When I was thirty-seven-years-old, I was told I could no longer wear contact lenses. Not since the eighth grade had I slipped on a pair of eyeglasses during regular work or school hours, and I found myself at nearly forty, staring in the mirror, with the fuzzy-haired, white-pocked pimple-faced adolescent I remembered staring right back. Although many, many people can wear glasses and look fantastic doing it, I am not one of them.
I tried changing my mindset. I bought a pair of bejeweled Versace’s, thinking, these aren’t regular eyeglasses, these are Versace’s! But still, across every reflecting surface looking back at me was the girl with bad skin, the one who wouldn’t grow into her front teeth until she was at least twenty.
With a mixture of desperation and conviction, I knew that something else could be done. I started looking into LASIK eye surgery. The price, in general, wasn’t too bad—though my husband had hoped I would want to keep the money and save for a breast augmentation instead. When I said, “Nope, I’m getting my eyes done,” after the initial let down, I swear I heard him humming Danny Boy somewhere in the basement, Brian was on board.
I visited every conceivable eye facility possible, even a sketchy one in the Holiday area that could have been the back of a Semi-truck, which convinced me to aim a bit higher—someplace without the guarantee of partial blindness and perpetual pink-eye afterward.
I went to Hoopes Vision in Draper. It was a beautiful place, all glass and lunar lighting, plush couches, and sparkling chandeliers. I was given an eye exam and had my eyes dilated for the third time in two days, and was led to a consolation room to wait. A man in a white lab coat and receding hairline strode into the room like he owned the place, which he actually did. He was Dr. Phillip C. Hoopes, Sr. the head honcho of Hoopes Vision.
He hadn’t even sat down when I asked him about a discount. He withdrew his outstretch hand, threw his pen across the room, and yelled, “You want a discount? You’ll get discounted surgery!” and then he stomped out. I sat for a while, scared, feeling very, very confused and guilty that I had even asked about a deal.
Soon, a second man entered, also in a lab coat, only he didn’t walk in like he owned the place, more like he simply worked there—which was the case. He asked me what happened. I gave him the play-by-play and apologized. He sighed then said, “Yeah, Dr. Hoopes Sr. does that.”
The man went over what all the others had told me, that because of thin corneas, I wasn’t a good candidate for LASIK and should consider PRK instead. PRK stands for Photorefractive Keratectomy in which the cornea is actually scrapped off completely, and a new one grows back in its place. It’s the preferred surgery for Fighter Pilots—who am I to argue with Top Gun?
When I was told that it would, in fact, be Dr. Hoopes Sr. who would do my procedure, I decided to take my cheap eyes someplace else. I went to the Eye Institute of Utah, who didn’t offer the same glittering pizzazz but did offer me a student discount first thing! Nice! By the way, I should note that Hoopes Vision does offer discounts, now.
Anyway, on the day of the surgery, I arrived early in the morning. I was given a green apple Jolly Rancher and washed it down with a Valium. In the middle of the surgical room, I laid back on a recliner. Each of my eyes was given eye drops, and both the top and bottom lids were taped wide open. While one eye was being worked on, the other was tucked under what looked to be the scoop part of a black plastic spoon.
I sat, staring at the ceiling as a small gardening hoe-like tool the size of a toothpick then glided over the surface of my eye cutting hoe-like slices as it went.
The procedure was quick—I still had the sour apple as well as the Valium bitter aftertaste on my tongue when it was over. I was fitted with protective lenses to keep air from my exposed nerve endings, plus a set of light-blocking goggles and was sent home.
“It’ll feel like sand is in your eyes,” I was told before and after the surgery. I hadn’t realized what that meant at the time:
See, when sand blows into your eyes, it stings. Tears well up until that piece of broken-down granite is either dissolved or flooded out. But, what happens if tears aren’t produced, your eyes are glued open, and your face is then dragged side to side, forward and back across a sandy beach? Horrible, horrible, eyes-scooped-out-by-a-melon-baller-then-dosed-with-lemon-juice-knuckles-gouged-on-a-cheese-grater type of pain!
I didn’t sleep. Any hint of light was like a shard of glass carving into my ocular cavity and painkillers were as helpful as taking Tic-Tacs for a hysterectomy.
At two o’clock in the morning after going three days without sleep, Brian took me back to the Eye Institute where the on-call doctor, a Reese Whitherspoon doppelganger who was mad we woke her, met us. She checked each eye and discovered my protective lenses were too small and were acting like a vice on my eyeballs. She switched out the lenses. Immediately, the puncturing pain subsided, and I went home. I slept.
Overall, I don’t regret having PRK. Five years later I still have nearly 20/20 vision, and as an added bonus my husband Brian got a joke out of it. When asked why I had eye surgery he chimes in saying, “she wanted to make her eyes bigger” and laughs.