I wanted LASIK pretty much from the moment I understood what it was. I was a −4.50 or so with a fair amount of astigmatism (near-sighted and blind without glasses), so it was pretty hard to imagine what it would be like to see. The reason I waited for a while was that I had no money. In medical school, you live off of loans that come twice a year. Pretty much, there’s no worse way to allocate money than to say to a 22-year-old, “Here’s $5,000, make it last for six months.” It meant that I lived like a king for one month and then realized I needed to buy a 20 pound bag of rice and hold tight for another five months until I my next loan was disbursed. Anyway, I couldn’t afford LASIK.
During an elective in cornea surgery (the cornea is the clear window on the front of the eye), I was in pre-op and saw our next patient was a guy my age. He had a huge, central corneal scar and we were going to do a corneal transplant. The reason for the scar was an infection from his contact lenses. That was enough for me. I did that financing option where you make the payments as low as possible and pay them for the next 30 years, and I got LASIK the very next week.
It was performed by Lewis Groden M.D., who was a mentor and idol of mine. I loved him. I had spent hundreds of hours working for him and watching him. He was vaguely aware that I was alive. We were pretty close. During the surgery, he gave me the same speech, in the same sing-song intonations that he performed for every patient. I thought at the time that it was cool that he was treating me like he did every other patient (I realize now it is possible he didn’t know he was operating on a close friend).
I never forgot how comforting it was just to have a voice to focus on during the procedure. Even when it is saying stuff that you wouldn’t for any reason find helpful under normal circumstances. As the lights faded and he got things ready around my eyes, he said what he always said, “Daaark is goooood. Pressure is gooood…” And I thought, “Okay, this is fine. It is gooood. All is well.” I still say the same thing to every patient to this day.
It helped me tremendously to be a LASIK patient, mostly because I can see now. But also, I remember what it was like to be nervous, to decide to take the plunge and trust that everything was going to be okay, and to be reassured that everything was just fine as it was happening. If you’re in Tampa and need LASIK, you should go see Dr. Groden. He is a master. No wait, I just realized it would be better to drive up to Orlando to see me. Of those two, you should definitely come see me. Some yahoo probably did his LASIK.