ad info




TIME Asia
TIME Asia Home
Current Issue
Magazine Archive
Asia Buzz
Travel Watch
Web Features
  Entertainment
  Photo Essays

Subscribe to TIME
Customer Services
About Us
Write to TIME Asia

TIME.com
TIME Canada
TIME Europe
TIME Pacific
TIME Digital
Asiaweek
Latest CNN News

Young China
Olympics 2000
On The Road

 ASIAWEEK.COM
 CNN.COM
  east asia
  southeast asia
  south asia
  central asia
  australasia
 BUSINESS
 SPORTS
 SHOWBIZ
 ASIA WEATHER
 ASIA TRAVEL


Other News
From TIME Asia

Culture on Demand: Black is Beautiful
The American Express black card is the ultimate status symbol

Asia Buzz: Should the Net Be Free?
Web heads want it all -- for nothing

JAPAN: Failed Revolution
Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori clings to power as dissidents in his party finally decide not to back a no-confidence motion

Cover: Endgame?
After Florida's controversial ballot recount, Bush holds a 537-vote lead in the state, which could give him the election

TIME Digest
FORTUNE.com
FORTUNE China
MONEY.com

TIME Asia Services
Subscribe
Subscribe to TIME! Get up to 3 MONTHS FREE!

Bookmark TIME
TIME Media Kit
Recent awards

TIME Asia Asiaweek Asia Now TIME Asia story

SEPTEMBER 18, 2000 VOL. 156 NO. 11

A Cautionary Tale
I'm still waiting for my miracle
By VIVECA NOVAK

ALSO
Are You Ready To Dump Your Glasses?
Laser Surgery can work wonders but there are risks

Nobody wants to be an anomaly when it comes to medical matters, the kind of patient who prompts doctors to shake their head and say softly, "I've never seen this before."

I had followed advances in vision-correcting surgery for more than a decade. My eyes were awful. I had glasses as a young child, contacts as a teenager, but lately I could wear only an exotic and costly kind of lens. Glasses didn't work as well. Allergy season was a nightmare. And yes, I had always dreamed of being able to wake up and read the clock across the room, to swim and see who was hanging around poolside. But I was also apprehensive—bad eyes are better than worse eyes, and there were some early horror stories.

  ALSO IN TIME
COVER: Seeing the Light
Laser eye surgery is helping thousands to see better, but the non-essential procedure poses risks. Is it worth it?
A Cautionary Tale: I'm still waiting for my miracle

SPECIAL SITE
TIME at the Olympics: Sydney 2000
TIMEasia, TIMEeurope, TIMEpacific and TIME.com bring you our take on the first Olympics of the new millennium

SUMMER OLYMPICS: One More Scandal
On the eve of the Sydney Games, China suspends several athletes for, you got it, illegal drug use

INDONESIA: In Harm's Way
After the gruesome murder of three U.N. relief workers in West Timor, pressure mounts for Wahid to rein in the militias

BURMA: No Exit
The junta tightens its grip, calculating that the West won't care

CHINA: Cloak and Dagger
Missionary 007s are converting more and more Christians

SINGAPORE: Viewpoint
Philip Bowring praises efforts to lift the birth rate

INDIA: A Life Apart
Eunuchs are banding together to demand basic rights

MUSIC: Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)
Thailand's biggest country music star is a blue-eyed Swede

TRAVEL WATCH: Seeking Out Kunming's Hidden Charms

Then lasers came on the scene, with little but rosy reports. I began to think it was time. I went to three doctors to be sure I was a good candidate. I called every friend-of-a-friend who'd been through it; all were elated, except one worrisome soul who developed a scary condition called "Sands of Sahara." But my doctor, a respected and decent guy, soothed me, told me I'd be fine. He pulled out the charts of his many delighted patients, saying he had sent more than 200 to have it done. The LASIK surgeon he referred me to, perhaps the most experienced in the Washington area, has reshaped thousands of corneas.

I was more excited than scared. The procedure wasn't painful. It was over in 10 minutes. It was worse for my husband, who followed it close-up on a TV monitor and said it was almost as bad as watching my caesarean. I went home, took a nap, woke up—and could see the clock across the room. At the doctor's the next day, I was seeing 20/20 with my left eye, 20/40 with my right.

But instead of getting better, my vision worsened. I was told my corneas were extremely dry, and I should apply artificial tears every couple of hours. Then the surgeon was consulted; he suggested I use the drops more often, about every 15 minutes. This wasn't especially practical for a working journalist with two kids, but I tried to stick to the schedule. It didn't do the trick.

Next we tried plugging my tear ducts (outgoing, not incoming) to keep my eyes moist. I switched doctors, and allowed the new one to cauterize my ducts shut. Still not much change. My eyes are wetter, and I'm using artificial tears less frequently, but my vision hasn't improved correspondingly.

And that's where things stand now, 10 months since the surgery. The doctors keep saying they're confident of solving this problem—but they also say my experience is extremely unusual (one of them says he's never seen this in anyone else), so their confidence is less than inspiring. Two other doctors I consulted said there was nothing wrong surgically, and they too think my condition will get better.

I hope so. But while I'm waiting, here's the worst part: my vision now can't be improved, except marginally, with glasses. The problem is on the surface of my eye, which isn't what lenses correct. One doctor likens it to scratches on the crystal of a watch.

Some days I'm pretty sure my story will have a happy ending. At other times, though, I look at my children, ages four-and-a-half and two years, and wonder if I'll ever see them in crisp focus again. I'm devastated that reading is now often more a chore than a pleasure, especially in the evening. I need far more light to make things out.

I avoid driving in unfamiliar terrain, especially at night, because I can't read road signs until I'm on top of them. I'm constantly testing myself. Can I read that ad on the other side of the subway car? Can I see that license plate in front of me? How hard is it to read the daily Hotline on the Internet?

It's great that most people who have had this procedure feel like lottery winners and I hope that I can join them soon. But my new doctor is spending an increasing amount of time with patients, most of them referred by other doctors, who are having post-LASIK problems. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't. Still, I understand the lure of that pot of gold, the promise of a lifelong wish granted. So to those who feel they have to join this mostly happy club, I can't say don't. Just make the decision with eyes wide open.

Write to TIME at mail@web.timeasia.com

This edition's table of contents
TIME Asia home


AsiaNow


Quick Scroll: More stories from TIME, Asiaweek and CNN

   LATEST HEADLINES:

WASHINGTON
U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

MANILA
Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

ALLAHABAD
Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

COLOMBO
Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

TOKYO
Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

BANGKOK
Thai party announces first coalition partner



TIME:

COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state



ASIAWEEK:

COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness


Launch CNN's Desktop Ticker and get the latest news, delivered right on your desktop!

Today on CNN
 Search

Back to the top   © 2000 Time Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.