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January 01, 1993 - Image 69

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-01-01

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A New Look

A personal memoir of eliminating glasses
through surgery.




his fall, while Bill
Clinton was busy
defining his vision for
America and George
Bush was being criticized for
not having one, I was also
giving thought to "the vision
Being very nearsighted, I
was tired of having to wear
glasses all the time, frus-
trated in my attempts to
wear contact lenses, and an-
noyed at spending hundreds
of dollars on eyewear with
"fashionable frames," "light-
weight lenses," and "anti-re-
flective coatings."
The final straw came last
September. I received my
first prescription for bifocals
— no-line bifocals of course.
After several trips back to
the optician to have them
ground correctly, I was still
getting headaches. And
when it came time to put in
my contacts (reserved for
those six-hour stretches
when I got really "dressed-
up"), I opened the case to
discover that since the last
bar mitzvah, my soft contact
lenses had dried up and
This was a sign, I told my-
self. I knew it was time to
seriously consider R-K (ra-
dial keratotomy) surgery —
a procedure to correct near-
For at least 10 years I had
been hearing and reading
about R-K. The procedure,
which involves making ra-
dial incisions in the cornea
of the eye to flatten it and
permit light rays to directly
focus on the retina, had been
discovered in Russia and
was in widespread use
I had asked many oph-

Gail Zimmerman is a
proofreader and copy edi-
tor for The Jewish News.
Please excuse any mistakes
she makes during "periods
of blurriness."

thalmologists over the years
about the procedure. What
did they think? "You've only
got one set of eyes." "We
don't know the long-term ef-
fects yet." "It's not worth the
risk." "What's so bad about
wearing glasses?" (Space
does not allow even a partial
list of the inconveniences of
wearing glasses all the
And then the Cold War
ended. In newspapers, on
the radio, and on television,
the procedure which origi-
nated in the Soviet Union
was suddenly being touted
as a very real option for
Americans who wanted free-
dom from glasses and con-
tact lenses.
I set out to discover if R-
K was right for me. A lot of
research was necessary be-
fore I could commit to the
First, I talked to several
ophthalmologists, including
my own, who did not per-
form the procedure them-
selves. They had previously
discouraged R-K. Now they
said it was a viable alterna-
tive for those people who
could not comfortably wear
glasses or contacts.
The instrumentation used
to perform the procedure
and the measurement de-
vices now available have
greatly improved in the last
few years. In addition there
are now long-term studies
available to confirm the suc-
cess rates of R-K surgery.
Because thousands of
surgeries have been done,
computer studies are avail-
able to more accurately pre-
dict, based on a person's age
and degree of nearsighted-
ness, to what extent that
nearsightedness can be cor-
Another consideration
was cost. I called a number
of ophthalmologists. The
cost of having the procedure
performed on both eyes var-
ied from $2000 up to $3000.

Most offices had various
payment plans. I was told to
check with my insurance
company. Since R-K was no
longer considered experi-
mental, at least a partial
cost is covered under some
plans, if certain conditions
are met.
Next I wanted to talk to
someone who'd had the
surgery done. It seemed that
in all the offices I called,
everyone from the recep-
tionist to the insurance clerk
to the medical assistant had
had R-K performed by their
"boss." Through someone in
my office, I found an "objec-
tive" patient with whom to
discuss R-K He was only too
happy to tell me about his
experiences and what he'd
learned. He said R-K had a

The whole operating
room procedure
took less than 10
minutes and I hadn't
felt a thing.

very positive impact on his
life and encouraged me to
attend an R-K seminar.
R-K seminars are offered
by most of the ophthalmolo-
gists performing it. Videos
are shown, questions are an-
swered, R-K patients share
their experiences and pa-
tients bring in their pre-
scriptions or glasses for an
on-the-spot evaluation. At
the seminar I attended, I
was told I would be a good
candidate. But only a thor-
ough evaluation and mea-
surement of my corneas
could verify that. From what
I'd learned, I was convinced
that R-K was for me.
The ophthalmologist I
chose to perform my sur-
gery, Dr. Thomas Millman
of the Millman-Derr Center
for Eye Care, gave me a
complete ophthalmological
and R-K exam. He verified
that my age, the stability of

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