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We've Only Just Begun | Oct 22, 2004 15:55

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I've had a number of emails asking for the promised account of my laser eye surgery. If you're just concerned for my wellbeing, the short answer is "it went fine, thanks". If you're one of those people who likes poking sticks at dead things and wants the gory details, read on.

By the time last Friday rolled around, I was getting a little apprehensive. I've done some pretty cool things this year, skydiving for the first time, diving the Poor Knight Islands, and I've been impressed (and surprised) with how calmly I've approached them, if I do say so myself. However neither of these involved willingly slicing and burning a valuable part of my anatomy, so perhaps you can understand my nerves.

As I sat in the waiting room and re-read the same paragraph from a Time Magazine article on John Kerry over and over, I tried reading with one eye closed. Just to see - just in case. Not so bad I thought. I could live with one eye. At least it wouldn't be all droopy, like John Kerry's.

The music was doing my head in. What is it about Karen and Richard Carpenter that is supposed to relax people in times of crisis? The woman died at aged thirty-two from heart failure caused by chronic anorexia nervosa - she's not exactly an advertisement for the soothing quality of their saccharine ballads.

Anyway, after a little wait - "we'll be underway as soon as Dr X deigns us worthy of his presence" - I was taken through to the operating theatre's anteroom. Would I like a sedative? Are the Kennedy's gun-shy? I was dressed in a gown, a shower-cap and some booties over my shoes. The nurse then cleaned my eye area, put some drops in which, once the insane stinging passes, numbs the eye. I was then ushered into the theatre.

As soon as I lay down, everything happened pretty quickly. My right eye was covered, presumably to prevent any collateral damage. My left eye was taped and clamped until it was as open as a garden centre on Easter. It's quite odd being physically unable to blink, but still having the twitches telling you you're doing so. Also, because it's very hard to close just one eye, my right remained open the entire time, streaming with tears in a show of solidarity.

A suction thing was placed on my eye. "The vacuum means you won't be able to see for a moment, it's quite normal". It seemed pretty dark inside that suction cup anyway, I don't think I was missing a whole lot.

In simple terms, this is how LASIK laser surgery works. A little machine sits on your eye, and cuts a wee semi-circle into the top layer. This little flap is then lifted up, and all the lasering is done underneath. The flap is then put back down. The other, older method (although still used in some cases) involved taking off the whole top layer of the cornea, and took a lot longer to heal,

So the little cutting machine was on my eye. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz it went, but I didn't feel a thing. Was it slicing my eye, or just revving its tiny engine in anticipation of the task ahead of it? When the surgeon removed the little machine from its corneal habitat, I suspected the former. With a tiny pair of tweezers, or at least a normal pair of tweezers with a tiny end (thus being easier for a surgeon with normal sized fingers than a tiny pair of tweezers would be, even after heaps of practice) he confirmed my suspicions, by pulling back the top of my eye.

Clear. Blurry. That's the difference between what things look like with the top of your eye in place, and once it's been peeled back. It looks a bit like this:

…except less like someone has just used the 'smudge' tool on a photo of some surgeons.

As soon as I realised what happened, my stomach had a wee turn. Understandable, I think you'll agree. And then the nurse started counting. "5 seconds….10 seconds… 15 seconds". I worked out that was the time my thin piece of sticky eye cellophane had been peeled back. After 30 seconds or so, I was told to look straight into the red light. Easy for them to say, I thought, they still have the front of their eyes.

So I starred at the big blurry red light above me. It started clicking like the ignition in a car that won't even turn over. I smelt something a bit like burning hair, but more like eye. In spite of the fact a laser was now systematically disintegrating my stoma - and I could smell it - I didn't feel any pain. After a few seconds the clicking stopped. Pause. "Forty-three percent" said the nurse. Click click click. Burn burn burn. "Seventy-one percent" said the nurse. It was like being part of some war simulation.

Once the lasering itself was over (half a minute, tops), the surgeon put the top of my eye back. For the next few minutes he took his time smoothing it back down, ensuring it was perfectly in place. I was quite glad he took the time, but seeing him do it (and feeling a faint pressure on my eye) made me feel a bit queasy again. Eventually he was happy, and I was ushered out with a clear plastic cover over my eye. I could see, kinda.

The rest is all pretty uneventful. I went home and slept for a couple of hours. My eye felt scratchy, and I took a couple of Panadeine every few hours to stave off an unfortableness. The next morning I had my eye cover removed, and to my relief, most of the strangeness in my vision had been due to the warps in the plastic, rather than my post-operative cornea.

Since then, I've had two sets of eye drops, four times a day, finishing today. My eye is occasionally a bit irritable after hours working in air-conditioning, but that seems to be improving daily. I now see just as well with my left eye as I do with my contact-lensed right. I wondered why I was ever so paranoid as to book my second operation a fortnight after the first. Still, better safe than sorry I guess, who knows what could've happened?

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I love the smell of retina in the morning | Oct 14, 2004 22:19

In case you missed it from the wee sidebar on page A5 of the Herald yesterday:

"Paul Ellis, manager of NZ Idol runner-up Michael Murphy, yesterday issued the following statement: "In an article in the New Zealand Herald on September 6, I made comments about Robyn Gallagher.

"In retrospect and on further information, I regret that I made assumptions about Ms Gallagher, and I am sorry for any distress that I caused her."

'nuff said.

"I never should've had that trendy laser eye surgery. Who could've known after ten years your eyes just fall out!" - Ned Flanders

I get the first of my eyes lasered in a couple of hours time. So by the time many of you read this, I'll either be the bionic man, or a pirate. Either way I'll be happy, Arrrrrrrr.

According to what I've been told (and let me tell you, it seems everyone knows at least one story about laser eye surgery gone wrong) you can actually smell your own eye burning. My pre-op notes tell me it smells like burning hair. That, for me, is going to be one of the highlights.

I'll let you know what it was like in the next couple of days. Wish me luck.

And do read the Lange speech. Those of you who know who Lange is, of course. I read Tom Scott's piece in the latest Listener (off-line only, I'm afraid) in which he describes a phone call from someone involved in the marketing of his Lange doco.

"What's it about?" the woman asked.

"David Lange."

"Oh. Who's he?"

Sadly, it's not an isolated incident. In my job-before-last, at a media monitoring agency, I came across a number of young (early twenties) "educated" people who couldn't spell Lange. 'Longey' was the most common attempt.

"You don't know show to spell David Lange?" I'd ask.

"Who's David Longey?" they'd respond.

"Don't they teach you hist…" I stopped myself before my father's words came out of my mouth. Those of you with children, it might be time for some enlightened dinner-table discussion.

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Don't Leave Town 'til You've Seen the Country | Oct 12, 2004 09:43

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So Queenstown. Wow.

The trip started off most unpromisingly. Halfway through the flight down there, the pilot informed us the autopilot wasn't working, and we were going to have to detour to Christchurch for it to be fixed. No offence to any Cantabrians, but I would have rather been sat next to Susan Devoy for the entire flight than have to spend time in Christchurch.

As it was, we sat onboard the grounded plane for an hour, looking at the heavily overcast Christchurch sky, and the rain slowly drizzling down the plane's little windows. Like people do when they're on holiday, I took a photo of it.

As we sat, I contemplated. Is there anyone who takes so little milk, or such a meagre portion of sugar, that those little UHT pottles and sachets of sugar are sufficient? I also wondered why you need an autopilot on a flight that's only two hours long, and how long does it take to fix a puncture?

An hour and a bit later, we landed in Queenstown, where the weather was fortunately a lot better than its godforsaken mainland associate. In fact, with the cherry blossoms in full effect, the town was covered in a spray of white and pink. Once again, Queenstown had outdone itself.

I'm amazed how many kiwis haven't been to Queenstown before. I can't think of too many places that have more of a 'wow' factor than Queenstown. And it lasts from the time your plane drops in over the alps - wow - to the time you check your bank balance when you get back to work on Monday - wow. But much like always picking the second cheapest bottle of wine from a restaurant menu, it's money well spent.

As far as venues go, Coronet Peak must be one of the best places to learn how to ski, or in my case, snowboard. It's got nothing to do with the snow, or the quality of the runs, but when you're sitting on your arse for the tenth time in as many minutes, wondering if you've got enough strength left to haul yourself up, it's definitely a bonus to have a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains.

After a couple of days on the slopes, I was still pretty much confined to the 'magic carpet', a conveyor belt that drags newbies like myself to the top of a very short and very flat run. Which is not to say I didn't have a great time. I dominated those slopes. Well, me and a couple of six year olds.

Queenstown nightlife is well worth missing a day's skiing for; there are bars and clubs there I'd quite happily swap for most of Auckland's haunts. Also, having a constant supply of tourists around has helped the locals realise what side their bread's buttered on - the service is very friendly, and very good. If you're in the area, The Bunker (bar/restaurant), Bardeaux (wine bar) and Subculture (nightclub) combine to form a pretty good night out, after which Joe's Garage is a great place to put some good hot breakfast grease and caffeine into your sorry hungover self.

On Monday we hired a car and went to Arrowtown. It looks as though someone made an 87:1 scale version of those towns model railway enthusiasts use, but worth a look, and only about twenty minutes drive from Queenstown itself.

Chinese settlers once lived there in tiny wee shacks, while they dug for gold. From what I read on the Conservation Department signs, they had it pretty rough from the 19th Century equivalent of Winston Peters. Small shacks in Arrowtown, big houses in Howick - there's just no pleasing some people is there?

Anyway. As far as long weekends/short holidays go, it was one of the best I've had. Snowboarding, gorging, drinking, hotel rooms and mini-golf, what more could you ask for? Exactly.

Thanks very much to Deborah @ Pead PR and nzski.com for the mad hook-ups, and my instructor Mark Lawes for trying his best to get me on my feet.

PS: Yay, new mayor, new council. But people of Wanganui - what were you thinking? When someone resigns in disgrace from Parliament because of a forged signature, which part of that makes you think "Now that's the kind of guy we need running this town?" As David Farrar notes, you get the politicians you deserve, but I'm not sure even Wanganui deserves that strange little man. Christchurch perhaps.

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