on the bed and laid down, and we unpacked a few things. I decided to head out for a run, I hadn't run since the marathon due to soreness + sickness. I had a nice hour run in a beautiful snowfall, it made the trees lacy and they popped out against the red rocks even more.

I came back, and Tabitha was on the couch with Jamie. She was getting a bit more snuggly, and she even gave a kiss or two. Later on in the evening, we went into the bedroom to pack up our stuff to leave the next day, and 2 minutes later, we hear a collar jingling - she had followed us in there, and she kind of sidled up to me and asked for pets! What a sweetie.

Friday morning we woke up, it was time to go. We turned on the news, only to see the sad news of the Continental commuter plane crash. Tragic, and a bit nerve-wracking, I knew I would be a bit more frightened than normal on our plane ride. Tabitha was still snuggly, and gave Jamie a quick gentle nose kiss. She took treats from us, broken up into tiny little pieces, so gently. Then when we started taking the luggage out to the car, she would start wagging her tail as soon as we came back into the room. A really small gentle wag, but still, I felt like she made enough progress she could be very happy in a certain type of home. Boo, her boxer mix run-mate would not be so happy though. When we brought her back, there was such a welcome from him, they were both so happy to be back together. She gave a full out tail wag and I was less sad to leave her behind, because she's pretty happy there.

Snapped a few more pictures, this is outside the cottage.

We checked out, and headed out on the road. We stopped at St. George for breakfast, and then continued on to Vegas. We were early for our flight, so we walked around the strip. I spent $5 on the slot machines, won $3, and then promptly lost that also. It wasn't quite as exciting as I imagined it would have been to win. Maybe if it had been $10 or more.

Then we got the rental car back, hopped on the plane, and here I am, back in gray snowy Cleveland. I cannot wait to go back!