Nov. 26, 2013— -- Lucy Luckayanko was at a night club in New York City when a man approached her and said, "Oh, your eye is so shiny!"
"Yeah," the 25-year-old blonde responded in her native Russian accent. "I've got platinum in my eye." The platinum heart glimmers from the corner of Luckayanko's right eye every time she looks up, allowing the light to catch it away from the shade of her long lashes.
Dr. Emil Chynn surgically implanted the eye jewelry a few weeks ago on Park Avenue in Manhattan for $3,000 as local news cameras captured the moment. Chynn operated in front of a floor-to-ceiling glass window so passersby could watch from the street. But Luckayanko didn't mind. Chynn said he'd given her a Valium and some laughing gas to calm her nerves.
"You don't feel anything," she said.
Chynn, whose bread and butter is laser vision correction, used tiny scissors to make a slit in the thin membrane covering the white of Luckayanko's eye and slipped the curved silvery heart into its pocket. The slit was so tiny it didn't even need stitches, he said.
Luckayanko said it felt as if something was in her eye the first few days, but then she caught herself.
"I guess it is something in my eye," she said, with a smile and a surgically implanted twinkle.
Hers was the first surgery of its kind in New York, and four other people have contacted Chynn to get eye jewelry, too.
Chynn is no stranger to being in the news. He was lampooned in headlines a few years ago; one called him a "creepy Craigslist doctor" after he posted an unusual ad offering to barter private accommodations in his Manhattan townhouse with a suitable woman who would, in exchange, serve as his personal assistant and also walk on his (ailing) back for an hour a day, cook for him, and help him find a wife. For his part, Chynn has defended his ad as legitimate and said that critics have made it into something it was never intended to be. His wife search also went viral, which he talks about on his practice's website.
He sat down next to Luckayanko for an interview with ABCNews.com in the basement of his office as broken fluorescent lights blinked off and on every so often in another room full of surgical supplies. Chynn's patient coordinator, Tarek Elnicklawy, called this room "the dungeon."
After telling Luckayanko to look up, to show off the tiny silver heart -- which nearly blends into the white of her eye -- Chynn explained that he'd been looking for a patient to get the first SafeSight Eye Jewelry for a number of years. Luckayanko was perfect, he said.
"She's Russian. She's over the top," he said, adding that he's had a few Russian girlfriends and claiming matter-of-factly that they would gladly "not eat" to be able to afford designer dresses.
Luckayanko smiled but said nothing.
Chynn said he was hoping for someone who would be attractive enough for the media to take an interest in. He said he hoped to perform the eye jewelry surgery on a celebrity on live television to prove it was safe.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology disagreed, warning consumers to avoid the surgery, because even though it is more common in Europe, it isn't approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
"The American Academy of Ophthalmology has not identified sufficient evidence to support the safety or therapeutic value of this procedure," the academy said in a statement, warning of complications including blindness from ocular infection or bleeding, bleeding beneath the conjunctiva, perforation of the eye and conjunctivitis.
"Tell these people I'm not going to lose my eyeball," Luckayanko said.
"It's not possible," Chynn said. "My life would be better if people listened to me."
Chynn said based on his experience, he believes the procedure is quite safe and said it was not unlike one of the countless off-label uses in which doctors "perform procedures or use medications that are not formally approved by the FDA for that purpose or indication."
Upstairs, patients sit wearing blue surgical bonnets and foot covers in a small waiting room with paper lanterns and velvety curtains. Their chairs were arranged around a large, flat-screen television filled with a real-time eyeball on it as Chynn performed his laser eye surgeries. The sound of the laser fills the waiting room with noises that resemble something between an old-fashioned toy gun and the Wheel of Fortune hitting the plastic rungs as it spins.
Luckayanko said she likes the eye jewelry because it's "elegant" and only visible to the people she wants to be close to. She said she didn't have any tattoos because she didn't like that they're permanent. The eye jewelry is removable.
"Don't take a steak knife and remove it yourself," Chynn said.
But it hasn't been all positive attention for Luckayanko since a post-op photo of her eyeball went viral and commenters started criticizing her for getting the implant.
"I figure out I need plastic surgery," she said with a hint of sarcasm about what commenters have said about her. "I feel they can say whatever."
Luckayanko said she came to the United States five years ago and hopes to become a famous graphic designer. She said the negative attention she received this month made her empathize with Kim Kardashian. When she feels down, she said she watches Miley Cyrus videos to remind herself that Cyrus is still happy despite the backlash from Cyrus' twerking and other scandalous behavior.
"What did she do?" Chynn asked the group.
"She kept on doing it," Elnicklawy said.
Editor's Note: This story has been revised to reflect the fact that scissors, not a laser, were used in the procedure to insert the eyeball jewelry. The article also has been amended to clarify details about Dr. Chynn's past, and his statement about the safety of the procedure has been added.