He's studying eye surgery, but he's not a good pupil

June 08, 2000|By Kevin Cowherd

FROM ALL indications, there are only about a dozen people in the entire United States who haven't had laser vision correction surgery, me being one of them.

A friend of mine just had it done and she keeps chirping: "It's great! I can see! And they don't even give you anesthesia!"

Which to me is not exactly a good thing.

Look, if they're shooting lasers into my eyes, I want anesthesia, OK?

I want to be out like someone whacked me over the head with a shovel.

Either that or I want an open bar in the waiting room.

Because I don't see going through something like that without sedation of some sort.

Instead, all they do before the procedure is put numbing drops in your eyes.

Yep, that's it! Numbing drops!

To me, this is like a surgeon getting ready to crack your chest open for heart surgery, when suddenly he puts down the bone saw and says: "Here, take a couple of Advil first."

One thing I've noticed is that all these laser vision correction centers seem to advertise themselves as being the best in their field.

But think about it -- they can't all be the best. There have to be some that are just, well, average, even though that's not something a patient wants to think about.

Let's face it, no one wants to turn to a colleague at the office and announce: "Yeah, I'm having LASIK surgery Tuesday. And the guy doing it is strictly OK."

Me, I don't want a guy working on my eyes who finished 50th in a class of 100 on his medical boards. Or a guy with a medical degree from, say, the University of Northern Aruba.

By the same token, there has to be one laser vision correction center that's the worst one around, too.

There has to be one where the docs show up in Hawaiian shirts and give you pre-op instructions while studying the Racing Form.

There has to be one where they're aiming the laser at a patient's eye and the doctor says: "Aw, maybe it's a micron or two off, but so what? We're late for lunch. Hit the button, Fred."

The other thing all these laser vision correction centers do is advertise how many surgeries they've done.

"Choose the experts who have performed more than 20,000 LASIK procedures," one ad proclaims.

Which is all well and good, I suppose.

But I'd be more interested in how many of those 20,000 surgeries significantly improved the patient's eyesight, and how many left the patient believing that Catherine Zeta-Jones looks like Ernest Borgnine.

What really cracks me up is that they're doing this kind of surgery in malls now.

Think about that: eye surgery in malls!

This means you could actually have the procedure done and then stagger over to Sbarro for a slice of pizza, if you're up to it.

In some of these mall vision centers, they even perform the surgery in glassed-in rooms that allow passers-by to observe what's going on.

I'm sorry, but this would be entirely too casual a setting for me.

If someone's shooting a laser into my eyes, I want to be in a hospital operating room, with a lot of people in green scrubs swarming around me. I want IV lines snaking out of my arms and nurses watching heart monitors and a team of cardiologists standing by in case something goes wrong.

I don't want to look up and see some kid with green hair and an eyebrow ring with his nose pressed against the window mouthing: "Dude, this is so cool!"

Or when my doctor's adjusting the laser for a precise zapping of my corneas, I don't want the manager of Sam Goody's rapping on the glass and shouting: "Doc, that Dylan tape you ordered is in."

Call me old-fashioned, but I think you need a little peace and quiet when shooting a laser beam at someone's corneas.

And if you're the person undergoing the procedure, it's probably best that the first thing you see with your new vision is not a bunch of fat guys in "Glen Burnie Softball" jackets gawking at you.

The procedure, after all, is not reversible.

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