Hide & See(k)…
Mar 2, 2016. It was a rapid-fire round. All cylinders and spheres were blazing. Too little “cylindrical” compromised the far range. Too much “spherical” ruined the close range. The bull’s eye was elusive. Perfection was not even intended. The objective was to achieve the best ‘tradeoff’. The instructed one was the new ophthalmologist at Lawrence & Mayo. He was hassled. He was supposedly the expert. But his knowledge was theoretical. He didn’t carry battle scars. No one knows my eyes better than me…
1994. The desktop years had taken their toll. Both eyes were 4.0 myopic. Although, this information was under wraps, as I wore contacts. However, I had now relocated to India. The Ahmedabad dust made it tough. Spectacles descended. But I was on my extended honeymoon. Thick spectacles were decidedly uncool. The bride didn’t mind . But I did. That’s when I heard about this revolutionary surgical procedure called Radial Keratotomy (RK).
The messiah was Indore-based Dr. Hardia. He had operated on thousands. A few were my distant cousins. There was no need for reference checks. Countless surgeries can’t be wrong. My new life partner protested. But I was steadfast. I arrived in Indore.
A pre-surgical procedure was performed the night before the operation. My eyes were subjected to a series of tests. I qualified with flying colors. I ran into someone from the medical profession later that night. He admonished me ‘Wait. There is talk about the launch of an advanced Lasik technique’. But my resolve was unwavering. It was too late to back off now. The surgery fee had been paid. Even the eyelashes were slashed. This was no time for indecisiveness. I went with the flow. I had faith in Almighty and the good doctor.
The eyes were anesthetized before the surgery. They didn’t feel anything. Except the descent of the diamond cutter. Their identity being split open and squeezed around, manually. First one eye, then the other. There was no pain. Only a parched throat. It was all over in a few minutes. The years of strained vision had been sorted out in moments. The magic of science.
The eye patches were taken off in the evening. The newborn eyes needed acclimatization in dim light. I was sitting in a garden. I finally gathered the courage to raise my gaze. There was a lamppost a short distance away. It had six light points on the top. There should have been only one. Half a dozen holograms superimposed each object I tried to focus on. I wanted to throw up. I closed my eyes in panic. I didn’t tell anyone. It was a long night. The next morning was my follow up. Dr. Hardia congratulated me. He reassured me saying that it will take a few days for the vision to fully restore itself. I was relieved. I waited.
2016. I am waiting. Over two dark decades have now passed. The quest for a cure has made me a global trotter, from Seattle to London to Singapore. My eyes spark up the eyes of our planet’s leading researchers. They even bring in their doctorate fellows. I am a case study. But I can’t be re-operated. The RK has rendered the cornea precariously astigmatic and fragile. I have to make do with a great-grandpa spectacle, a complex spherical and cylindrical hybrid. I can’t wear it for long. It changes my look & feel. I look geeky & feel dizzy. And it doesn’t end there. Frequent infections, constant dryness, tiny black floaters, torturous glares, unregistering faces, slow deterioration, uncertain eventuality—all together define my ‘vision’. How I wish I could see the world again like most of you do. I am trapped. Forever.
If only I had consulted experts on the raw science behind RK. If only I had questioned the lack of the sampling size. If only I had evaluated the success rate. “If only”—perhaps the saddest words in the English language. Their absence allowed the likes of ‘Dr.’ Hardia to butcher thousands of trusting eyes. The betrayal transformed me. Not just the way I look, but my outlook itself. No, it did not turn me into a negative person, a cynic who no longer trusts anyone. And no, it did not turn me into a positive being either, an appreciator of the finer gifts we take for granted. Instead, I learnt that just because something “feels” like it’s the right thing to do, it does not necessarily mean it “is” the right thing to do. The tragedy taught me to base life’s key decisions on data, not gut-feel.
All of us perceive events, good or bad, in our day-to-day life. Then our attitude processes the perception. An optimist looks at the glass half-full. A pessimist looks at the glass half-empty. A data scientist, on the other hand, discards both points of view. To him, the status of every entity is “Innocent until proven guilty” and “Guilty until proven innocent”. Why? Because he understands that reality is opaque, not transparent! It is impossible to gauge the liquid level inside an opaque glass by merely gazing at it. The approach needs science, not art. If we know the accurate weight of the empty as well as the full glass, then the liquid level of a partially filled glass can be deduced by weight proration.
An empty glass is a “risk” metaphor. A full glass is a “reward” metaphor. When we quantify risks & rewards accurately, we are able to appreciate our present level, thus optimize our decision-making. Sure, a data-driven approach doesn’t guarantee a positive outcome. However it statistically increases the probability of success, while mitigating the risks. A word of caution though, stretching data analytics to daily life trivialities will kill our spontaneity.
But when it comes to life’s big decisions, such as the ones involving health, finance, business, career, entrepreneurship, marriage, relationships, upbringing, etc.—often, we don’t get a second chance. I didn’t. Everyday I repent my foolishness. I learnt the hard way. If my story can help a few learn the easy way, it would be my redemption. It will make my very private revelation worth it.