Wednesday, May 20, 2009

One-Year Eye-niversary

Many a bee has blogged about significant celebrations, often, in the process, creating a term to describe the event, like the engage-a-versary, the meet-a-versary, the date-a-versary...even the pre-versary.

Well, here's a new one. One year ago, I made my most expensive wedding purchase to date... eyes! About a week ago, I celebrated my left eye-niversary, and now I'm coming up on my right eye-niversary. Okay, let me explain...

I'd had very poor vision for most of my life. For ten years, contact lenses were a perfectly acceptable solution -- they weren't always 100% comfortable, but they permitted me to see clearly and not be self-conscious in glasses (since I required a strong prescription that resulted in thick lenses).

In spring 2007, though, I started experiencing considerable pain while wearing my contacts. My optometrist was stumped, so after several months, and on BruschettAunt Cino's recommendation, I sought the opinion of an ophthalmologist.

At my first visit, Dr. Stein entered the treatment room, and immediately asked if I'd ever been diagnosed with rosacea. I was taken aback, since my skin doesn't exhibit any of the hallmark redness or bumps of the skin disease. Although I resisted this diagnosis, Dr. Stein's initial observation did in fact accurately identify the issue I'd been having with my contacts. My rosacea doesn't impact my skin much, but it did render me unable to wear contact lenses without feeling extreme discomfort and exhibiting itchy, red eyes far worse than my most severe seasonal allergies.

You may have noticed that in one of my previous posts, I'm wearing small-framed glasses. I really did enjoy my funky frames, but after wearing lenses for over 10 years, I knew I didn't want to spend the rest of my life exclusively in glasses.

And yet, that was the decision I was facing: glasses (forever) or corrective vision surgery. For me, it really wasn't a tough choice -- especially since I'd always had the idea in the back of my mind that I would, one day, "fix" my vision for good. It's true my rosacea did inspire me to act more quickly than I'd been planning -- I had originally envisioned (::wink wink::) waiting until I was at least in my mid-30s before seriously considering an operation. So, I researched my options, read through studies, and made sure I was totally comfortable with the process before proceeding.

Said abysmal vision -- coupled with the tendency for my eyes to get dry very easily -- meant I wasn't a candidate for LASIK. Fortunately, there was a lesser-known option -- which has been used in Europe for about 15 years, and in the U.S. for the past five -- for which I did qualify: ICL, which stands for implantable collamer lens.

I won't go into the nitty-gritty details of the operation here (for any sensitive stomachs out there), but you can read about it here, or PM me to hear more about my experience. Honestly, the thought of this procedure disgusted me early on, but after I considered the alternative and met my surgeon, Dr. Wallace, I realized ICL was a great way to fix a vexing problem.

Each surgery (yes, one per eye, two weeks apart -- thus two eye-niversaries) went very well, and Dr. Wallace (with whom I've had several follow-ups during this first year of new eye-dom) has repeatedly told me that she’s “very pleased” and “so happy.” Having gone from a -7.0 PWR (yeah, that doesn't make any sense to me, either -- trust me, I couldn't read any of the letters on the doctor's charts without glasses) to my 20/20 vision amazes me on a daily basis, so I echo her sentiments.

(For you number crunchers out there, here's the not-so-fun news: Yes, ICL is expensive -- about double the cost of LASIK, in fact. However, I was able to secure a two-year, zero interest financing plan for my new eyes. And, after doing the math, I realized the cost -- which includes all post-operative care, the two custom-made implantable lenses and as well as the operations -- is equal to the amount I would have spent on new glasses or contact lens prescriptions for the rest of my life.)

I hope the hive won't judge me too harshly for going through with an elective procedure that was (admittedly) inspired by my upcoming wedding. Was it a little vain? Maybe. But not a day goes by that I don't stop and think -- often with a big, goofy grin on my face -- about how amazing it is that I'm seeing oh-so clearly without the assistance of glasses or contacts.

Are you celebrating any unique anniversaries? Did you push up any medical procedures with your wedding in mind?

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