that one time i had lasers fired into my eyes


While this is very specifically a “What’s going on in your life” blog, I just can’t take a nap when it comes to the fact that this past Friday I had lasik surgery on my eyes to correction my nearsighted, clinically referred to as “severe myopia”, or “mothafucka you cain’t see shit!”.

I’m a researcher.  My personality type, INTJ, is generally referred to as “Mastermind” or “Architect”, and is typified by an overemphasis on logic, research, contingency planning, and not being able to sit through small talk (really).  As an INTJ, it’s incredibly appropriate that when it comes to purchases of say, large electronics, that I might research them for months prior to settling on the right decision.  When it came to choosing a Dr. to carve my eyes with lasers, it seemed at least worthy of a brief jaunt to

As it happens, Yelp rates everything, and when it comes to economically priced eye surgery in Los Angeles, there two men to go to:  Dr. Lee.

What?  Ok, so to explain.  In Koreatown, there are TWO “Dr. Lee’s” that do only lasik eye surgeries.  I went to the first Dr. Lee, Dr PAUL Lee, who is very handsome and smiley, and has his operation in a rough stretch of Koreatown on the second floor of a shady Korean mini-mall.  Almost all Koreatown businesses are in shady mini-malls, but this one is particularly mysterious.  They hand you pamphlets and talk to you about your eyes, and how you’re a good candidate, and then very attractive assistants schedule you for a tentative procedure date, and discuss payment, and it all feels like you’re pitching in on a timeshare.

I then went to another asian eye doctor, who was a great devil on my shoulder as being skeptical of lasik, and what the reasonable exceptions should be, and the various dangers. The main points:  lasik very very rarely “fails”, in that you would have significant loss of vision and ocular damage.  There are a great deal of disappointing results you need to consider.  First, your correction may not be “perfect” the first time, or ever.  If the procedure doesn’t make you 20/20, you may very well be left with a correction that’s not worth fixing with a follow up surgery.  Say, in my case, you’re a -7.5 (where your focus ends about 5 inches from your eyeballs), and your surgery fixes you to within 0.75, are you really going to go through the pain and recovery of another surgery?  Very likely not.  Also, your Dr is going to be reluctant to do the operation, because the second one is more risky, and harder to improve upon.  So you may require reading/driving glasses anyway.  This is very possible.

Also, lasik patients can have greatly diminished night vision primarily caused by glare and “halo” of lights.  If these factors don’t scare you away from paying between 1500 and 5000 dollars for a man to spend 10 minutes cutting open your eyes, then you may be the perfect candidate for lasik eye surgery.

After meeting with my Devil’s Advocate eye Doc, I took his advice to get a consult with LEE #2, Dr. JOSEPH Lee, whose practice is older, and whose Yelp’s are equally as ebullient.

I eventually went with Joseph Lee for the following reasons:

1)  He had a very compelling theoretical narrative about how his (admitted very few) negative reviews on Yelp were the secret doing of Dr. Paul Lee in order to steal his business.

2)  He develops and patents his own inventions (even to the point of showing me a video demonstration of his newest one on his iphone, but only after having me sign an impromptu, handwritten contract that i would not disclose.  Really).

3) He is a master ping pong player.

4)  He’s kind of OCD and overly fastidious.  I don’t want a super casual surgeon, I want a guy who is a little obsessive about everything he does.

5)  He calibrates his own equipment.

6)  His operation is only on the first floor of the building (Paul Lee’s machines were on the second floor, which makes them vastly more susceptible to vibration of passersby, trucks, or say…earthquakes).

So lasik can be performed on a lot of different machines, but the illusion that you’re going to lay down in a room on a super futuristic machine that is going to triangulate the planes of your corneas, and painlessly launch lasers into your globes is all malarky.

What REALLY happens is you wait for 3 hours, they do follow up test to make sure your eyes are in the same shape as during your consultation, they give you a sheet of instructions, some goggles to wear at night, FOR A MONTH! so you don’t scratch/rub/destroy your new retinal shape in your sleep, and a bunch of bottles of drops for afterward, make sure you have a ride home, put a shower cap on your ass, make you take your glasses off, then it’s showtime”.

The pretty assistant shows you how to lay down on basically a dental chair with a big set of electronic boxes at the top, and they swivel you under what looks like a 90s hard drive, and you stare at the green dot, and they keep pouring numbing drops in your eyes, like four times over, because you do NOT need to be feeling this shit.  And they tape your forehead and your chin to the chair, so your ass ain’t moving too much, then they cover the eye they’re not about to ginsu, so you ain’t lookin’ at’m with it, and freaking them out, then they take what looks like one of those wire things that would come in Easter Egg kits when you were a kid that you’d dip the eggs with, they take one of those and jam it around your eyeball, to keep that shit from blinking, and on top of that, they tape your fucking eyelids.

So, now this is some serious Clockwork Orange/12 Monkeys business happening now, and the Dr kind of paints your totally numb eyeball with something that seems to be a soft plastic paintbrush in a number of directions, and tells you everything looks great, keep looking at the green light, perfect, beautiful, great, and then at some point, you have the feeling that paintbrush is no longer a paintbrush and is probably a scalpel, and you’re breaking and LOOKING AT THE DAMN GREEN LIGHT!

And finally he gets to “hard part” where for some totally unknown reason he has to take what feels like a hard flat, glass plunger the size of a 50-cent piece and shove your eyeball back into your head about an inch for five seconds, it gets very dark, and there’s a weird suction, then it just stops.

After this is when they do the freaky part.  Lasik surgery is not technomagic.  Like most superficial surgeries to repair tissue, you’re essentially cutting a piece back, then putting the remainder back on in such a fashion as to create the desired result.  No different with lasik, except in between those two stages, they have to burn you.  In your eye.

So, after the soul sucking part, the d-r tells you it’s time to “lift the flap”.  This means, that the little porthole he’s just created in your eye with his scalpel, he’s going to lift open, so as to access the inside of the Captain’s Quarters otherwise known as your freaking eye guts. So, you’re staring up at the green light, trying SO HARD, to keep staring at it, and they add a red light, just to make sure you’re not stressed or anything, or slacking off, and he takes his scalpel and tilts back, you know, the lens of your eye (hope you weren’t using that), so that the visual field in front of you becomes a raw miasma of pure junk.  What was previously a fuzzy red dot of light is now a totally unfocused, glimmering, disco ball on mescaline shape, boiled down to fuzziness and strange dots that may or not be the reflection of the individual particles of your inner eyeball itself.

And you’re breathing, and then they whip out the laser, which is startling not different from a dentists drill, in that the D-R holds it, points it in your eye, and it makes and unpleasant sound.  However, instead of that dry, dusty smell of your tooth enamel, the burning of eyeball flesh is exactly the same lovely olfactory experience as burning hair.  The cute assistant, for some totally unknown reason, counts off various numbers in ten decimal spots “ten, twenty, fourty, twenty, eighty, ninety”, that definitely isn’t my blood pressure, but could possibly add up to my bill.

Then, after the eyeball burning, they close that porthole flap of your eyeball, wash it with fluid a few more times, and get ready to start on the second verse, which is same as the first.  Each of your saucers takes about five minutes, but they are ten of the longest minutes of your whole worthless little life.

Then you’re done.  I mean, that’s it.  You’re just done.  You slowly stand up, you haven’t been drugged.  You’re stone cold sober, and now it looks like you’re underwater in a really boring pool with a lot of boring white medical equipment and oddly good acoustics.  They sit you down in the hall, take off your shower cap, and give you little unfashionable sunglasses to keep you from poking your own eyes.

They give you a little cup of water and a cocktail of a darvocet, half a valium, and a bigass ibuprofen.  When I realized it was half a valium, I almost choked with laughter and had to refrain from calling after the assistant “unless this comes with a boilermaker, it ain’t gonna do shit, lady”, but I was busy trying to get out of the Terry Gilliam movie I had just been put through.

I had one friend drive me home, and another come and hand me beer and talk off my blind, painful anxiety, both of which I was very grateful for.  Turns out, the operation doesn’t hurt at all, but afterward, you really do have holes burned in your eyes, so for 4-6 hours, it burns like Donald Sutherland in BACKDRAFT, and you feel like a gremlin has secretly packed sand under your eyelids.  You also tear uncontrollable for pretty much that whole time, as tearing is yours eyeball’s only way to say “You paid them to do what!?

After this they strongly recommend you nap, and never, ever write a blog.

They also don’t recommend you watch BLADERUNNER, so that it’s the first movie you will have ever seen with your new eyes.  I kind of assumed they just forgot to mention it though, and did it anyway.

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So, as it turns out, all the real questions about how your surgery went are answered in the weeks and months after your surgery.  Focus, quality of vision, nightvision, these all have to settle like the soil of a recently constructed building.  You’re not 100% sure until the seasons have fused everything in place.

For now I’m watching dodgeball not playing it, I’m going to avoid driving at night, ten times a day I’m dropping liquids into my eyes, and I’m wearing goggles to bed.

So ladies, have you ever seen a pair like these?





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7 responses to “that one time i had lasers fired into my eyes

  1. Wow… This scares the HELL out of me! I had considered doing this at one point since I’m near sighted. But Honestly after reading this and since I tried contacts once… but one of my eyes had a fit and kept spitting it out… I think I will just stick with my glasses. Thanks for sharing this nightmarish experience. Peace and many valiums to you.

  2. Dennis

    Holy christ-fuck, this is the worst thing i can ever imagine paying someone to do to me. I’m really glad it happened to you though, so i could enjoy it.
    Did i ever tell you about the time i had a rectal exam? good good times….

  3. Dan Chung

    Seriously? I had lasik from Dr. Joseph Lee and it was a piece of cake except for the eye pain afterwards but it lasted no longer than four hours and totally went away. Your blog was over the top and soo melodramatic, you sound like a dam whimp and a whiner, you’re scaring and turning people off from having lasik and being free of glasses and contacts. I think LASIK is a miracle, I had -7.50 and -6.50, now I have 20/20 and my eyesight has never been as good with glasses or contacts. The best eyesight I ever had without stinkin glasses or contacts not to mention the freedom. I want to encourage everyone to get the procedure if you can. The results are amazing! People don’t let this account scare you.

    • Mr Chung,

      Do you find anything in my article to be untrue? Personally, I am an advocate of lasik. I wouldn’t have had it done and THEN gone in for a retouching operation months later if I wasn’t. I’m not sure if having this operation twice exempts me from the status of being a wimp and a whiner, as you say. My vision was slightly worse than yours, and I frequently expound upon how effective and miraculous the performance was.

      You didn’t personally find the experience of having your head strapped to a chair and the surface of your eyes opened up, followed by a hot gun searing the matter inside to be somewhat disturbing? Again, I’m an advocate of the procedure, but I think many people are like myself or worse in that they have great anxiety about the idea of surgery on their eyes, and I feel that my particular style of pointed hyperbole might expose persons with a similar disposition to the entire accounting in a way that is more visceral and real than the kind of yahoo answers factoid trash that you can generally google on any medical subject.

      I have described the process honestly, and your tone seems to fall in line with the lackluster, reactionary discourse that pervades the internet. If you’re not familiar with online writing that handles topics in a thorough and nuanced way, I recommend as a great hopping off point.

      Furthermore, if this still fails to satisfy you, I happily challenge you to a gentlemanly game of one-on-one dodgeball. No headshots.

    • Hope by now you’ve developed some self-awareness, this authoritarianism can suck a banana. You get angry way too easy brudda. hesswords gave us the low down we was lookin’ for. Blogs this good are rare.

  4. Alex

    Are you doing better? Did you have any bad side effects like floaters?
    How long after you had the second surgery? Are you happy with results?
    I had the a surgery with lee as well unlike you i had astigmatism and i need a damn second surgery. AHHH I wish i never had done this to begin with.

    • Hi Alex, although it was necessary for me to have a second surgery (with EXTREME myopia it’s very difficult to hit the bullseye the first time around). Since then, I’ve been incredibly happy with the results. I’ve had floaters in my vision my entire life, and I would say I’ve had about a 10-20% increase since my surgeries, but it’s hard to say if that is directly causal. I also had astigmatism in one eye, but it was not very severe, so didn’t really effect my outcome. Years later, I still wouldn’t do anything different. I still recommend Dr. Lee (on Wilshire Blvd near Western, NOT Olympic), and I’ve been hit in the face by countless dodgeball with no obvious ill effects.

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