Thursday, May 11, 2006


While riding with Daddy today my eyes began to tear up. I was glad when Daddy told me "I believe you completely" but I wasn't sure if he believed my fib that the bright lights made me cry. We were talking about LASIK, or "Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis." Essentially, this is refractive laser surgery for the eyes, meaning it permanently re-sculpts your cornea in such a way that you regain perfect 20/20 vision. This had been here in the Philippines ever since I was eighteen - the minimum age for such corrective eye surgery. But I could not avail of it back then because the degree of impairment of my vision then had not stabilized. More importantly, it was a new technology and one had to be wary of new technology, especially one as life-changing as making a "seeing" patient see even better without implements like eyeglasses or contact lenses.

So there I was, riding with Daddy in the late summer rain, telling him that it was never my fault I was such a klutz. My recent Vietnam trip with my family proved to me what I already knew all along - when one's eyesight is bad, corrective implements can only work so hard to help improve it. There I was falling over myself, over things, over my poor "assistants" (my hapless, patient and loving family) even. In fact what convinced me to have LASIK done was getting a rather deep wound on my knee after falling on gravel on my FIRST day in Ho Chi Minh City (and we were there for only FOUR days). On one hand, I was too busy trying to achieve the perfect angle for pictures using our digital camera (which was stolen exactly three days later in the country). It is also true that frequent bouts of near-fatal illnesses in my early childhood years have ruined my locomotive skills and sense of balance; the most I could do while I fell was to make sure my head didn't hit the gravel first. But I could've sworn that the little raised piece of cement separating the asphalt road from the gravel soil of the war tanks on permanent exhibit called the bar blended so well into the road under the glare of the sun.

For those who know me and follow this weblog, I'm sure you're all thinking, "Why?" I know I'm young, and my eyesight remained at 350(right eye)/600(left eye). But I AM YOUNG, and already everything to me is literally a mass of depthless, shapeless blurs. I can't count how many times I've nearly gotten run over by speeding vehicles just because I can't estimate how far they are from me. My "souvenir" from Ho Chi Minh City wasn't the first of many imprints on my skin; a good number of which came from my old home. My professor in creative writing class last summer forced us to read Diane Ackerman's "The Natural History of the Senses" (excellent book, by the way), and was THRILLED to find out that I was the most severely visually impaired seeing person in class, and used me as a perfect example to illustrate the book's point that visually impaired seeing people literally see things differently. I had to describe to her that I couldn't see the trees, the grills, the lawn and the sky outside my window, but just the rearranged vomit of green, brown-black, black, and blue cut piecemeal. (Of course, the book said that visually impaired seeing people also make the best painters, and cited an entire painting movement - expressionism, with all its dots and strokes - to prove the point. This makes me wonder why I never bothered to shift into, much less fight for, my original college course of choice, fine arts, instead.)

Yes, I've decided to end fifteen years of clumsiness brought about by severely impaired vision. I waited nearly my entire current life to find a cure for my near-sightedness, and I won't wait a second more. Of course I know it isn't easy, but I am optimistic that it would be much better than falling all over myself, or becoming a victim of a hit-and-run incident just because I can't tell how far or near a car is from me. As much as I have loved using my glasses, and would never, EVER consider replacing them with contact lenses, my dependence on them and on other people to watch over me when these glasses fail me have made me unable to be a bit more carefree, a bit more relaxed, and a lot more able to enjoy my young life with few worries.

Author's Warning: I cannot stress enough that this process can lead to complications if it is not done by a VERY experienced eye surgeon. Therefore, those who decide to subject themselves to it MUST be no younger than 21 years of age, and MUST know what they are going to get themselves into. The LASIK Eye Surgery website is an excellent primer on this, but search engines like Google can also help provide links to more information. If you are ultimately convinced, like myself, that LASIK is the only cure to your problem, Godspeed.

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