A tale of two eyeballs

As I got older, my glasses got smaller, as was the fashion.  This did not really work well, however, with the lenses getting thicker.

Almost a year ago, I had laser eye surgery.  I did not write about it then because I did not have a blog (also, I was cranky and my eyes hurt).  In the time since then, well, I just have not thought about it.  It did not occur to me to write anything about the situation until I found the not particularly helpful photos I took during my week post-surgery.  Eyeball surgery doesn’t really change how one looks so the photos are not really necessary but I am including them anyway because now I can delete them from my phone and have more space for pictures of my niece and nephew 🙂

I first got glasses when I was six years old and I probably needed them before that.  My mom tells me that on the way home from getting my first pair, I was reading all of the signs and store names we passed, giving her the first indication that I had not been able to before!  I started out with enormous plastic frames and moved on to a pair of round red glasses (made by Nintendo, my brother still has the case even though Mario wore off of it decades ago) of which I had a few iterations.

long ago glasses

As I got older, my glasses got smaller, as was the fashion.  This did not really work well, however, with the lenses getting thicker.  I don’t know when I made the transition but for as long as I can recall being a part of the glasses-buying process, I always required the extra thin lenses in order for them to even fit into frames.  My prescription got steadily worse throughout high school and tapered off by the time I was in college.

prescriptions

I started wearing contact lenses at around 13 years old; at first I thought they were the greatest thing ever because they let me pretend to be “normal”.  In reality, they were kind of a pain in the [proverbial] butt.  Still, having a choice was a real improvement.  I bought my first pair of actual sunglasses that year and was extremely pleased by my ability to wear them.  Over the years since first getting contacts, however, I got increasingly lazy about wearing them.  By the time I finally decided to get surgery I was down to wearing them only when it would be especially bright out (so I could wear sunglasses) or wanted to impress somebody.  Most of the reason for this was laziness but I also became self conscious about what I thought of as my piggy face.  I was convinced that glasses helped my cheeks look less fat up around my eyes and decided that was a valid excuse to keep wearing them.

I had a consultation with a LASIK surgeon in the early 2000s but at that time I was told I could not be improved to 20/20, I would still have to wear glasses albeit weaker ones.  I did not think much about it for a while after that although my father would periodically encourage me to consider getting the procedure, I would say that there wasn’t much point since I would still need glasses anyway.  In retrospect, it may have been a good idea even then because the level of uncorrected vision that I had made me quite vulnerable.  I would define my eyesight in terms of 20/20, 20/400, etc. but apparently it’s not really practical at my prescription.  I have it on good authority though that I was worse than 20/1000 which means that I could not see at 20 feet what a normal person could see at 1000 feet if that gives any perspective; that is more than three football fields!

Anyway, I finally decided to get another consultation and it turned out to be an excellent idea.  I went to Adelson Eye & Laser Center where they tested my vision and took weird measurements.  I ended up waiting a while because they were behind schedule (something I would learn is a trend there) but the doctors were encouraging and answered all my questions and I felt like I was in good hands.  Dr. Adelson was even willing to talk to my father on the phone about my surgical options.  He understood that even though I am a grown woman, my physician father wants to know everything he can about my health care and procedures.

In the end, we decided that PRK (photoretractive keratectomy) was a better option for me than LASIK (laser assisted in-situ keratomileusis).  Both involve removing the top layer of the eye (epithelium) and reshaping what is below it with a laser.  LASIK has a quicker recovery time because the epithelium is cut into a flap so that it can go back over the eye at the end of the procedure and protect the tissue immediately although there is some risk of flap complications.  In PRK, the epithelium is removed by either a chemical or abrasive process and has to regrow.  This reduces the possibility of complications but adds recovery time and pain.  The reason PRK was a better choice for me is because not cutting a flap allows more corneal depth to work with for the vision correction and due to the severity of my myopia, the doctor needed all the depth he could get!

I waited until my parents came to visit before actually getting the surgery then I stayed at my grandma’s house with them for several days afterward.  I like to think of myself as independent but it was really good to have people there to get me food and put in my eyedrops (forcibly if necessary) when I did not want to even open my eyes.

The day of surgery (Thursday) I left work early and picked up my mother before heading to the eye doctor, my father met us there.  I was given a Valium and waited (nervously, despite the drug) for what felt like an excessively long time before being called back to the surgical room which was basically a dark eye examination room with some extra equipment.  The doctor gave me drops to numb my eyes which worked very well.  He then held my eyes open with an ocular speculum (think “A Clockwork Orange”) and told me to keep very still.  Then came the scariest part; a whirring brush came toward my eyeball and I just had to sit there and take it.  It didn’t actually hurt although it seemed like it should have but the numbing drops were doing their job; it just felt weird, like a tickling or pressure.  Anyway, he did this for both eyes and then started in with the laser.  It was pre-programmed based on measurements they had taken already and I just had to look right at a red light while a weird humming happened but it didn’t really feel like anything.

last pair of contactThe whole procedure took less than fifteen minutes from the time I sat down to the time that the “bandage contacts” were inserted; a set of clear lenses to protect my poor damaged eyeballs.  Finally, they gave me an eye shield and sent me on my way.

I can see someThe drive home was kind of amazing; I could see!  My vision was not totally clear or anything but I could recognize my family members by sight, something I could not have done the day before [without glasses] unless I got close enough to smell them.  The rest of that afternoon was not particularly eventful, I hung out in the basement and listened to an audiobook because I couldn’t quite focus enough to watch TV (reading was totally out of the question).  By the evening though, I was not happy.  My eyes hurt a lot.  I had three kinds of eyedrops; a steroid to encourage healing, an antibiotic to fight infection, and something labelled “comfort drops” which was given to me at the doctor’s office.  I was instructed to use the latter sparingly so as not to slow my recovery.  I was also permitted to take NSAIDs as needed but I cannot say that the Aleve I downed really helped much.

my eyeballs hurtMy father held my eyes open one at a time to give me the drops I needed which was very helpful since I don’t know if I would have been able to open them on my own; the tiniest amount of light hurt me at that time.  I was super cranky and refused to leave the basement even when I was assured that the blinds upstairs were closed.  I was fairly certain that I looked like a monster because I definitely felt like one.  The eye shield was probably a lifesaver at that time because I wanted very badly to rub my eyes and probably would have done so while sleeping if I did not have the protection it provided.  Speaking of sleeping, it was all I wanted to do for hours at at time which is actually not too unlike my normal weekends but due to the circumstances, I was allowed to do it without guilt.  That did not actually make me feel better though.  Eating was hard because even in very dim light, I did not want to open my eyes to see where my food was.  I ate yogurt while holding the cup very close to my mouth – so went my Friday.

By Saturday, I wasn’t doing much better mood-wise but I was able to stand a light being turned on around the corner from me for a limited period of time.  Mostly I wandered around the dim basement in a cranky manner and made my mom put my eyedrops in since my father had gone to play golf.

light is the enemyOn Sunday, I ventured upstairs but immediately regretted it and returned to my cave.  Slowly throughout the day, I tolerated a bit more light and was willing to return upstairs by the evening while wearing sunglasses.  As a side note, I got these sunglasses from the eye doctor and I quite like them.  I’m still wearing them and will be sad when I inevitably lose or break them.  Obviously I was still not in a good enough mood to brush my hair but I do seem to have changed my clothes, at least.

Monday was Labor Day, so I didn’t have to worry about going to work.  I went for a brief walk outside, both wearing my sunglasses and looking down the whole time.  I decided that I had to at least try that since I planned to go to work the next day and I could not avoid light forever.

On Tuesday, my mom drove me to work and I was able to get around okay even though things were a bit blurry and unfocused.  I could read the mission statement banners that hang over the production floor and most paper put in front of me even though I had to move it back and forth a bit to get my eyes to focus (not unlike a person with presbyopia who refuses to admit she needs glasses).  My mom picked me up early from work and I went to the doctor to get approved to drive.  Although I did not feel that my eyesight was ideal, I got the okay since I was seeing at 20/40 and the cutoff is 20/50.  I was super excited.

The next day I drove myself to work and returned home to my apartment, now able to take care of myself although apparently not able to take care of plants.  My herbs all died while I was away.  Well, they probably didn’t go from healthy to dead in less than a week but I had been neglecting them long enough that my six-day absence was enough to finish them off.

Tsome irritationhe next day was fine but on Friday, I had a tiny irritated feeling in one of my eyes which, by midday had turned into actual pain.  My left eye was watering profusely and I couldn’t see well out of it.  I called the doctor’s office and they told me to come in.  I ended up waiting a while during which I convinced myself that my eye was horribly damaged and I would never be able to see again.  It turns out that I had a small abrasion on my eyeball.  The doctor inserted a bandage contact lens and I went back to work, slightly more calm.

Eventually the pain went away and I removed the contact lens myself.  I did find that my eyes felt painful in a kind of rough way more often than they used to.  Apparently, dry eye is a common side effect of PRK.  I did not seem to have any other problems, however.  I don’t have haloing or blurry vision.  I do get some glare when driving at night but not any worse than with my glasses – actually, better than when I wore contact lenses!  I put an eye chart up in my office and would stand in the doorway (ten feet away) to check my eyesight a couple of times a day, which was probably excessive.  I also went back to see the eye doctor at all of the required intervals – one week, one month, three months, and six months.  By my last appointment, I was not only able to read the 20/20 line on the eye chart but part of the 20/15 line as well!

no real changeSo, I have spent a really excessive amount of time now talking about my eyeballs and the laser surgery I had on them to come to one basic conclusion:  It was totally worth it!  I do have to use eyedrops a couple of times a day now; just over the counter artificial tears.  If I don’t use them enough, by the time I go to bed, my eyes actually kind of hurt a little.  Still, this is a small (tiny, really) price to pay for vision which does not require correction.  I look the same (at least the way I looked when wearing contacts) but I feel more confident and less vulnerable.  I have peripheral vision and stumble into things less in the middle of the night when I get up and walk around.  I do notice how squinty my eyes get when I smile because of my cheek fat but I’ve decided that it is okay.  My dark undereye circles are more prominent without glasses to help mask them but I can ignore that too.  I have mostly gotten used to not wearing glasses although I still reach for them occasionally in the morning when my alarm goes off.  After 27 years of wearing glasses, visual independence is still new to me but I am happy to get to know it!

Shades of Gray

My father is one of eight siblings, all of whom are currently in their fifties or sixties and he is the only one of them with gray hair; this is not a decision made by nature.

20170221_121358

I am aging and not going about it gracefully.  I have long since mocked people who dye their hair excessively.  Well, maybe not mocked but at least judged less than silently.  Anyway, I think it looks silly when you see someone who is obviously in her sixties or seventies and has jet-black hair.  Yes, I used the feminine pronoun there, it wasn’t a random choice.  Women seem more likely to do this sort of thing than men.  Not that men aren’t subject to a certain amount of vanity as well, especially these days.

I am hardly the first person in my family to begin to gray, not even in my generation.  I have always worried about premature color loss if not actual hair loss.  My paternal grandfather’s hair was completely white by the time he was twenty although he kept a thick head of that snow white hair until he died at around 80 years old.  I have a cousin older than me who have been sporting salt and pepper temples since before he was thirty and another whose loses about ten years in appearance when he shaves because of the gray in his beard.  Somehow my brother (four years my senior) has managed to avoid this particular sign of age so far and he reminds me of it once in a while. (To be fair, only really when I complain about gray but still – uncool!)20170221_164857

My father is one of eight siblings, all of whom are currently in their fifties or sixties and he is the only one of them with gray hair; this is not a decision made by nature.  I think he looks better that way.  There is something comical about seeing three men with jet black hair standing around, their kurtas open at the neck so that their gray chest hair is evident in contrast.  At least this problem does not affect the ladies.  Their oldest sister used to have reddish hair, since she dyed the gray with henna but now it is dark again.  I suspect when there was more red than black, she decided it was time for a change.  Anyway, I decided to take her lead because at this point, I don’t have a lot of colorless strands and it seems less like giving in to my age.

I have dyed my hair before but never out of “necessity” only for funsies.  I have never really had a problem with my hair color.  It is dark brown (not black) and has red highlights in the sun.  Since my hair is dark and I don’t want to bleach it, I am limited in the colors I can try.  I also fear decisions to an extent and have only used temporary color (Clairol Natural Instincts) except for the one other time I used henna.  I have tried to go more red and I have tried to go black.  Neither of these changes were particularly evident when indoors in my regular clothes.  The sun helped show the change and the black ensemble I had to wear when working at Macy’s provided the contrast needed to display my dye job but only when my hair was down around my shoulders.

I have been at work for two days now with my newly henna dyed hair and nobody has yet said anything about it.  I suppose that is good, since I mostly wanted to hide the gray (which I was also told people didn’t notice but I sure did).

Anyway, I’m not sure I really did the henna thing right but it seems to have worked.  By this I mean that when I comb through the strands, I find orangey-red where white ones used to be.  There is not much of a change to the rest of my hair.  There is a change to my bathtub though – there are some weird gunky spots that weren’t there before.  I need to work on cleaning that!

When I decided to do this, I had not washed my hair in several days (I usually do so twice a week but since I was late for work on Friday, I skipped it) and I don’t know if dirty hair is a good or bad thing for dying but it was kind of greasy when I started.

dirty hair

I bought my henna at the local Indian Grocery (well, the local Indian Chain Store, Patel Brothers) and it sat on a shelf in my apartment for nearly a year, so I wasn’t off to a great start.  Finally, on Saturday, I dumped it into a bowl.  The powder is fine and came up in a little cloud which made me cough, I hope it doesn’t give me lung cancer.

henna box  henna powder

I added lemon juice and olive oil per the internet / my vague memory of doing this once before.  I added some water too but I didn’t want to dilute the lemon juice too much since I read that acidity is what activates the pigment but it was not at all wet enough.  I am also a miser who didn’t want to use too much fancy lemon juice topically so I added some vinegar, figuring that’s acidic and I have a huge jug of it.  I don’t know if it made a real difference chemically but it did make the smell far less pleasant.

lemon juice  olive oil  mixed  mixed with vinegar

I covered the bowl and let it sit for a couple of hours (also per the internet) then added an egg.  The egg thing seemed weird to me but several internet people (I know, why would they steer me wrong?) insisted that topical egg application strengthens hair.  I had a partial carton of eggs rapidly approaching their sell by date, so I figured, what the hell, I’d give it a shot.   I cracked an egg into my henna paste that smelled of vinegar and beat it in like I was making cookies.  It actually looked kind of like delicious brownie batter but due to the aforementioned smell, I had no problem not tasting it!

add egg  mixed with egg

I then slathered the goop on my hair, trying hard to both work it into my roots and not get it everywhere.  I sort of succeeded on both counts.  I held sections up with clips as I went, which worked well for the application but when I put on a shower cap so I could let it sit without getting henna all over my apartment, I found that they are not really made to sit on top of all of that.  There were inches of uncovered goopy hair at the back of my head.

side clips  shower cap

I sat around for a couple of hours, watching TV while I tried valiantly to keep my head from touching my recliner.  I seem to have done a decent job since I did not detect any horrible spots on the fortunately dark colored furniture.  I did lose some hardened bits into the cushion, however, when they dried out and dislodged from the hair at the nape of my neck.

Other than the hardened bits around the edges where the cap did not cover and the fog / steam that built up inside the shower cap, there was not much difference when the [more or less arbitrary] time came to rinse my head.  I removed the clips and found that mostly, my hair stayed in place, glued as it was by egg and other nonsense.

shower cap  2 hours later  clips removed

When I got in the shower however, it started coming out.  There was a ton of brownish water running around my feet with a slight greenish tinge that I did not expect.  It’s okay though, my hair wasn’t green at all, even the gray bits.  I rinsed my hair a bunch of times, especially where the dried bits were, until the water ran clear.  I have heard that you are not supposed to shampoo your hair for a couple of days after dying with henna so I “washed” it with conditioner instead, going through the motions of shampooing with a different bottle.  A little more color did run out at that point, but not too much.  When I got out of the shower and dried off, I don’t think I stained my towel at all!

fluffy hair

So, my hair doesn’t look very different (except that it is clean).  The curls happen naturally and as soon as I brushed it, they went away.  I try to keep the curly hair some days but it just turns into a giant fuzzy tangleball before too long, so I rarely do so.

Overall, I am calling this process a success, if slightly unnecessary.

On the road again

I was pretty lucky. Besides not having any injuries, my car was repairable and although it took a while to fix, I was out of town for a week and did not have to rent a car during that time.

car

Just over three weeks ago, I was hit by a salt truck and knocked off the freeway.  I was fortunately uninjured but my car was not driveable and I had to get a rental car while it was being repaired, a process which took extra time due to the holidays.  I have a high deductible and no rental car coverage so this incident has not been cheap.  That being said, I was pretty lucky.  Besides not having any injuries, my car was repairable and although it took a while to fix, I was out of town for a week and did not have to rent a car during that time.  Also, the body shop had some parts in stock and seems to have done a good job (as far as I can tell, at least).  They were also very nice to me.  Despite a slightly inconvenient schedule, which I think was unavoidable given the time of year, I would recommend Dependable Collision if asked.

Geico has also been nice enough although they were not able to get me a tow truck when I needed one.  Apparently, everyone in town was busy that night, which is understandable, I suppose, but makes me wonder why anyone asks their insurance company to send a tow truck instead of just calling one themselves.  I actually didn’t do that either.  The State Trooper got a tow truck for me (after a bit of miscommunication) and the extremely nice driver from Budget Towing not only drove me home but climbed up onto the truck bed and rooted through my messy car for the stuff I needed, including a laundry basket and various unlabeled bags.  “Do you see one with some bottles in it?  I think it’s black.”  Was one unhelpful request I made.  I also forgot a few things (see this post about unfinished Christmas sweaters) but he did what he could.

ttruck

Anyway, I still had to go to work and because there is no public transportation which goes anywhere near my place of employment, I had to rent a car.  This did mean I got to sleep in a bit, since Enterprise wasn’t open as early as I usually leave.  They did give me the Geico rate although I had to pay it myself and I didn’t feel like I should be springing for a fancy upgrade so I ended up in a Nissan Ventra, which is apparently one step up from “economy”.

rcar

I managed to drive it for 12 days without sliding off the road or anything, so I shall call it a success.  The Florida license plate did invite some comments in this Michigan winter.

I have contacted the County Road Commission a few times now but other than sending me a form to fill out, I have not heard back.  There doesn’t seem to be any doubt that their vehicle was at fault, so I am hoping to recover my deductible and rental car cost from them.  Unfortunately, it is not looking good so far; I will have to keep pressing forward.  Ugh, I hate confrontation.

Geico is not helping with this issue because apparently, as Michigan is a No Fault state, they don’t get involved with “mini torts”.  I don’t even know what that means but apparently I’m on my own.  Even when the people are nice and as helpful as they are allowed to be, insurance is the worst!