Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My Lasik Experience

I am the guinea pig for many of my friends who want to get Lasik. So I thought I would chronicle my Lasik journey so you can decide if it is something you want to do or if you are just interested about what it is like. And if you don't care, then don't read:)!

I got my surgery at TLC Lasik in the West End off of Parham Road. I went twice before surgery day to, first, find out if I was a candidate and, second, to get my final check up after a few months had past to make sure my vision had not drastically changed and that everything still looked good (I went back in my contacts after my initial check up since I couldn’t get the surgery right away). Both consults were free. My fee for the procedure after a discount from my insurance was $3950 (originally I think it is $4300). Thank goodness for my Flexible Spending Account, because I will save $1000 taking out the money before taxes. This payment includes all check ups (for the first year you go pretty regularly) and for a lifetime of touch ups in case you need the procedure again (I probably will need a touch up in a decade or so just because I am young, but then again, I might be fine). I got Custom Lasik, which is the newest procedure that is supposed to reduce the occurrence of halos and blurriness and be good for those of us, like myself, with big pupils. I was a good candidate because I had a common prescription (I was -4.25 in contacts with about 20/800 vision). I also had “thick” corneas, which is good for creating the flap that they have to pull back to exposure your eye to the laser.  Anyways, you’ll learn way too much about how the procedure works before you do it and even get to watch educational videos, so no fear!

My procedure was on a Monday because that is the only day this particular office does them. Therefore, it was busy with about 4 people in various stages of getting the procedure at any time from 8-11. My appointment was at 10 am, and after only waiting for about 10 minutes, I was called back. We (my mom and I) went into one of the doctor’s offices who told us about the eye drop schedule after the procedure, what to do/not do, what to expect and her answered any questions. Then he gave me 5mg of Valium. Holler.

I was then escorted into a room next door to wait for the surgeon and to let my Valium kick in. I was in there about 20 minutes chit chatting with my mom and feeling the drug’s effects, which in one word are weird. The surgeon came in to chat with me briefly, basically saying he thought I was a great candidate and should expect a good outcome but there is less than a 1% chance it might not go as expected. I had heard all this before from the doctor that had done my consults, so nothing was new. This surgeon only comes in on Monday's from D.C. so this was my first time meeting him. He did Tiger Wood's eyes, so I felt good about his qualifications:).

We went out into the waiting area right outside the procedure room. I then made the mistake of watching the person before me get it done. It wasn’t horrible, but seeing what they were going to do to me did not make me feel any better. It looked so weird. She was done in like 5 minutes and then it was my turn!

I walked in and laid down on the surgery chair and was positioned under a machine. They gave me numbing drops, which work REALLY quickly. It was time to go! The first thing they do is pry open your eyelids with a clamp and have you stare at a light. The clamp is uncomfortable because it is tight and pressured. They poke at you a bit (but you can’t feel it) and then move you over to another machine where they make the flap. You can’t see for about 1 minute and feel a lot of pressure as they are literally slicing open your cornea. Once you can see again, it’s completely blurry and they move you over to the other laser again where you stare at the light and hear the laser’s clicking sounds for about thirty seconds. Your vision becomes better as it goes on, and once it is over they fold the flap back over your eye and secure it in place by moving it with their surgical implements (even a mini brush) and giving you lots of eye drops. Your vision shifts a lot during that time. The doctor talks to you the whole time telling you you're doing well, which is very comforting. Then you’re done! The same begins again for the next eye. All in all it takes no more than 10 minutes and when you open your eyes you can see, but it is BLURRY and your eyes are VERY sensitive to light. Then the doctor examins the flap to make sure it looks good. Then they put you in a dark room and give you instructions for the day and then send you on your way after you take 2 Tylenol PM so you’ll sleep. We left around 11:30.

The pain is interesting. During surgery it is more uncomfortable than anything else and you feel a lot of pressure when they clamp your eye and make the flap. The laser doesn’t hurt but you have to keep still during the discomfort, which is the hardest part. I also felt nauseous because it’s a feeling you’re not used to and not being able to see what they are doing is uncomforting. On the way home I was so drugged and sensitive to light that my mom kept telling me I was saying how weird I felt. Which I did- it was a very weird experience.  Most people have never had anything done to their eyes, so you just don’t know what you’re feeling. You also don’t want to open your eyes because the light hurts, you are doped up on Valium and sleeping pills, and your eyes are sore. It’s very odd. I kept worrying that if I opened my eyes my flap would come undone. lol

Once I got home I went to sleep. I didn’t sleep particularly well because my eyes were uncomfortable and really runny. I could have used numbing drops again, but once I put on my sleeping goggles (I have to use tape), it seemed too much of a hassle to put the drops in. I did doze on and off and when I woke up around 4 pm, I was feeling a lot better. I was very sensitive to light from about 4pm until 7 pm so I was wearing my sunglasses and had all the lights off in the house. I watched/listened to TV because that’s all you can do. At this point my eyes didn’t hurt, they were just very blurry, but I could see better than I could ever remember.

As the night went on, my eye site continually got better and I became more and more accustomed to light. I have a pretty regimen eye drop routine (basically 3 different drops every two hours) but since I can’t wear eye make up for a week, I don’t mind eye drops. Also, lubricating my eyes feels good since one of the side effects is dry eyes and eye drops always help that.

The next morning (today) my eye site was still improving. Lights were still blurry (there is a haze around lights) but much better than last night. My follow up appointment was at 10:20. I got examined and found out I have 20/20 vision!!! There us still a haze around most objects, but that is normal and should continually get better. The doctors also say that my eye site will not set in for about 6 months-1 year, so my eye site could get better or even worse (when I say worse, I mean 20/25, nothing more drastic then that). All in all, what I see without contacts is pretty amazing since before everything was just a big blur and I would run into things without my glasses or contacts.

In conclusion, my Lasik experience was a good one. I felt taken care of and in the hands of good doctors. The recovery was really only uncomfortable for about 4 hours, which is less time than any procedure I have ever had done. I felt fine after my nap and have no lingering side effects. Today I can do all my normal things and my eyes don’t hurt one bit- they just feel a little dry. I will be pretty religious with eye drops for a while, but since I can’t wear eye makeup for a week (gross, I know), putting in drops is not a big deal.

But I am kind of sad about no longer wearing my cute glasses:(. I think I will take the lenses out and put fake ones in so I can wear them for style. Even when the procedure is elective and for the best, it’s hard to let go of 12 years of a habit!
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