Just like any good nerd out there, I have vision issues. While I’m capable of reading things close up, once you get past arm’s length it all gets blurry. I wore glasses for a couple of years in middle school before switching to contact lenses for my primary form of vision correction. Allow me to state for the record that I was the worst contact lens wearer imaginable. 30-day extended wear pairs would last me 8 months. I left them in all the time, even when I slept. The only time I wore glasses is when I couldn’t stand the contacts any longer, and that usually lasted about an hour because I couldn’t stand my glasses either. I always wanted to be free of the plastic and glass I was forced to use to avoid bumping into large objects.
Enter laser vision correction, commonly referred to as LASIK. I’d looked at getting it for several years, but I never looked too deeply. I figured I’d get around to it sooner or later. Last year, my eye doctor asked me if I’d ever considered getting LASIK. It seems that having a stable prescription for a decade makes you a good candidate. She did some preliminary tests in her office and found that my corneas were the proper thickness to perform the procedure. And with that, I started investigating all the possibilities. There are lots of different options out there for people that want to use the power of the almighty laser to fix vision issues. Lucky enough for me, I fell into the category of “average”, meaning my prescription wasn’t too crazy to cause issues with the fixing my eyes.
For those not familiar with the process, the doctor essentially cuts a flap in your eye, peels back that flap, and uses the laser to correct your vision on the cornea itself. In essence, the doctor is creating a permanent contact lens for your eye. No need to take it out every night and wash it, or worry about losing it in the ocean. Always there, always correcting your vision. After chatting with a couple of different doctors, I settled on Dr. Gary Wilson at ClearSight Center. His plan seemed to meet my needs and wasn’t over priced. While I was willing to spend whatever it took to make sure I could see at the end of the procedure, I also didn’t want to break the bank on useless add-ons.
The pre-op appointments were pretty standard. The measured my eyes and double-checked my prescription. They told me that I would need to have my glasses on for at least two weeks, since the eyeball needs to settle back into a normal shape if you are a long-term contact wearer. Seems contacts deform the eye slightly. Once I had my contacts out for the requisite two weeks, there were a few last minute checks and I thought I was off and running. Except…since Dr. Wilson is the only eye surgeon at the center, if he’s sick the whole operation shuts down. And since Dr. Wilson caught a bit of a stomach bug, my surgery was off the table for its original date, April 15th. A reschedule for the following Tuesday was also met with disappointment, as Dr. Wilson was still not quite up to surgery. As I would rather have my eye doctor performing at full capacity, I rescheduled for April 26th. As a side note to you network people out there, this goes to show that a one-person operation can be a disaster when that one person is unavailable for any reason. Spread out your knowledge so that having a single person down doesn’t mean having your whole business down.
Surgery day started out a little nerve wracking. I had to fill out a few forms, including writing out a paragraph of an agreement long hand. It had been so long since I’ve written anything in cursive I almost forgot how to write. After the forms were filled out, the waiting began. It took about an hour before they were ready for me. After stepping back into the operating area, I was given a sexy shower cap to wear on my head and cool shoe covers as well. I asked for one of those peek-a-boo hospital gowns but was met with blank stares and shivers of revulsion. Then, the eyedrops started. Antibiotic drops, anesthetic drops, drops to clear my redness. All in all, I think I had eight different eyedrops administered over the course of the next twenty minutes. Not just a drop or two either. It felt like Niagara Falls splashing against my face. I also got to take a steroid to aid the healing process and two different anti-anxiety medications to keep me from being jittery. Not that they helped totally, as the idea of having my eyes operated on coupled with the hosptial-like atmosphere (not my favorite of places) lead me to have a small panic attack right before I went back. Thankfully, the nurse was right there with a 7-UP and package of delicious crackers. Maybe the crackers had Valium hidden in them…
Once the doctor was ready, it was showtime. I walked back into the room and laid down on what was essentially a massage table. I fit my head back into the little headrest and the doctor and nurses explained the procedure to me. All I really had to do was stare straight ahead and follow a little light. Easy, right? After taping my left eye shut to prevent me from getting hurt by errant laser blasts, the doctor placed a device over my right eye. This was basically the most uncomfortable portion of the procedure, as it felt someone was pressing down on my eye for about thirty seconds, during which time everything was black. What was happening was the device was creating the flap on my eye, slicing off a section of my cornea. I elected to go with a bladeless cornea cut, as the idea of having someone put a razor blade close to my eyeball wasn’t pleasant. Once the flap was created, the device was removed and my vision returned. I then had to stare at a green light over my head so the laser could get a reference point for my eyeball. There was a tracking system positioned around my head so that if my eye twitched even slightly, the laser would shut off instantly to prevent damage. Not that it was entirely necessary, as the amount of medication I’d been subjected to made sure my eyes didn’t twitch. The doctor warned me that my vision was about to get very blurry. Boy, he wasn’t kidding. Like, fifteen beers blurry. The green light I was supposed to be staring at went from looking like a pinpoint to a whole constellation. This was due to the doctor flipping my cornea flap up to laser my eye. Once ready, a 9-second laser burst was all it took to correct 20 years of bad vision. The chemical smell in the air from the laser light being produced smelled like burning hair, but I tried not to think about it as I stared at the green constellation of lights above me. Nine seconds later, the doctor flipped my cornea flap back down and smoothed it out with a little plastic tool. As my eyeball was numbed to the point of barely existing at that point, it was a little surreal to watch him touch my eye with something that I couldn’t feel. He made me close my eye and taped it shut so he could move on to the left eye, since I had elected to have them both done at once. The left eye required an eleven second laser burst, due to a slight amount of astigmatism. Afterwards, my eyes were rinsed out with some saline solution, and I stood up for the first time in twenty years able to see without glasses or contacts.
The post-op was fairly uneventful. I was informed I shouldn’t read or use a computer for about 24 hours. I should only watch TV and try to take as many naps as I could so my eyes would start healing. I was given a regimen of eye drops to take four times daily to help prevent infection. I was told that any time I felt my eyes getting dry, I should use artificial tears to keep them wet and lubricated. Other than that, it was pretty easy compared to other post-op instructions I’ve heard.
Overall, LASIK was a great success for me. Twenty-four hours later my vision was 20/16, which is a step better than the average person. I know that over the course of the next few months the healing process will cause my vision to fluctuate some. As long as I end up with 20/20, I’ll be damn happy. I haven’t tried to drive at night yet, so I’m not sure of the effects of night halos around light sources. I can say that I’m a little more sensitive to sunshine. It’s not painful, but I do notice the sun being a lot brighter than usual outside. I hope that the next few months will prove to be as good as the last forty eight hours.
If you are a good candidate for LASIK, I highly recommend the procedure. The ability to not worry about glasses or contacts when you wake up in the morning is more than worth it. There was no pain at all, and the procedure was the epitome of fast and easy. There is no reason why everyone shouldn’t enjoy the fruits of modern technology like this.