Monday, June 27, 2011

The Continuing Adventures of LASIK

I believe this is the first weekend since the end of February that I haven't had a tournament!

I've also been buried with other things - daughter graduating from high school, family and other company in from out of town, etc, etc. As a result, I'm behind, plain and simple. This is only the second posting for June (lame). I only had two postings in May (lame)... and I didn't even do PoolSynergy this month (ultra lame).

I'm behind on numerous topics, so I'll try to chip away at them over the next week or so. First up is... LASIK.

As you may recall, I took the plunge and got LASIK surgery a few months ago on March 31st. For those of you sitting on the edge of your seats waiting to hear the good news about how that went... keep sitting. I wish I had better news to report, but unfortunately my vision is less than optimal.

This is extremely frustrating. I put off eye surgery for years and years. I kept an eye on the state-of-the-art. I battled internally whether I should take the plunge or not. I even resisted when my mom suggested getting it done by her employer (she was an office manager for an eye surgeon for several years). She obviously had inside knowledge of his success rate and so on, and no doubt I'd get a good discount... but still I opted to wait. The procedures at the time (late 80's, early 90's) seemed to be enjoying a good deal of success, but I knew they were still in their infancy for the most part... and really there was nothing pushing me to go for it. I was OK with glasses and also able to wear contacts on occasion when glasses didn't cut it.

Fast forward a couple of decades... once I got serious about playing pool, I found playing with glasses to be annoying. I also discovered that playing with contacts wasn't perfect either, especially in the smoke-filled bars and halls here in Las Vegas where I spent most of my pool playing hours. It wasn't so bad in the smoke-free bars when I traveled to California and Arizona, but even then I discovered that I couldn't keep score or look at things like my phone or menus while wearing contacts because presbyopia had crept in on me (I wore progressive lens glasses as a result).

So I revisited the possibility of corrective eye surgery. I have numerous friends who have done it and are happy with their results. I checked out some of the local doctors, and found at least a couple of them with clean records with the FDA and recommended by local ophthalmologists. It turned out that a couple of my friends had their surgeries done by one of them and were able to personally recommend him. Digging further, I discovered that he was known as a doctor who people often turned to in order to correct errors that other doctors made. This all sounded pretty promising.

Enough about the doctor. I looked into the available procedures and how those were coming along since the days of my mom being an office manager. It sounded like significant progress had indeed been made! One procedure in particular, iLASIK, was being touted as the first and still the only procedure approved by the military for pilots and even by NASA for astronauts. This caught my eye (no pun intended) for at least a couple of reasons - (1) I initially wanted to go to the Air Force Academy to be a pilot but couldn't because of my vision. I checked into eye surgery then and found out it wasn't an option. (2) Going through a stringent military program myself, I knew how conservative the military (and NASA) would be about people they dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars of training into. I knew they wouldn't approve a procedure on something as important as the eyes unless there was very minimal chance of screwing up their investment.

Well, I'm sorry to report that NASA would be pissed with my results so far if I was an astronaut. I've approximated what I see when I look at a stoplight in this Photoshopped image.

It's not only noticeably less than 20/20 (in my distance eye - I opted for monovision), I'm also seeing double images... even with one eye closed!

My eye doctor calls it astigmatism. I call it eff'd up. I didn't have significant astigmatism before, and now through the miracle of laser surgery I do. Actually, my understanding of astigmatism (at least regular astigmatism) is that images are distorted in some way - a circle can appear to be an oval, for example. I'm seeing distinctly separate images rather than distorted images, and it gets worse with distance. When I see an airplane flying across the sky, for example, I see two separate images.

Hopefully, this will have a happy ending. My doctor says he's committed to getting it right, and is currently monitoring my progress on a regular basis. A second "touch-up" procedure is likely at this point to get me dialed in better, and so far he's confident that he'll be able to fix it to my satisfaction. They say they need to let my eyes stabilize before doing a second procedure, and that makes perfect sense to me. I want them to do everything possible to get it right next time.

I'm being patient and hopeful... but can anyone blame me for being a little nervous about this whole thing? Yes, my 'uncorrected' eyes are much better than they were by most measures. I can function without glasses and/or contacts. I can drive, work, etc., but definitely not as well as I could before surgery with glasses. I struggle at times with certain things that were easy with glasses, and I think it all makes me tired earlier than usual.

So how does this affect my game you might ask? It's impossible to be sure, of course... and I'll admit I delayed writing about this for awhile because I thought fessing up about my vision woes might give my opponents some sort of advantage, but I have since decided to go ahead and get it out there. The LASIK commercials make it sound so nice and rosy... you wake up the next morning, able to see the birds chirping in high definition and all that. Well, maybe some people do... maybe even most people do - but I'm here to tell you that not everyone does - even if they researched the doctor and ponied up extra bucks for the best procedure currently available.

Back to my shooting... I actually am doing pretty darn well all things considered. I haven't won any tournaments, but have had several 2nd place finishes in difficult fields since my surgery. I've beaten people I don't always beat. I've even beaten a few people for the first time ever. I'm stringing together respectable runs including several break and runs in both 8 & 9-ball. I've also had typical periods of mediocre play as well, of course, but that's normal. Overall, I think the negatives of less-than-great visual acuity (and double vision) are being countered by the positives of being able to shoot with a better stance and not having to deal with glasses... so it's more or less a wash, as long as I pick the right object ball image to shoot at.


  1. i hope it works out for you gary. sucks to see double image!

  2. Sorry to hear you are having trouble with the results of LASIK. I had it done several years back with little problem and have been very happy with the results. Unfortunately every case is different. A friend of mine had it done when it first came out and the there was a mechanical failure during his procedure. Nothing permanent but he had to wait several months for them to fix his eye (at that time they would only do one eye at a time).

    I did have a bit of night vision halo and starburst around lights at first but it cleared up over time. My eyes have always been a bit light sensitive though.

    Sounds like you have a good doctor who really wants to get it right so hang in there.

  3. Thanks p00lriah, and thanks for sharing your experiences too Mark. I had some night vision effects as well in the early going, but those have pretty much gone away so it's getting pretty apparent that the remaining aberrations are here to stay until they go in again.

  4. Sorry to hear about your issues with LASIK. I hope your future procedure(s) will be able to correct the issue. Hang in there!