Thursday, April 22, 2010

blurry clarity

It is always a pleasure to read the words of someone both wise and self-deprecating. It's even more enjoyable when he happens to be witty and liberal. But this post is not about you, my friend. Today, I want to write about how I see the world.

I conquered my fear of contact lenses. Ok, the actual act of conquering was not a victorious step forward but more like a stumble in pre-dawn darkness that resulted in a disturbing crunch of frame and lenses. Nonetheless, I have moved on.

After feigning good vision (and stifling the guilt of driving my three-year-old son illegally) through blurry morning traffic, I relented and took off during lunch to brave the freeways and--more terrifying--the optometrist.

Rest chin here, press forehead there, squint, blink, click, repeat, flinch at the puff of air, try not to go cross-eyed. 1 or 2? 3 or 4? 5 or 6? Which is blacker? Which is blurrier? Is that an O or a 0?

I don't know why optometrists make me nervous. Maybe it is because I spent so much time in dentist's offices as a child and never visited an eye doctor until my 20s. No one told me about eye dilations, and there is something quite wrong about leaving a medical office more impaired than when you first walk in.

But the doctor was nice, friendly, gentle, and efficient. I found her so likable and agreeable that when she asked about contact lenses, I think my exact response was "Sure." Thirty terrified years of refusing to touch my eyeball, countless nightmares of Clockwork Orange, and flinching and gagging through all fifteen agonizing minutes of my husband's LASIK surgery--all of that was tossed away a bit accidentally. It helped that I only need corrective vision for my right eye. Only one contact lens must be twice as easy, right?

I picked out a new frame for traditional glasses and dragged my feet about scheduling an initial appointment to be trained with contacts: "I'm awfully busy today and tomorrow. Perhaps next week? After 4 p.m.? Not on an even-numbered day?" Turns out they had an opening to train me right then and there. With my substitute teacher already lined up and paid for the afternoon, I thought I'd be stupid not to agree.

It is a good thing that eye doctors train you to put in and take out contact lenses before sending you home with a flimsy plastic circle and scant advice and admonitions to not jab it in too forcefully. My lesson in eye-poking stretched a bit longer than the average contact newbie. At one point, I put it in backwards (admit it, you've done it, too). At another, I pushed it too far to the outside edge and momentarily had trouble blinking it back to my retina. But soon I got it, and I was anxious to leave with the lens in place. From blurry to clarity; what could go wrong?

Having touched my eye at least seven times, I felt cautiously optimistic last night, preparing to remove it. No such luck. My husband offered to stand beside me and give encouragement, for which I'm grateful. The fourth time, I brushed the contact a bit too slowly and it folded over lazily in the edge of my eyelid. Out of reach. Hmm. I tried to find it, tried to pull it back, tried rolling my eyes around, blinking, winking, moaning, and bitching, to no avail.

Half an hour later, my eye was unpleasantly bloodshot and quite irritated. My better half kept me calm, relaxed, and distracted. My plan was to wait it out, think about something else, hope the contact would work its way back out or that my eye would stop hurting and the contact would magically appear on the edge of the sink. If not, I'd try again in half an hour. A bath, an episode of Scrubs, and two children's bedtime rituals later, I was still uncomfortable and unseeing. The Internet was not particularly helpful--is it ever? Do people really try to put in a second lens to better see the first one stuck in your eye? I surely hope not. So I kissed my husband good night, left him with our sleeping little ones and drove through the darkness of night, rain, and a traffic accident (not mine) to Urgent Care.

It's always a good sign when you are low on the triage list. The nurse stifled a laugh after noting my weight, blood pressure, pulse, height, and medical history when he heard my predicament. I was tempted to jab him in the eye. Thank God for Bobby Flay entertaining the anxious masses in waiting rooms across America as he cracks bad puns about sticky buns and pretends that food challenges can be smack-downs. [I will not be surprised the day I see a cage match stir-fry contest on the Food Network.]

Finally, the end was approaching. You must know that feeling if you've somehow read this far. :) The doctor on call looked, filled my eye with numb stuff, yellow stuff, and bright lights. Asked me to lie down, sit up, look everywhere in the room, and finally flipped my eyelid inside out and stretched up high to discover that indeed there was something stuck up there in the crease of my eyelid and eyeball, rolled into a thin plastic blue ball of translucence. He fished it out, wiped antibiotics inside my eye, and thanked me for the challenge. Then he tried to talk me into LASIK.

One step at a time.


Blogger Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Well that post was my worst nightmare, I have a real fear of people, including myself, touching my eyeball and thus I would be a laser surgery/glasses man.

Reading that, my eyes actually started to water quite vigorously and I feel a bit sick.

I'm off for a lay-down and some pancakes.

2:09 AM  
Blogger James said...

I'm a longtime contact lens wearer. I have no problem touching my eyes, but when others do... Yikes. There was a day once my wife had to remove my contacts because I'd been chopping hananeros and no amount of hand washing could get the chili oil off my fingers so someone else (her) had to remove the contacts. An ordeal for both of us.

Good to see you around the internets again. Hope all is well.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Daniel, it's gratifying to know there are others out there even half as squeamish as I am. Thanks for your empathy. :)

James, I'm going to start cutting chili peppers with my pinky in the air--princess style. Better to keep at least one fingerpad free of capsaicin.

10:02 PM  
Blogger Joan said...

When I first got my contacts, it took me *2* visits to learn how to put them in. It turns out that the lenses they'd ordered for me were too big for my eyeball and they actually didn't fit. I had no idea that could even happen. Anyway, one of the lenses fell out, but since I wasn't used to the feeling of contacts yet, and that eye was not as impaired as my other, I didn't notice it right away. So it was several hours later, when I was taking my new contacts out, that I had trouble. The lens that was still in my eye came out okay, but the other eye was problematic. I tried and tried to find a contact lens there, and I couldn't. At one point, my older brother even tried to "help" me take my contact out of that eye. I am amazed that I still wear contacts after that experience.

7:14 PM  

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