Thursday, January 16, 2014

Facing - and using - your fears

By Gayle Carline
Mystery Author and B-eye-onic Woman

Whether you're writing mysteries or thrillers, you're always on the lookout for situations in your real life that you could turn into a dangerous place for your protagonist. You find yourself picturing a car chase as you drive to the store. You visit the bathroom at a restaurant and wonder if a character could be kidnapped from there.

Truly, it's a wonder that paranoia doesn't keep writers from going anywhere.

This week, I got an extra surge of plot ideas - I had cataract surgery. This was my second go-round, as I'd had my right eye done about a year ago. I won't describe it as a pleasant experience, but it had been mostly benign. I expected to take a day or two to recover, but my recovery went so quickly, I was able to drive the next day. So I expected this time to be similar.

Ah, but that's what they'd like you to think.

The difference began with having two nurses fussing over me, asking me the same questions over and over. "Any heart problems? Diabetes? Hearing aids?" (No, how about you?) "Are you wearing any jewelry?" Yadda-yadda-yadda.

At one point, I thought about telling one of them that the other just asked me those questions, but I thought, well, maybe they'll throw a new one at me. They didn't.

Then there were the eye drops. I remember the drops before just being wet and cold. These stung. All. Of. Them. What especially alarmed me was when they'd put in the drops that were numbing - the drops that followed still stung. What if the numbing drops weren't working?

This is always my fear in any procedure: what if the numbing/ tranquilizing/ anesthesia doesn't work?

One of the nurses then approached me with two cups. "You've had the LensX procedure before, haven't you?"


"Well, then you get to take a pill." She was a little gleeful when she said this. As I swallowed it, she explained. "For the laser part of the surgery, the doctor needs you to be relaxed but not too relaxed. So we just like to give you a Xanax."


No-No-No, I like to be sleepy-dreamy-so-relaxed-you-could-saw-me-in-half. Not "relaxed but not too relaxed." I began to picture something I saw in a movie. (I don't advise watching more than a minute of it.)

They wheeled me into a room that looked like a broom closet with a machine in it. Dr. Brar, my surgeon, was there, and positioned the machine over my eye. I mentioned that I didn't think the drugs did much good and I was nervous as a cat.

He said not to worry (HA! easy words for him), then began to gently tell me that he was going to use this clamp to keep my eye open and all I'd feel was a little pressure and all I'd have to do was keep absolutely still. I still wanted to jump out of my own skin and run down the hall, screaming, but he just kept talking, very calm, and I sucked it up and stayed quiet.

It was over in a couple of minutes. The nurse said they were going to give me something to make me drowsier for the lens replacement and I remember saying, "Oh, good."

That's the last thing I remember until I was in the recovery room.

As you can see, for a writer, this was chock full o' ideas for me. How someone can be tortured, or threatened with torture. How the character on the receiving end might feel about it all. Character studies of the nurses and doctors.

For a person who is afraid of needles and pain, it's a great way to get me through a surgical procedure.

What pumps up your courage and gets you through your fear?

BTW, the Xanax did finally kick in - I slept all day.


  1. Like you, I imagine crime scenarios all the time. After all the thriller movies and cop shows we've seen, why would anyone ever get in their car without checking the backseat?

    To get through scary situations, I tell myself that dozens, thousands, or millions of other people have survived it, and I will too. For the worst case scenarios, I carry a suicide pill. ;)

    1. When they positioned that machine over my eye, I might've used that suicide pill, except that they had tied my hands to the bed. "Sometimes people bring their hands to their eyes involuntarily," Nurse Kim said. Then I'm pretty sure she cackled with glee. At least she did in my head.

  2. You are so funny, B-eye-onic Woman!

    I see possible treats everywhere, but don't seriously consider them as threats to me. But in one of my books? Oh, yeah.

    I had Lasik several years ago and know exactly what you were feeling. Of course, they did both eyes at the same time so there was no angst because it was different than the first time around.

    They rocked your courage! And you laughed!


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