Laser sight correction surgery happened for her, and more power to her for doing it. She invited me to watch and I was intrigued: I took Wednesday off from work (easy to do when you work half-time) and drove across the Columbia into the wild reaches of Vancouver, Washington, where the particular doctor’s office is situated.
(It’s in an office building near what used to be called Vancouver Mall, but is now called Westfields Emporium-a-riffic Shop-A-Rama or something with more flair, because, hey, what do the words “Vancouver” and “Mall” tell you? The same re-naming has plagued what used to be called Beaverton Mall in, surprise surprise, Beaverton, Oregon. It’s in the midst of a complete and utter remodeling that actually surprised another friend who once worked there, and it’s now Cedar Hills Crossing when, um, it doesn’t actually cross any hills. But I’m digressing.)
The morning featured one of my favorite atmospheric states: fog, with just enough sunlight getting through to cause a diffuse glow. That, combined with my lack of knowledge of Vancouver, made me miss two turns to get to the office. Are U-turns allowed in Washington? I hope so.
Michol was already there, with her helper for the morning, a Mary Kay cosmetics salesperson named Sandy. They had driven up from Gresham, stopping to have breakfast along the way – patients are encouraged to eat well the day before and the day of the procedure – and waiting patiently when I arrived. A soothing, warm place, it was; the staff was smiling, and they weren’t smiling evil smiles, either. Gentle Christmas music played quietly. Michol and Sandy were reading a book of thank-you notes from past patients, full of bless you and you’ve changed my life. As the grandson of a man whose eyesight was so improved by surgery that he referred to his doctor as The Miracle Worker, I felt gladdened as I read.
Sandy stayed in the lobby while Michol and I headed back into the work area. First stop was an office, where she paid and where a staffer explained the post-operative steps: Here are the eye-guards you’re to wear while you heal; you will need to rest after the procedure; we’re sending an emergency happy-pill home with you in case you need more pain relief; your eyesight will fluctuate as the eyes heal, so sometimes it will seem like you’re looking through a misted-up windshield, and sometimes it’ll seem more like a smudge on glasses or contacts, so be ready for that… and more. When the staffer emphasized that you shouldn’t touch or rub your eyes for a few days, I cracked, “Yeah, the toothbrush is out” while I mimed brushing my eyes.
The next room had the first medical equipment we’d seen in the place. Michol sat up in a chair, surrounded by white plastic technology, waiting for the drugs to kick in. It was her first time taking Valium, and she was waiting for the effects. The doctor who would do the laser procedure came in and talked to us while checking her eyes. Then on to the next room, with a dentist-patient-style reclining chair, and Michol got horizontal. Eye drops were dripped into her eyes, and a green plastic jelly-like eye guard was placed over both eyes.
And Michol was slowing down. The drugs were doing their job. We finally stopped talking when she asked me for quiet. Can do.
Then another assistant entered, helped Michol to her feet, and led her towards the operating room, while pointing me toward a small dark lounge next to that room. Wall-to-ceiling glass or plastic (or maybe “Star Trek” predictions came true while I wasn’t looking and it was in fact transparent aluminum) separated me from the room, giving me a clear view of the machines needed to repair eyesight. Michol got horizontal again and was moved into position. A monitor lit up with the magnified view the doctor had of Michol’s eyes. And the work began. When the laser was used, it made the tunt-tunt-tunting sound of the energy pulses. It took me a moment during the first laser pulses to remember that, yeah, that’s what lasers sound like – or, to be more exact, what the machines making lasers sound like.
I’ll describe no more, to allay the potential fears of the squeamish, and say only that the whole procedure went surprisingly fast.
Being a gentleman, I took Michol’s arm in mine as they led her out of the operating room, and guided her, eye guards and all, back to the lobby and Sandy, who took over. Michol was giddy, in a slowed-by-the-drugs way, and happy. She knew she had done something good. Sandy drove her home, where she got her needed rest, and I got on with my day.
Now, I hope, she looks sharp. Literally.