Not To Be Trusted With Knives











{August 8, 2008}   Frailty, thy name is retina!*

Last night, for the last time ever1, I took out my contact lenses.

As you may recall, I’m not allowed to wear my contacts for an entire week before my laser eye surgery.  And my surgery is one week from today!  So I have to spend the next week wearing my stupid glasses.  Which I’m not looking forward to, since (a) I hate how I look in glasses and (b) the prescription is a decade old and, according to my optometrist who checked them out at my recent pre-op visit, just barely squeaks by the level of vision required to drive.

This, I believe, is what the laser eye surgery process looks like.

This, I believe, is what the laser eye surgery procedure looks like.

Also discovered at my recent pre-op visit was the fact that I have some slight retinal “latticing,” i.e., my retina is thinning on the bottom. Apparently it is relatively common for someone with my ridiculously high level of nearsightedness2 – since nearsightedness results from your eyeballs being too long, meaning that my retina is being pulled tighter than it should be and, viola, you have a thinned retina.   It sounds kinda gruesome to me, but I’m told that it’s nothing to worry about (although thinned retinas can then become detached, apparently it’s a good sign that (a) it’s thinned at the bottom rather than the top3 and (b) it’s evenly thinned in both eyes4).  At any rate, the latticing of the retina doesn’t affect my eligibility for getting laser eye surgery, so the countdown to lasers in my eyes remains at T minus 7 days.

Which also means that there is still time for any rich philanthropists or other people who have money burning a hole in their pocket to donate to the “Fund raiser for Dr. Beth’s Peepers“:


*Since two of my other blog postings on my laser eye surgery used Hamlet quotations, I thought I’d continue the trend here.
1Assuming, of course, that everything goes well during the surgery. Knock on wood.
2-7.5 in one eye, -8.5 in the other eye.
3since thinned retinas at the top can become detached to do the weight of the rest of the retina pulling it down.
4Why does this just not sound like a good thing to me?

Photo credit: Posted by TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ on Flickr under a Creative Commons license. All hail CC!

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{June 18, 2008}   Booked it!

It’s official! I will be have laser beams in my eyes on August 15th.

I was given a set of instructions. You have to arrive an hour before the surgery for them to get you all ready. Wear a button down shirt so you don’t have to pull the shirt off over your head that night. You have to wear those giant sunglasses for a day after surgery, including to bed, both because you will be extra sensitive to light and to make sure you don’t rub your eyes, even in your sleep. I tend to rub my eyes a fair bit, so I’m trying to get in the habit of not rubbing my eyes in preparation.

Probably the most difficult thing will be that I can’t wear my contacts for a week before the surgery. I *always* wear my contacts. I hate wearing glasses. This is due to a combination of my vanity1 and the fact that my glasses are almost a decade old. The thing is, with my ridiculously strong prescription, my glasses end up costing $500-$600. And where the hell was a starving student supposed to come up with that kind of dough? I could barely scrape together $100 every second year to buy a pair of contacts2. The glasses that I currently wear were purchased when I was doing my Masters at the University of Guelph, because the student health plan there covered them. That was back in 1999-2000. In the intervening years, my ‘script has changed, the glasses have been banged up, scratched up, stepped on, and so forth. Basically, I can barely see with them on. So that should be an interesting week, to see if I can function without my contacts.

Other instructions tell you that you need to:

  • “shampoo your hair and wash face and eyelids” on the morning of surgery. Do people really need to be told to wash their face? I mean, we’ve been over the whole “do you wash your hair every day” thing here recently, but shouldn’t washing your face just be a given?
  • “keep your eyes closed for the rest of the day after surgery.” Sounds like I’ll be listening to lots of podcasts that day!
  • have a “responsible adult” escort you home from surgery and back to the clinic the next day for a post-op check up. Man, I’m sooo glad they specified that, because I was going to ask an irresponsible adult to escort me. Or perhaps a responsible child. Now I know better, so I’ve arranged for a responsible adult to be my escort.

Also interesting was that the consent form, which they emailed for me to read before the surgery, says that “Laser-Assisted Intrastromal Keratoplasty [LASIK] and Photorefractive Keratectomy [PRK] are classified as investigational by the Canadian Health Protection Branch” (emphasis added). I don’t know the ins and outs of what “investigational” means exactly (I mean, I’m sure it means that it’s not like full status approved and they are still doing research, but I don’t know what it takes to become post-investigational), but it’s interested that this was never mentioned in the consultation, nor did I see in on their website.

Anyway, I’m excited and a bit nervous. But the promise of being able to see properly every morning when I awake, of being able to go surfing without worrying about losing a contact and go swimming and be able to see people on the other side of the pool will make it all worth while. Plus, I know you all can’t wait ’til the live blog of the surgery.

1I want everyone to be able to see my big beautiful blue eyes.
2Because I used to wear the non-disposable kind, so I’d keep the same pair for 2 years.



So, I think I’m going to go with the expensive place for my laser eye surgery. I really did like the doc there and a few things about the cheaper place kind of freak me out. First, on their website they explain that the reason they are so cheap is because they do a “high volume” of surgeries. They spin it as “high volume = more experience = better surgery,” but “high volume” suggests “assembly line” to me. The second strike against the cheap place was an email exchange I had with them. I emailed to ask for their success rates and rates of complications, since this information is not provided on their website. The email I received back was atrocious. They provided limited success data and completely ignored my request for complication rates. Then they told me to phone if I had more questions, with the tone of it making me feel as if they were really put out by my having emailed. I’m sorry, but you are in customer service and if the customer prefers email, you should provide courteous, accurate answers by email and make them feel welcome to email back if they have more questions. And, for the love of all that is good in the world, your email should be professional. In their 9 sentence reply, they committed the following grammatical transgressions:

  • hyphenating “with-out”
  • hyphenating “thank-you”
  • spelling the word “merit” as “merrit”
  • not capitalizing the first word in a sentence (twice)

This email does not give me confidence in their clinic. I realize that it is not the surgeon who is writing such an atrocious email, but in my opinion, it reflects the unprofessional nature of the place1. In a last effort, I emailed back to ask, yet again, what their complication rates are. Their reply: “We have done over 46,000 procedures and we have never had a serious complication. The pre-operative screening eliminates those patients that might be a complication. Our turn down rate is about 4%. Phone if you have any other questions to [number redacted].” First of all – I didn’t ask if they had any “serious” complications. Their definition of “serious” may not be the same as mine. Twice avoiding my request for complication rates makes me feel like they are hiding something. Secondly, I don’t think they really meant that the patient might themselves BE a complication2. And third, wtf is up with their not wanting email? “Phone…” is a command. And it’s not inviting at all. I consulted with my mom and she agrees that I shouldn’t let anyone with such poor grammar anywhere near my eyes. So expensive surgery it is!

And since I’m going with expensive surgery, I’m following my friend Dan’s3 advice:

Definitely don’t go cheap on your peepers. Maybe you should start a “fund raiser for Dr. Beth’s Peepers”. After all, you have been entertaining many of us in the internets for a while now. Plus, if you can’t see how are you supposed to blog? So really, it’s not about your eyes so much as it is about our entertainment. (Dan’s comment on my recent bog post)

So now I’m putting a “donate” button on the sidebar of my blog – all proceeds to go to the “Fund raiser for Dr. Beth’s Peepers.” A button that looks like this:

Also, I’m going to follow Dave‘s suggestion and live blog the surgery. No, really.

1sort of like that whole “if the bathroom in a restaurant is dirty, you can bet their kitchen is too” kind of thing.
2Although that is kind of funny.
3You may remember Dan as my co-author on the Snow, Snow & Gillis (2007) paper about the Count and mathematics.



{June 9, 2008}   Weekend Update
  1. Went to my laser eye surgery consultation on Friday and after watching a cheesy “educational” video – some of which was about the surgery, some of which told me such non-informative things as “hey, did you know glasses and contacts are really annoying?” – and having an ultrasound measurement taken on my eyes, I was informed that I’m a good candidate for either PRK or LASIK due to my above average corneal thickness.  I’m thinking I’ll go with LASIK as it has a much shorter healing time (2-3 days vs. 10 days).  Although I have to admit that I am a bit freaked out by the idea of having a flap cut in my cornea (which is what they do in LASIK; in PRK, they do the surgery without cutting a flap first).  Also, I’m leaning towards going to the more expensive place.  The surgeon is super experienced and I liked him, so I’m thinking it’s worth the money.  I may think differently when I can’t afford to eat because I spent all my money on eye surgery, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.
  2. Finished watching Season 4 of 24.  In celebration, I suggest you check out this pie chart.
  3. Booked a flight to Ontario for the end of the month to visit the fam.  My sister has vacation then, so I figured I could take some vacation days as well and hang out with her.  And my wee niece, who we all know is the greatest child ever to have lived.
  4. Won our hockey game last night!  I got an assist!  I can haz 3 game point streak?
  5. Also in the hockey game, I got the flukiest injury ever.  Correction – *before* the hockey game I got the flukiest injury ever.  While getting dressed for the game, just as I reached down to tie up my skate laces, my friend Kim kicked her foot up to tie up her skate laces and nicked my wrist with her skate blade.  Thankfully it was on the side of my wrist and was just a nick – but if I had my hand turned just slightly the other way and if she’d kicked her foot up just a bit higher, that could have been right nasty!
  6. Spent the evening, after the hockey game, playing with Wesabe.  I’ll have more to report later, once I’ve played with it some more, but so far, it’s pretty damn cool.
  7. It’s my dad’s birthday today.  Happy birthday, Daddy!


{June 4, 2008}   To See or Not to See

Photo by Jorge

So, for a long, long time I’ve wanted laser eye surgery. And since I made a little bit of extra cash by working way too many jobs over the past few months, I figure I deserve a reward and what better reward than vision, right?I know a fair number of people who have had it done and every single one of them¹ has described it the same way: It’s a life changing experience. You can wake up in the morning and see the alarm clock across the room. You can go swimming without worrying whether you will lose a contact lens. You don’t have to think about bringing your lens case and solution and glasses if you want to spend the night somewhere other than your home. You never again have to deal with fogged up glasses when coming in from the cold in the winter or the surprisingly excruciating pain of getting an eyelash caught under your contact lens or… well, the list goes on.
And make no mistake, my vision really is terrible. My prescription is -7.5 in one eye and -8.5 in the other. To translate that into laypeople terms, that means that when I walk into the optometrist’s office and they say “Read the smallest line you can read,” I say, “E.” Seriously. I can’t read the second line on the eye chart without my glasses or contacts. Having such terrible vision also means that my glasses are exorbitantly priced. So much so that I’m still wearing the pair I bought when I wen to the U of Guelph², 8 years ago. I haven’t had enough money to buy both glasses *and* contacts since then… even under my current benefits package, I only get enough to buy a year’s worth of contacts, or half a pair of glasses, every second year. And seeing as how I’m so vain and don’t like how I look in glasses, I always go for the contacts.

So now I’m going to go in for some consultations to see if I’m even a candidate for surgery, as apparently not everyone is. I’m not planning to get the surgery done until August, after the summer hockey season starts but before the winter hockey season begins, but I’d rather find out now if I not suitable for surgery rather than having my hopes up all summer.

The two places I’m considering are:

Photo credit: deqalb on Flickr

My own optometrist got her surgery done at Pacific and I’m thinking that if she trusts them with her eyes, they must be good! However, if I go there it will cost me $3900, plus post-surgery follow up visits. If I go to Coal Harbour, which I’ve also heard very good things about, it will only cost me $2400, including follow up visits. Now, I don’t want to cheap out when it comes to my vision, but I also don’t want to pay twice as much as I have to if it’s not actually a better service. My plan right now is to go to consultations at both and to ask the doctors at both places why there is such a price discrepancy. I’m especially curious as to why the former charges more if you have a higher prescription, while the later charges a flat fee regardless of your prescription. I can’t see why the cost should change depending on your ‘script… doesn’t the surgery take the same amount of time and effort regardless? I suppose I’ll know more once I talk to the docs.

In the meantime, does anyone out there have any thoughts on this? Does anyone know one or the other (or both) of these Centres? Any thoughts?

¹I have heard two stories of a friend-of-a-friend who had problems, but not about anyone in who is in Canada.
² where the student health plan covered glasses



et cetera