Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My Photography

As many of you know, amateur photography has long been a hobby of mine, even since high school. Granted, I studied photography before the dawn of digital cameras, but I appreciate the digital artistry as much as developing my own film.

Well, upon encouragement from my mother, I have decided to attempt to sell some of my photographs. I have amassed quite a collection from a couple trips to Europe in the last few years (six different countries!) and living in Colorado and Montana. There is a really excellent online marketplace called that allows independent artists to sell their work. I have created a profile on this site and the link appears below.

Creating an online portfolio is time consuming, so right now there are only a few photos posted. At the very least check them out, and as my dear friends and relatives, I will give you a 50% discount. I also hope to print notecards in the future and set up a blog dedicated to my photography.

Much love,

Friday, October 16, 2009

one week after PRK

Well, compared to the last post, I am feeling exponentially better. I ended up having to stay home from work on tuesday because I was still seeing everything in double. I worked a half day wednesday and worked my first full day in a week yesterday. I am no longer in much pain, rather discomfort. My eyes are still really sensitive to light, so I have the pupil constriction drops with me all the time. My eyes itch quite a bit as well, but that is just a part of the healing. I have been frustrated by the slowness of the healing process. They warned me that it would be slow, and would take weeks, but I just assumed that it would not happen to me! Even a week into my recovery, my eyes are still worse than they were before I had the surgery. On tuesday, my right eye was 20/100 and my left eye was 20/80. I can see distances for the most part, but have trouble with reading. Distinguishing light from dark can be difficult too, I had a terrible time in the parking garage at DIA today! My mom is visiting Colorado this weekend, and I have to do the driving for us because she is afraid of driving "in the big city". Eventually I will be thankful that I had this surgery, but for right now, I am just trying to be patient.

Curiously, and I am not sure if this is even connected, drinking caffeine seems to help with my vision. Maybe because it is a vasodilator, not sure. But at any rate, it is a great excuse to keep buying lattes!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Day Three

Day Three is by far the worst I have experienced yet. I might describe the pain as and 8 or 9 out of 10 on the pain scale. I woke up in the night with my protective goggles on the floor, and I assume that I had been rubbing and scratching my eyes for hours before that. I have only found temporary relief with the so called "911" drops, of which are allowing me to type. The relief lasts only about 20 minutes. But my computer is the only connection I have to the outside world and I am feeling like a caged animal right now. Many thanks to my friends in Niwot for having me over for dinner and distraction last night. Right now I am glad that I live alone (well, kind of) because presently I have my right eye patched with gauze because it is the most sensitive and painful. I am also wearing my old prescription glasses because they help me see out of my left eye. The vision in that eye is bad, but I can at least sort of see things. Becuase any light at all is intolerable, I have pupil constriction drops. These do not seem to be working today. I have to frequently clench my eyes chut to avoid the burning pain. Because the light in the living room and bedroom is too much to handle, I have taken up residence in the bathtub. I put my thermarest and blankets and pillows in there with all my other comforts like ice water, snacks and my iPod. Once late afternoon rolls around, it is much easier to handle the light. I have already finished one and a half audio books while resting on the futon.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Two Days after surgery

Compared to how I have felt since last night and into today, the day of the surgery was a picnic. My eyes are burning so much that I can hardly keep them open. Even the glow from my phone is hard to bear. I could actually use the vicodin, but I am refusing to fill it because of the side effects. I am still taking the Acular and Zymar, but I added a steroid, Pred Forte, a pupil constricting drop and a strong anesthetic drop. I have been using the strong anesthetic drop frequently. The only way I am comfortable is to keep my eyes covered, blocking out all the light, and ice them. I have some audio books, but because of the neurontin, I fall asleep as soon as I lay down, so I actually have no idea what the books are about.

At the post op, the doctor said that my eyes are healing well, but that it will get worse for a day or two more before it gets better. My vision swims in and out of clarity, and I cannot focus on anything close-up. Looking at this computer is like plasma rays burning my eyes, even with the sunglasses, so I need to go back to sleep now.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Surgery Day

Not sure how clear this post will be, but I had the surgery this afternoon. For the first few hours, you have usable vision, then you are pretty much blind for a few days.

I got to the surgery center and after filling out all my consent paperwork, they started sedating me and putting about six different types of drops into my eyes. They were mostly antibiotic and anesthetic. As I was waiting in the pre-op area, dressed up in my hair net, shoe covers and smock (to avoid bringing in germs) I asked the nurse for another Valium because I was not sure the first kicked in. She laughed and said that it had taken effect and she wished that I could hear myself speak. Because of my body weight, anymore than what they already gave me would be dangerous. I have never taken Valium before, but the effect is similar to nitrous oxide. You are aware of what is going on, feel like you are a part of it (you actually are not) and do not really care what happens. After all these drops, my eyes were sufficiently numb and I could not keep them open. The most unusual thing about these drops is that they get into your tear ducts, then flow into your sinuses and irritate your throat. The nurse used betadine to cleanse my eyelids and all away around my eyes. I would have liked to have seen that (betadine is a horrible yellow color) but they would not let me. I had to keep them closed.

They took me into the surgical suite and into a reclining chair. The chair had a headpiece that would not allow me to move my head. Totally necessary if there is a laser involved. Wouldn't want to slip! I was surprised at the number of people present for this surgery. Dr. A, a tech that ran the machine and two nurses. When the chair rolls under the machine, you look up at a flashing red light. At this point, they bandaged one of my eyes and put this horrible suction device around my eye. I wanted nothing more than to clench my eyes shut. No pain, just unbelievable pressure. There were more drops and rinsing of the eye with cold fluids. Horribly uncomfortable. Dr. A used some sort of tool to scrape off my top epilethial cells, then more rinsing.

The laser itself came after this, which was surprisingly loud. I had to keep focused on the blinking red light, which at this point looked like I was being sucked into a vortex from a cheap science fiction movie. Lots of flashing lights, looking down a tunnel. The worst part of this experience was smelling the tissue burn. I used my years of yoga and meditation to breathe and send myself somewhere else. Then it was onto eye number two. Not quite as bad because I sort of knew what was coming. I guess the valium really did kick-in because I laid there, rigid on the operating table and did not really care that I was smelling my cornea being cauterized. Funny. Both eyes got protective contact lenses and now I get to wear really HOT goggles. I have to sleep in them for a week.

Nicole took me Qdoba for dinner, then home where I crashed. I cannot tolerate light, so I am sitting in my dark condo wearing my sunglasses with my screen resolution as low as possible. I am not in pain yet, although I can feel it beginning. The anesthesia is wearing off. I am hoping I can make it through the night without any pain pills. There is always an eye surgeon on 24 hour call on surgery days, so if I have an issue, they can take care of it.

My eyes are really swollen right now, but I have been given steroid drops, Pred Forte, to keep that in check. I hope that my night will go okay and I am headed to bed to rest my eyes.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

two days until PRK surgery

The eye surgeon told me to take Neurontin in preparation for surgery this week. Because this medication is a nerve blocker, the theory is that it will lessen the pain after the surgery. I am supposed to be taking these three times a day. I took my first dose last night and it is not going to work for me to continue. Evidently one of the side effects is extreme drowsiness. I would say so! Twelve hours later I was still so out of it I could hardly get up for work. Think taking five benadryl instead of the recommended dose. So the surgeon told me to take two pills on the day of the surgery and the day after. Hopefully that will be enough. The particular combination of Acular and Zymar stings a lot, but I hear that probably comes from eye dryness related to wearing contacts. Which is one of the reasons that I am having this surgery.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Laser Eye Surgery

So, over the last couple years I have gone back and forth with deciding whether or not to have laser vision correction. Contacts were fine, and I wore glasses only when I really needed to do so. However, in the last two years wearing contacts has become nearly impossible. Whether a function of the Colorado climate, allergies or staring at a computer 10 hours a day, my eyes reject the contacts after only a few hours. They become so dry that I cannot see. So I pushed back my fear of having my eyeballs operated upon and ignored all the horror stories that I hear and sought out some LASIK consultations. In my research about vision correction, I have heard many things about the surgery itself and the recovery. Reading other people's blogs has helped me to get a better picture, so I decided to share my experience.

It is a few days before my surgery, but I will back up and describe how I got to this point. The squeamish may want to stop reading.


I sought out three different eye surgeons and learned way more about eye surgery than I ever thought possible. Or wanted. Perhaps most importantly, I learned that I am not a candidate for LASIK surgery. LASIK is a procedure through which a flap is created on the cornea, opened, and the surface of the eye is altered. Just a few minutes later, the flap is replaced and the cells begin to heal almost immediately. It is this minimal cutting to the eye that makes LASIK relatively uncomplicated with a quick recovery time.

I cannot have LASIK for three reasons:
1. My corneas are too thin
2. The degree of my astigmatism is too high to make traditional LASIK successful
3. Evidently I have abnormally large pupils. Most people have normal pupils of about 5-6mm. Mine are 8.5 and 9 mm respectively. For some reason this makes correcting vision more difficult.

So, my option is PRK, otherwise known as Photoreactive Keratectomy. This does not involve the creation of a corneal flap (I do not have enough cornea to do so), but rather, the actual surface of the eye is modified.

The top layer of epithelial cells in the eye is removed by the surgeon (I believe the terminology is "delicately scraped". We will see about that...), then the laser reshapes the surface of the cornea. To protect the eye, a large "bandage" contact lens is placed into each eye and must stay in for 3-5 days. PRK has a lower risk of complications, but the recovery is significantly more painful because more nerves are impacted.

I am having a hard time imagining what this will be like. A few years ago I scratched my cornea with a bit of sand, and that was pain like I have never felt before. I cannot fathom what deliberately abrading a significant area of BOTH eyes will feel like. This is where people like to tell their horror stories.


In preparation, the surgeon is having me take three medications in advance of the surgery. An anesthetic eye drop (Acular), an antibiotic eye drop (Zymar), and most significantly, a nerve-blocking agent called Neurontin. Taking these in preparation apparently cuts down on the pain in recovery. I have a prescription for Vicodin, but I absolutely do not want to fill it. I think I will take pain over the side effects of narcotics. But I also know where the nearest 24 hour Walgreen's is.

I have also lined up an army of people to help me because I live alone. Including my friend Nicole who actually gets to witness the surgery and its immediate aftermath, a couple friends who are on 24 hour call and some coworkers that live only minutes away. I have been told that my vision immediately following the surgery will be improved, but within the next few hours, as the cells began to heal, it is nearly impossible to see. It is necessary to keep the eyes completely covered in the beginning because bright light can hinder healing. Which means I will need help with some things. I hate cooking on a good day and it will not be fun blindfolded. I will not be able to drive for at least three or four days and am not allowed to stare at a computer for extended periods of time, so I will be out of work for a few days. I stocked up on audio books because there is not much else I will be able to do.

What is Taize?

Taize is a tiny village in the Bourgogne region of France. This village has an incredible story to tell. In 1940, a young protestant monk by the name of Roger rode his bike through the French countryside with the aim of finding a house to start an intentional community. This community would be composed of other monks seeking God through word, silence and meditation. This region of France was not occupied by German forces and saw a number of refugees. Brother Roger never turned away any person in need and gradually the community began to define itself as a place to serve the poor and act for peace and justice. In 1949 a group of seven brothers took their vows and formed the world's first order of Protestant monks. This order continues to grow, and is particularly interesting because each brother retains his denomination. The brother that led my time of study was Han Yol from the Philippines.

Taize is known as "a pilgrimage of trust on earth". Its particular style of worship has spawned a worldwide movement of ecumenism characterized not only by tolerance but by reconciliation. By sharing joy, and music and hope. This is most evident in the tragic death of Brother Roger. In August 2005, at 90 years old, Brother Roger was murdered during evening prayers by a mentally ill woman. The community immediately responded with compassion and forgiveness for this troubled person, who knew not what she was doing.

The rhythm of the day is set with three worship services, morning prayer with communion before breakfast, afternoon prayer before lunch and evening prayer at the end of the day. Each service has a different tone, with the evening services being the most contemplative. Worship at Taize is characterized by repetitive, simple chants in many languages. Silence is kept with only brief readings of text. One of the closest things I have felt to the peace of heaven on earth is the singing of many voices in many languages into the night. Eventually the organist will take his leave, and the chants continue and fade into waves in the echoing space.

There is so much more to say about the richness of Taize. My history is from the book,
A Community Called Taize: A Story of Prayer, Worship and Reconciliation by Jason Brian Santos, one of the few people ever invited to write a history of this remarkable place.

Europe 2009: Taize

This is the church in the village of Taize. My favorite part of my time in the village was an Anglican service held in this church. After a week of being surrounded by thousands of people and services in many other languages, a simple protestant service was like coming home. The Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists and Presbyterians shared our common liturgy and communion.
This glass window is also in the Taize village church. It depicts St. Francis of Assisi.
Meals at Taize were simple, but filling. Breakfast was the same everyday, bread, butter, chocolate and tea. Yes, chocolate. I have no idea why, but it tasted great! Lunches and dinners were also very simple, usually some variation on noodles or rice with vegetables and beans.
The picture below is from a place at Taize called St. Ettienne, or The Source. It is a place for rest and meditation. I was struck by the beauty of these water lilies and how similar they were to Monet's Waterlilies that I saw at L'Orangerie.