Tuesday, October 4

I Can See Clearly Now: My LASIK Experience

Almost five months ago I did something I never thought I would do: I paid someone to peel back a flap of my cornea and burn off part of my eye with a laser. Some people dream of getting LASIK, but for me it was a scary, but reasonable, solution to a problem.

I started wearing glasses when I was five years old. They were Pepto-Bismol pink with pictures of Minnie Mouse on the earpieces. In other words, they were awesome!

Love the frames, the bangs, and the toothy grin!

Growing up, I never had negative feelings toward my glasses. I actually called them my best accessory. As I got older and more of my friends started wearing contacts I still didn't think I needed them - until the junior prom. Since that day in 11th grade, I've always felt that dressing up involves ditching my glasses. In fact, I wore contacts almost every day, special or not, of my college career.

Around the time that I finished college (three-and-a-half years ago!) I started having intermittent problems with irritation when I wore my contacts. I began to wear them only for special occasions. Eventually it got to the point that within a few hours of putting them in, my eyes would turn bright pink, tears would start streaming down my face, and I could barely keep my eyes open. Not fun.

In glasses for graduation. It was also the day after we got engaged.

While I know many people who have worn glasses every day of their adult lives (including both of my parents), I just wasn't okay with hiding behind frames for every special occasion. At a visit to the ophthalmologist's office I learned that my options were 1. just wear glasses, 2. try hard contacts (a $200 experiment that probably wouldn't work), or 3. get LASIK.

Michael got LASIK as a college graduation gift and has had great results, so we knew what to expect. And the cost at Eye Care One, $3,000 for both eyes, was significantly lower than his cost. While that's a hefty price tag that wasn't covered by insurance, if I can go 10-15 years without glasses, contacts, and expensive fittings I will easily recoup my investment. Also, I won't need to pay for vision insurance or regular check-ups. I will likely need to get reading glasses when I develop age-related far-sightedness, but, I should never need bifocals, and I probably won't need glasses for most activities.

On the day of the surgery I was accompanied by Michael and both of my parents. It did feel a little silly to have my own cheering section for a procedure that took about fifteen minutes. But was I glad they were there? Definitely. The doctor talked us through the procedure, gave me my valium, and left us to nibble on cookies until I was a little mellowed out. I don't know if the valium calmed me down, but it certainly made me sleepy, which helped me focus on finishing things up and going back to bed!

When it was time for the surgery I walked into a dim room and laid on what looked like a reclined dentist's chair. The doctor chatted with me while he taped my eyelashes down, gave me numbing drops, and got everything settled. Then the room went dark, he pried my eyes open with a speculum, and fixed what felt like a vice on one of my eyes. This was the worst part because of the pressure he had to apply. It made me very uncomfortable, but was necessary to keep my eye open and still. During the procedure he talked with me to tell me what he was doing. Although, looking back, he never said anything like, "Now I'm going to cut into your eyeball with a tiny cheese slicer," but that's what it looks like he did on the video! : )

Warning: DO NOT watch this video if you're squeamish! Or if you're thinking about getting LASIK and seeing something a little scary will change your mind. Seriously.

While he was working, my job was to focus on a series of flashing lights above me. I was worried that I would look away and cause a disaster, but since the lights were all I could see and I couldn't shut my eyes that wasn't a problem. It was really odd to have my eyes open that long, but the doctor wet them at a few points in the surgery, which helped.

He finished one side quickly and moved on to the other, which took more time. The vice had more pressure on this side, and I did groan a little bit despite my promise to myself that I wouldn't be a weanie. Although it was uncomfortable, when I was all done I could read a clock on the other side of the room! I was a little nervous because my vision was very hazy, but immediately better than it had been without glasses.

Check out my sweet goggles!

My family drove me home in goggles, which I continued to wear for the next 24 hours. The doctor instructed me to sleep all day, which I was super excited about for the first four-or-so hours. After that, I needed medication to help me sleep, but also spent some time chatting with my eyes closed. The next day, it was a little uncomfortable to focus on words to gauge my reading, but my distance vision was great. I was more tired than usual for a few days, probably from the swelling in my eyes, but by the third post-op day I was back to normal. My surgery was on a Thursday, I went on a family trip Friday through Sunday, and on Monday I was back at work with no problems.

A little swollen right after surgery, but feeling good!

Two days post-op: in the mountains with family.

At this point I've made it through the 3-month post-op evaluation process and I'm doing great. I do have to use eyedrops every morning when I wake up and as-needed due to dryness. This is apparently a problem I had before that was just exacerbated by the surgery. At my last appointment my vision had regressed very slightly (still better than 20/20) from my previous check, so we're checking it again in a few months to be sure things stabilize. At worst, this could mean that I'll need a revision of the surgery. Michael had to do this and, while unpleasant, he hasn't had a single problem since.

So, would I get LASIK again? Absolutely! The funny thing about it is that I rarely think about it since my vision is about the same as it was with correction. But when I'm swimming, or running, or on an international flight, or dressing up for a special occasion I remember that all of these things were more complicated before LASIK, and I'm very pleased with my investment.

I hope this post answered some of your questions about the surgery. Let me know if there's anything else you'd like to know!

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