Sunday, November 26, 2006

Didn't mean to take so long. I was out of town for a week and a half but I figured I'd get to posting part II anyways, but I didn't. Whoops.

Trip Report: Laser Eye Surgery, Part II.

All I know is the next thing I know, my eyes are being yanked open and there's half of a blurry, upside-down face looming above me.

"Hi, I'm Dr. Siems, I'm here to do the surgery." And without any hesitation, suddenly my eyeballs are clamped by what felt like industrial-strength vises.

And so it began.

Words were scarce. In fact, although there were probably some, I can't remember a single word exchanged between doctor and assistant. And aside from one exchange, the only words said to me were two commands, repeated over and over.

"Lean your head back."

"Look down, at the light"

Drugged up as I was, I was having trouble following those simple instructions. I'd tilt my head back and feel like I was holding it there doing a good job, but five seconds later I'd hear it again, "Lean your head back," and I'd realized that somehow my chin had slipped down again. I spent the next day talking to others who had the surgery, and it seemed as though that was a common problem among them, as well. Perhaps a brace of some kind is in order?

The procedure is pretty quick. Each eye only takes a few minutes. The eye is propped open. Then a flap is cut on the surface of the eye. Many doctors use an actual instrument, called a microkeratome, to cut this flap. The doctor I chose uses a laser to cut this flap, called IntraLase. After the flap is cut, it is moved back, so the laser can then be shot into the eye to reshape the cornea. After that, the flap is smoothed back down, and it's onto the next eye.

The entire procedure is supposed to be painless, although sometimes the eye being propped open can be somewhat uncomfortable. For me it definitely was. In fact, I just found a site that instead of using cute, harmless illustrations like most places, has actual pictures of the procedure being done. If I'd seen that site before having my eyes done, I might have lost my resolve.

So my right eye was propped open, and that was pretty uncomfortable. Then the flap was cut, and an instrument was used by the doctor to fold the flap back. Uncharacteristically, however, I could feel that as well! It wasn't overly painful, but I'm a squeamish guy with respects to that kind of stuff--that is stuff touching my eyeball. The eye-puff part of any eye exam is more than I can generally handle. It was quite a hurdle for me to even agree to having the surgery done. Actually feeling instruments on my eyeball had me trying to escape on the table.

Literally, I was trying to escape. I tried to clench my eyes, but they were propped open uncomfortably, and trying to fight the props made it hurt even worse. I kicked my legs, and would have sat up probably if I wasn't so drugged up (and who knows, perhaps I was restrained in some way, as well). I of course vocalized my discomfort using all the grunts in my arsenal.

Then came the laser. My eye was watering and uncomfortable at this point, and it was hard to keep my eye focused on the light. "Look down, at the light." And I did, but like keeping my head back, five seconds later, somehow my eye had lost it again. "Lean your head back. Now look down at the light." Okay, okay, okay, I'm trying.

The laser was red and round and dull except for when one looked right at it at which point it might as well have been the sun, or at least the sun viewed through somewhat tinted windows. I would look at it, and then it would slip away from my vision. Why did it keep doing that? "Look down, at the light!" Oh, right...

Finally that was done, and I got the distinct pleasure of feeling someone smooth the flap back down onto my eye, much like someone rubbing their hand on your arm, except it's on your eyeball. Yuck.

The clamps were removed and my eye mercifully shut closed, watering excessively. I had a fews seconds of relief, thinking it was over, but then my left eye was clamped open and it all happened again. This time it was more painful. Rather than merely feeling it somewhat at a distance, the cutting of the flap and the folding it back was now actually painful. Not extremely painful, but how much pain in one's eye does it take for one to be very, very uncomfortable and unhappy? I lurched around on the bed some more.

"Stop kicking."

"I can feel that!"

"No you can't."

"Yes, I can feel that!"

"You're squinting your eyes, that's what's causing it to hurt."

"I. Can. Fucking. Feel it."

"It's almost over."

It was red light time again, and my left eye was watering even worse than my right was. It was futile trying to focus on the light, as after two seconds, the light again slipped away to the edge of my vision. Being clamped open and unable to blink, my eye was on fire.

"There's only 10 seconds left, please just focus on the light."

No chance. Finally, they squirted stuff into my eye. Suddenly I was able to focus on the light, and when it came time to smooth down the flap, I could see that they were doing it, but I couldn't feel it. At all.

Then it was all done and the next thing I knew I was being led into the post-op room. My vision was blurry for the few times I tried having my eyes open, and it hurt some to have them open anyways, so I resolved to just keep my eyes closed.

Two of my friends were there. Apparently they'd arrived in time to watch the procedure through the glass. Their reaction was something like this:

"Wow. I'm never having that done."

My eyes were squeezed shut. I had on eye covers. Over that, I had on sunglasses. Over those, I put my hands. Yet when I was led out into the sunlight, it felt like my eyes were being pricked with needles. The pamphlet said, "there will be some sensitivity to light immediately following the procedure." No shit.

My friends drove me home, fed me and put me right to bed. It was over.

*****

Needless to say, the next day I was not too happy. I was promised no pain, and yet there had been plenty of pain. I talked to my friends about it. They said after I had the numbing drops put in when I first entered the operating room, I was laying there for about 45 minutes. The nurse had told me, of course, that the drops would last about 30 minutes. Oops.

There was a 24-hour follow-up appointment. I went, and the waiting room was filled with people carefully moving about, all wearing the cheap sunglasses they give you for the "slight" light sensitivity. I talked to some other patients who had their eyes done the same day as me. One woman also felt pain. She had a slightly different procedure done, one that took two different lasers in different rooms. In the first room she had the same thing done I had but didn't feel anything. Then she was moved to a second room where she had to wait a while and when she was finally worked on, she was feeling pain.

I of course didn't see Dr. Siems, but other doctors in the practice. I told one about the fact that I was on the table waiting for 45 minutes before I was worked on, and how I could feel pain. She seemed genuinely apologetic, and told me that for some other procedures they keep track of when the numbing drops are administered, but for the Lasik, they don't (although, she said, they probably should). Hmm...that seems negligent to me.

*****

So how is it? It's been over two weeks, and so far, so good. The first few days were pretty bad. It wasn't painful, but my vision was very, very hazy. Not blurry, but hazy. They tested my vision during that follow-up visit and said I was seeing slightly better than 20/20. However, lights, especially lights in pretty dark environments, were problematic. All lights had heavy halos around them. The best I can describe it is it's like how things look right after swimming for a long time in a heavily-chlorinated pool. Driving at night, especially in such a flashy place as Las Vegas, was quite the experience.

Over time my eyes improved. Now, there's still halos but they're very, very, slight. I actually have to concentrate to realize I still see them a bit. My vision still seems excellent. Another follow-up appointment is scheduled for tomorrow, so we'll see if my vision has changed much since the day after--some people have their vision slowly improve over a matter of a couple weeks. I had one friend go from 20/30 the day after to 20/15 after a few weeks.

The only other annoyance with the procedure, besides spending a week with all the visual effects of a weak acid trip (but, alas, none of the mental), was the eye drops. For the first week, I had prescription eye drops. 30 a day. So, on average, every half hour while I was awake I had to be putting in some kind of drops. But that's only for a week. Now, the only drops I have to put in are over-the-counter moisturizing drops. My use of them went from hourly, to every two hours, and now I'm down to about once every four hours or so, even in such a dry climate as Las Vegas, and spending half my awake hours staring at a computer screen.

Despite the clear lack of organization on the part of the office--everything from simply not looking at my file, to letting the numbing drops wear off before doing the procedure--I'm happy with the results. I can see and I'm free of glasses. My experience is downright atypical, as I know a few people who've had the procedure, and not a one experienced any pain. So hopefully I didn't scare off too many people who were considering having Lasik done. You just may want to try a different doctor than me.

*****

Next post will be back to poker. I'll update on what I've been doing (drastic cut in playing hours, playing almost exclusively PLO) and also give a trip report of my brief shot at 25/50 NL at the Bellagio. And I promise it won't take me 12 days to get around to it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I got tired about halfway through, so I'm splitting this into two parts. I'll get around to part two within the next few days.

Trip Report: Laser Eye Surgery, Part I.

So at 10:30am on Thursday the 9th I show up at Siems Advanced Lasik & Eye Center prepared to have my eyes zapped. The theme of the day would be "disorganization."

I talk to the girl at the front counter and am asked "are you having surgery today?" Why yes, yes I am. I'm then given a short stack of papers to fill out--medical history, emergency contact info, insurance info, signatures, etc. Except...that I filled out the exact same forms on my previous visit. But whatever, I fill them out again. They then take a $100 deposit, for whatever reason.

I'm then led into the back for my eye exam. I'm again asked, "Are you having surgery today?" Yeeeesssss. Then, "When was the last time you had your eyes examined?" Oh about a month ago, you know, last time I was in here? "Ohhh, let me go get your file."

After the cursory eye exam, I'm led to another room where a doctor comes in, again asks me if I'm having surgery today, and then proceeds to give me a more in-depth exam. This one included numbing my eyeballs so they could perform some up close and personal tests. I have to say, I've never had numb eyeballs before, and it was quite the experience. I didn't even realize I could feel my eyeballs until I couldn't any more. Walking around after that second eye exam, I just wanted to stop people as they went past, grab them by the shoulders and exclaim, "this....is so....WEIRD!!!" But I restrained myself.

At this point, I'm led back into the head salesman/negotiator's office where he asks if I have any more questions and we talk money. Like a good salesman, he of course gets me to give a price first.

Me: "I just wanted to double-check the price again."

Him: "Did we quote you a price before?"

Me: "Yes"

Him: "What did we quote you? It's probably gone up since the last time we talked."

I tell him what I was quoted.

Him: "Oh, that's a thousand off our regular price, but I'll tell you what, we'll let you have it at that price, with the thousand off."

Me, thinking he'd say that even if I had said the quoted price was a million dollars: "..."

I'm then led into the small pre-op room, where the lights are low and soothing music is playing. I'm given Valium and Xanax. I sit in a comfy chair. I then wait. Finally I'm led into the operating room.

This room is large and well-lit and very white, with a rather cold-looking table in the center, straddled by two medium-sized hunks of machinery that I assume are the lasers. One side of the room has a large glass pane in place of the wall, so observers can watch. I'm feeling pretty nifty at this point thanks to being doped up more than I've ever been since high school. Another assistant is there and I begin talking/flirting with her even though looking back on it she probably wasn't too flirt-worthy. From her reactions, she felt the same about me. She administers more eye-numbing drops, and I ask her how long the numbing will last. "Oh about 30 minutes." Doped up as I was, I very may have replied, "grooovy."

She lays me down on the table, and the room is freezing, so I'm given a big stuffed dog named Daisy to hold and a blanket to cover me. I'm told to lay down and relax and the doctor will be in shortly. Laying down, under a blanket and drugged up, I close my eyes and just enjoy the random thoughts going through my head. I may very well have fallen asleep, although it's hard to say. All I know is the next thing I know, my eyes are being yanked open and there's half of a blurry, upside-down face looming above me.

"Hi, I'm Dr. Siems, I'm here to do the surgery." And without any hesitation, suddenly my eyeballs are clamped by what felt like industrial-strength vises.

And so it began.

To be continued...

Monday, November 06, 2006

So somehow during my break I've managed to have the worst downswing of my poker career.

I took a few days off then tried some PLO, as described in the last post. It went okay, so I tried it again the next day. I got slaughtered.

Took a few more days off. Then decided to give LHE a try. Had a decent first day. Gave it a try the next day. Another slaughter.

Took a few more days off. Tried some SNGs last night. Let's just say I'm now 0 for 3 in my non-NLHE games.

So the past (almost) month I've played about 1/4 the number of hands I normally play and have managed to lose more money then I ever have before, peak to valley. Arrgh! I need Party Poker back! I can't beat any other sites! Full Tilt, Stars, Absolute--all rigged dammit.

I'd post hands but I've whined enough. Just two and three outers up the wazoo, a nice gutshot straight flush coming in against my top full house, and really, so many more I can't even remember specific hands any more. Blarg.

In other news, I'm scheduled to have laser eye surgery on Thursday. So maybe once I do that I can finally take a real break before I maul my bankroll so much I have to start playing 2/4 LHE again.