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My Laser Eye Surgery, Part II: The PRK Operation

May 2, 2014 |  by  |  Featured, Science  |  13 Comments

In July of 2011, I had PRK laser eye surgery done. Shortly before, I wrote up a Primer on PRK vs Lasik that the reader may find interesting (TL;DR: Lasik is a dodgy quick-fix, avoid it, stick with PRK). Before I went into the surgery, I did a great deal of research and found a dizzying array of variables that the prospective patient should take into account before choosing whether to have the surgery and where to have it performed. Resulting from this research I detailed the critically important questions that need to be asked before going under the laser: My Laser Eye Surgery, Part I: PRK Pre-Op Preparation. In this article, I describe the PRK procedure itself and the subsequent recovery period.

Summary First

It has been about three years since my PRK surgery, and I still couldn’t be happier. I reached better than 20/20 vision three weeks after surgery, and have had practically no side-effects with my 20/15 vision since around the four-week mark. I have not tested my vision for quite a while, but I don’t feel as if I’ve had much if any fall-off (your eyes will naturally get worse whether you have surgery or not). I still have better vision than I ever had before, and regularly am able to ‘show-off’ when discussing my PRK by reading things at distances others cannot. Before the surgery, I was about -4 in each eye with an astigmatism of around 1.00. I see much better now than I did with glasses or contacts before and my eyes are actually less dry and less red than they were before surgery. I have had zero regrets about the procedure.

While I have been on the ‘best case you can hope for’ end of the bell-curve of results. *knock wood*, I think perhaps that my efforts to assist in my healing provided at least some benefit to that experience. Along with my account of surgery and recovery, this article will also detail the steps I took to give myself the best possible chance to recover optimally, in the hopes that readers may benefit by it.

Day 0: Operation Scorched Orbs

Pre-Op: Peak Anticipation

The procedure was crazy fast. The time between arrival at the clinic and departure for home was about 45 min, and that’s including filling out the necessary paperwork, waiting 5-10 min for the pre-operative anesthetic drops to take effect, post-operative exam, etc. The actual procedure took about 5 to 10 minutes, maximum.

After I was signed in and waivered, I was brought into an examination room for one last look at my eyes, to ensure that nothing had changed and that I was still Go for Surgery. With the green-light, I was led to a bed in a quiet pre-op prep room and given some anesthetic drops for my eyes. I was then left alone for ten minutes, just outside the operating room, so that I could obsess once more over the risks of the coming procedure the anesthetic drops could take effect.

At length I was ready. A nurse fetched me and brought me into a medium-sized room that was dominated by the sight and sound of a large, droning machine. The machine itself was a desk-sized cabinet with a manhole-sized robotic surgery on an arm overhanging an attached bed. The contraption, made for a single purpose, sprouted a host of digital and optical display instrumentation, control knobs, and ventilation tubes. The sound it emitted was somewhat lower on the tonal register and decibel scale than a vacuum cleaner, but above in volume and pitch the buzzing of a wasp nest. It was a blanketing white noise, loud enough to soothe jangled nerves, and loud enough to isolate the room from sounds coming from without (coming from within too, for that matter). The machine would not have looked out of place on a Star Trek sickbay set. Come to think of it, it would not have looked out of place on the set of a Borg Cube assimilation chamber.

My heart-rate was at its highest at this point of Peak Anticipation.

The surgeon introduced himself and laid me on the bed. He proceeded to give a quick overview of the procedure, what I would experience, what it would feel like, and what was needed of me. The surgeon’s description of the process had no surprises for me, I knew the procedure fairly well, even having gone so far as to watch videos of the surgery online, and when he asked if I had any questions, I replied that I hadn’t.

Prior to this, I had been prepped by both technicians and ophthalmologists, they had given me the necessary information on the procedure, it’s risks, and it’s post-operative care, but this was the first time I’d been told the ‘nuts and bolts’ of using a high-powered laser to burn a new shape into my cornea. Based on my prior research, I was likely more informed than the vast majority who had laid on the bed before me. As I’ve mentioned previously, my one criticism of all the laser eye surgery providers is that they are not overly forthcoming with details on risk, complication, and actual procedure. They were all quite helpful when I asked for greater detail, or had specific questions (if they’re not, run the other way!), but none were forthcoming with more than the minimum required. I suppose this is necessary, as most truly don’t want to know more than the very high-level picture of risk and reward. The reader would be forewarned to do their own research before going under the laser, though I suppose that message is preaching to the choir in this account.

After the run-down of the surgery, and after one last chance to ask questions or back out, we began the assimilation surgery.

PRK Surgery: Blink and You’ll Miss It

A nurse inserted Clockwork Orange eye-priers, and dabbed a few drops of lubricant drops. Then, the bed I was on was swung under and into the machine. From above, the large, round robotic surgeon looked mostly benign, but from beneath, the beast’s many-eyed, many-fanged face felt uncomfortably close. That said, as a lover of all things novel, technological, and physiological, the dozen different lights and probes and nozzles of this technological terror were at once intimidating and fascinating. My heart-rate was at its highest at this point of Peak Anticipation.

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The Most Romantic Ad-lib in Cinematic History

February 14, 2014 |  by  |  Featured, Movies  |  No Comments

“I know.” Two words, famously ad-libbed by Harrison Ford after many repeated takes of the scripted “I love you too” line. Two words that evoke love far more powerfully than any hallmarkian sentiment in this or any other galaxy. In all of cinema, in all its rich and romantic history, “I know” is certainly the most romantic ad-lib. And in my estimation, “I know” is high among the most romantic lines, full stop.

From Leia’s perspective, Solo’s pursuit had seemed not motivated by love, but perhaps by a mere desire for conquest.

It is in one of the darkest moments of The Empire Strikes Back, in all of the Star Wars franchise really, when Han Solo replies with those two little words to Leia’s tearful and frighted admission of “I love you.” And in that moment we witness a breaking of character. Not merely the breaking of the fourth wall by Ford with his ad-lib, but the abandonment of a mask behind which Solo had been hiding for so long.

At first blush, it might sound in-character for Solo. Another in a long line of the snappy repartee that had characterized his and Leia’s relationship. But it was more than that. His was a naked and vulnerable return of her statement of love.

Up to that point their relationship had been adversarial, full of romantic friction. Solo had been pressing his suit with Leia, but in a ‘scruffy’ sort of way, the way a scoundrel would. From Leia’s perspective, Solo’s pursuit had seemed not motivated by love, but perhaps by a mere desire for conquest.

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Where Eagles Dare

December 22, 2013 |  by  |  Featured, Writing  |  No Comments

A whisper of breeze ruffled the airfield’s August-browned grass. The sky overhead was warm and inviting. With unlimited visibility, the bright blue canopy appeared as if it had pulled back from the earth to provide extra airspace beneath. One lone cotton-cloud lazed over the horizon. Two eagles circled effortlessly high overhead. It was a perfect day for flying.

Pilot Rod Rees strode across the lawn. A young man in the Summer of 1963, my Uncle Rod was little older than I was when I first heard the story of his maiden flight. My mother Arlene, only a girl then, saw no trace of fear as her older brother approached the field. His eyes were set, his face was determined, and his aircraft was slung confidently under his arm.

After weeks waiting for the kit to arrive, after a summer holiday spent indoors on painstaking assembly, after his fingers had become calloused from fine tooling and his lungs ravaged by glue fumes, the day had finally come for his dream to take flight.

Aircraft fuelled and pre-flight checklists completed, Rees glanced yet again at the listless pine-bough windsocks overlooking the R-Bar-Eagle farm’s upper horse paddock —newly rechristened the Galiano Island Airfield. He bent low over his aircraft and, with a high whine and a puff of blue smoke, the engine coughed to life. Rees cycled the controls and adjusted the radio’s trim knob one last time. He looked up, taking two half-steps backward.

The plane burst forward.

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Best Turkey and Stuffing Recipe (or How Mom Gets Me to Visit)

December 22, 2013 |  by  |  Featured, Food  |  No Comments

Turkey, turkey, turkey! Here it is, my mother’s amazing turkey dinner recipe, straight from the source [with my notes added in brackets].

I know that everybody’s partial to their mother’s cooking, but my mom’s turkey dinner is always outstanding! It’s her secret weapon for getting me over to the Island to visit. I’m a horrible son. (Sorry Mom!)

It’s not as specific as a cook-book recipe, but it doesn’t need to be. Anybody with a cook’s soul should breeze through it (chef-ery not required). Post your questions, and I’ll answer below. (My Mom may even too!)


  • italian bread, extra long sliced loaf [D'Italiano works great, so do more squirrely breads]
  • onion
  • garlic
  • celery
  • italian sausage [Costco hot italian is outstandingly good italian sausage for any recipe!]
  • mushrooms [I use white, but you can use whatever floats your boat]
  • red pepper
  • eggs
  • salt
  • pepper
  • sage
  • poultry seasoning
  • butter
  • olive oil

Make sure that you freeze the loaf of bread ahead of time so that it is easy to cut into cubes without it getting squishy.

Put some olive oil and butter in a large saute pan. If your italian sausage is in casing, remove and crumble into pan as many to taste, say 5 or 6 for a full loaf of bread [I use 4 or 5 of the big Costco sausages, about 600-700g]. Add onions and brown along with sausage.

In the meantime finely chop one or two celery stalks, loads of garlic, and as many mushrooms as you like [I use lots, you can't have too many!].

When the sausage is browned, turn down heat and add the celery, garlic, mushrooms, some more olive oil and too much butter for anyones good. I use lots of butter as it gives a nice flavour [It's turkey dinner, leave your food-conscience at the door!]. Add quite a lot of sage – again to taste – bearing in mind it will diffuse through the bread so if it seems too strong, it probably wont be. I’d say about 2 tablespoons at least, maybe more. Add about the same, or a little less in poultry seasoning. Grind in some pepper, but don’t use too much salt as the butter is salty. Also at this time add water to the pan, enough to make it all quite moist but not soupy.

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Stirring, Shaking, Sliding

June 27, 2013 |  by  |  Featured, Food, Writing  |  No Comments

He prepared the explosives with slight care, quickly, casually, the ritual well-practiced, components proportioned more or less precisely, burner tuned just-so to an unmarked setting, the steel lid lowered for even heating and explosive containment.

Sirens sang, foreboding shrieks and squawks and shearing sounds, as the vessel was shaken and slid across the element, stirring untouched its contents. Intermittently the concoctor ceased his agitation and crooked an expert ear to the silence, listening for sizzling, steady but not slow, energetic but not angry. It mustn’t burn. Burning meant acrid smoke, accusatory smoke, overpoweringly aromatic smoke, smoking evidence that lingered, alerted the neighbours, testified to his activities, testified to his inexpertise.

An explosion surely overdue, his doubts began to mount. Was it too hot? Not hot enough? Was this batch going to explode? *pop* The first explosion always a surprise, always a relief. *pop-pop-pop* The explosions came faster, faster still. The tin-can rat-a-tat-tat of the popping startled his senses, stimulating salivation before sent was detected.

Still shaking, sliding, stirring the pot, he watched, trance-like, the stochastic explosions sending kernels careening, chaotically clanging and caroming off the pot with each pop, pop, pop.

Eyes drying and mouth watering, he stood mesmerized by the turmoil. Blasted blossoms burst like frozen fireballs, each concussion showering the seething mass with corn-husk shrapnel, triggering secondary and tertiary explosions as ticking time-bombs tumbled.

At last the cacophonous barrage began to abate. But not the stirring, shaking, sliding. He knew the risk of burning was highest now, knew that explosive packages had to be sifted toward the heat, had to be detonated before the now-dry pan overheated.

Three seconds. Three seconds without a pop was all that could be afforded. One—*pop* The clock reset. One…*pop* Reset. One… two…*pop* Reset again. One… two…*pop* Too long, three seconds was too long this time. One… two… —burning, it was going to burn— three! He doused the burner, threw back the lid, and dumped the steaming contents into the waiting container.

Perfect popcorn.
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