Josh Drum­mond tried ev­ery­thing to im­prove his sight – glasses, con­tact lenses, re­li­gious cer­e­monies... And then, a few weeks ago, he fi­nally saw the light.

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - NEWS -

When I was about 11, God’s ser­vant came to town, and I went to ex­pe­ri­ence a mir­a­cle. The meet­ing was at a school au­di­to­rium. While the mighty man of God – the late New Zealand prop­erty de­vel­oper and evan­ge­list, Bill Subritzky – took the stage, the heal­ing sessions were held in pre­fab build­ings nearby, where an as­sis­tant pas­tor min­ion asked me what my af­flic­tion was.

“Short-sight­ed­ness,” I said. If this was weird, like some­one ask­ing for prayer to grow back a miss­ing leg, he didn’t show it. At his prompt­ing, I re­moved my glasses, closed my eyes and re­ceived an en­thu­si­as­tic prayer.

I opened them again to a white flu­o­res­cent ceil­ing light through a blur of tears, brought on by the ex­cite­ment of be­ing able to see without glasses, which I fig­ured were the source of most bad things in my life. The lives of small, so­cially awk­ward, unco-or­di­nated boys with anx­i­ety is­sues are not usu­ally im­proved by hav­ing to wear glasses and I was no ex­cep­tion. I hated them. “Can you see? Are your eyes healed?” the pas­tor asked. “Yes! Sort of?” I said, squint­ing. I walked out of the room, not quite know­ing how to feel about my mir­a­cle. I kept my glasses off for the rest of the night and ex­pe­ri­enced a bright new world of bang­ing into things, trip­ping down stairs and be­ing un­able to read. The glasses went back on the next day, and they stayed, punc­tu­ated by mul­ti­ple bouts of con­tact lenses.

Bill’s mir­a­cle may not have worked for me, but I never lost faith, which is why, sev­eral weeks ago and 25 years later, I found my­self sit­ting in the wait­ing room of another healer. This one would use a dif­fer­ent kind of magic. It was called SMILE, short for Small In­ci­sion Len­tic­ule Ex­trac­tion. A pow­er­ful, ex­pen­sive, in­vis­i­ble light, not of God but of co­her­ent pho­tons, would be beamed into my eyes. A very thin slice would bub­ble, like water on the boil, and I would go (hope­fully briefly) blind. The sur­geon would scoop inside my cornea, “with a thing like a spat­ula” as he put it. Like an egg on a fry­ing pan, he would loosen and lig­ate the slice and pull it out, look­ing some­thing like fish scales, through a nar­row opening. I’d be awake through­out. Af­ter, I would be able to see. Un­like Bill’s heal­ing cru­sade, which had the up­side of be­ing side-ef­fect free (as well as the down­side of be­ing free of any ef­fects at all), this one had a litany of po­ten­tial prob­lems. The sur­geon ex­plained at length that the rare things I shouldn’t expect but that definitely weren’t im­pos­si­ble in­cluded in­fec­tion, the po­ten­tial to need more surgery, and a prac­ti­cally un­heard-of post-surgery hor­ror where my cornea would “sort of melt”.

Friends were mostly en­cour­ag­ing. Most of them said that laser eye surgery was the best de­ci­sion they had ever made, in­clud­ing – I’m as­sum­ing – marriage and hav­ing chil­dren. “They don’t tell you about be­ing able to smell your eye burn­ing under the laser, though,” one said, omi­nously. I watched a bunch of YouTube videos of the surgery in an­tic­i­pa­tion. They were in­trigu­ing, but people who started watch­ing them with me gen­er­ally didn’t fin­ish.

So when I signed up and paid for the surgery some days later, I was de­ter­mined to stay alert. I wanted to know what burn­ing eye smelled like.

Wait­ing for the surgery, the nurse gave me a pre-emp­tive parac­eta­mol. She took my glasses away and the world blurred. The sur­geon’s cap (I could see it when I squinted) had toma­toes printed on it. “Open your eyes,” he said.

He joked with me as I watched my own surgery from a unique van­tage point – my vi­sion whit­ing over from the out­side-in while the laser blazed, his spat­ula work­ing to ex­tract a slice of eye. There was no pain and, slightly dis­ap­point­ingly, no burn­ing smell.

Af­ter the surgery I was bun­dled care­fully into an el­e­va­tor. Things were still quite blurry. The mir­a­cle was real this time and I still didn’t quite know how to feel about it.

Once out­side, I recog­nised my wife walk­ing to­wards me from a hun­dred me­tres away.

There were tears in my eyes, but then they’d just been cut and poked with a very sharp stick, so it could have been that.

My eyes got bet­ter and bet­ter un­til the next day I went back to the sur­geon who told me that the surgery had been a com­plete suc­cess and my vi­sion was now bet­ter than 20/20, and I laughed.

That night, I went to bed, feel­ing strange. It took me some time to fig­ure out what the prob­lem was: I felt like I’d for­got­ten to take out my con­tact lenses. But I had taken them out, forever. I turned off the light and got into bed. As my eyes ad­justed, a bright white light, with a del­i­cate trac­ery of dark shad­ows, ap­peared on the bed­room wall. A breeze blew out­side and the shad­ows moved. Half asleep, I watched the light flicker, fas­ci­nated. “What’s that light?” I asked. “It’s re­ally beau­ti­ful.” “That’s the moon­light shin­ing through the tree be­hind the lead­light win­dow,” my wife said. “It’s there a lot.”

I said: “I’ve never seen that be­fore.”

“The lives of small, so­cially awk­ward, unco-or­di­nated boys with anx­i­ety is­sues are not usu­ally im­proved by glasses.”

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