This is what my world looks like without corrected vision. I’m severely myopic (well, in vision anyway) so 11 years ago I started researching permanent correction. I found it uncomfortable to wear contacts and my lenses were so thick that much of my vision was distorted from them.
LASIK was still in its infancy and there were several controversies swirling around PRK. A co-worker had RK (radial keratotomy) done on her eyes and swore by it. A local doctor had years and years of experience performing RK so I went to him with questions in hand.
In hindsight I think he was more of a used car salesman than doctor, but that’s another story. He reassured me, with the confidence of a bull fighter, that although there were some risks, they could be easily corrected. With the exception of blindness (!), something he had never experienced and which was nearly always caused by post-operative infections.
Although I was nervous the day of the procedure, I told myself everything would be fine and forged ahead. I was the doc’s last appointment of the day, and that probably should have rung some bells. Especially since he was in a hurry to leave because of a daughter’s recital.
That day turned out to be a nightmare and a bit of a watershed moment in my life. In his haste, he cut too deeply and collapsed the cornea. A couple of weeks later, when my vision continued to be horrible, he decided to “fix” his error by putting in a pursestring stitch in an effort to steepen the cornea. Not only didn’t it work, it was painful and created an irregular cornea so a contact lens won’t seat properly.
One of the consequences of this unfortunate surgery is that I went from being more of an extrovert to an introvert. For several years I was nearly agoraphobic because I couldn’t see well enough to feel confident of my surroundings. I’m forced to wear a contact lens in my one good eye and the other eye basically shuts down. It means limited peripheral vision and I really should not drive in the dark.
To make matters even worse, the weekend after the 2004 election I suffered a detached retina in my good eye. I had emergency surgery and the miracle doc who operated on me saved my vision (and basically my life). But I have some scar tissue on the sclera now which means the contact lens doesn’t fit as well as before.
I have spent thousands and thousands of dollars in an effort to restore my vision. Nothing has worked. My only hope at this point is for a corneal transplant, which currently has a very low success rate. But stem cell research might change all that if I were able to produce a cornea from my own cells.
So you can imagine my delight when I read recently that one of Obama’s first actions might be to overturn the ban on publicly funding stem cell research. Such research might not save my life, but it will make an immeasurably large difference to the quality of my life.