May 26, 2005
Laser Heart Surgery
My only decent pair of glasses broke en route from Los Angeles to Israel, and I took it as a sign -- it was time to for corrective laser surgery, a.k.a. LASIK.
"Make sure on the day of surgery someone comes with you," the Israeli receptionist said to me after I set my appointment.
Great. Who would I call on to come with me? If I lived in Los Angeles, someone in my family would have shepherded me. But I wasn't comfortable asking my family in Israel to escort me.
Since I'd be wearing eye patches after the surgery, I'd at least need someone to pick me up. And since I'd be done at 4 p.m., I asked my friend Tovy to leave work an hour early to pick me up. She said it was no problem.
The surgery day arrived. As I waited on the sofa in the main office, I saw a young woman leave the surgery room with her eyes covered, her boyfriend holding her hand, guiding her.
How nice, I thought. He'll probably make her tea when she gets home and sing her a lullaby.
I don't need anyone, I thought. However, I did need a valium, and lucky for me it was procedure to give patients one before the surgery.
The nurse sat me down outside the surgery room and dropped an anesthetic into my eyes. I saw the blurred image of a teenager across from me.
He had just had his eyes zapped.
"How was it?" I asked.
"Scary," he said.
"Really?" I asked, surprised.
The doctors, technicians and receptionists all made it sound like the surgery was simple, quick and painless.
Then his father took his hand and led him out. That's OK, I thought to myself. I still didn't need anyone to hold my hand.
When it was my turn on the operating table, the doctor pried my eyelids open with a metal tool and then stuck some sort of lens onto my eye.
"You shouldn't see anything now," he said. "That's normal."
A round cylinder latched onto the lens and mechanically cut a flap on my cornea; this created a window for the laser to enter. As the machine cut my cornea, I saw black and white circles, as if it were twisting and turning my eyeball.
He repeated this procedure on the other eye. I dug my fingers into my thighs to channel the pain elsewhere.
"Now, we are moving onto the laser portion of the surgery," the doctor said. "This will be less painful."
"You mean it's not over?" I asked.
I stared above and green and red dots of light seemed to shower my bullied eyes. As the laser sculpted my cornea to perfection, I heard a buzz and felt hot splatters my cheeks.
Done but dazed, I limped to a reclining chair in a post-op waiting area.
"Keep your eyes closed," the nurse said. "Is someone here with you?"
"She's supposed to come," I said.
It was 4:15 p.m. and no sign of Tovy.
Unable to look outside, I looked deep inside: Wouldn't it be nice to have a dedicated boyfriend right now? A real partner? Why have I shut out love for so long? Wouldn't life in Israel be easier if I opened myself up to love -- not just a romantic thrill -- but to a supportive, loving man who will hold my hand in times like these?
Where the hell is Tovy?
Tears started gushing down my face. They were supposed to be a natural side-effect of the surgery, but they seemed exacerbated by my momentary, stinging sensation of loneliness.
"Tears are pouring," I told the nurse.
"Excellent," she said. "Make yourself cry."
This was one of those rare moments when it's good for your physical health to bawl.
Tovy had trouble finding the office. When she finally arrived, she held my hand and comforted me. The tears continued to stream, but they had transformed from tears of loneliness to tears of healing. I had my health, I had good friends and I no longer had four eyes.
Maybe now that my eyes are fixed I'll be able to envision a true and lasting romance. But it will probably take more than 10 minutes with a laser beam to smooth out my heart's irregularities. And yet as I begin to see the world and myself more clearly, I think maybe it'd be nice to have someone hold my hand and, sometimes, wipe my tears.Orit Arfa is a freelance writer based in Tel Aviv.