Thursday, April 11, 2013

My Experience with LASIK: Confessions of a "Glasses Kid"

In spite of the name of this blog, nothing about my LASIK procedure was performed in a kitchen, thankfully, but I have been wanting to share my experience with laser vision correction since I had it on September 14, 2012, at LASIK Plus in Towson, Maryland (I am in no way affiliated with or compensated by LASIK Plus for writing this review of my experience).

I was lucky enough to get glasses before I was even two years old, when thankfully my mother decided to take me to the doctor, which saved me from a life of being cross-eyed. Though I'm grateful for my eyesight, most of my life consisted of several "glasses kid" related things:

  • "Cool" accessories that were really straps to keep my glasses stuck to my toddler head.
  • The annoyance of having my glasses slide down my nose whenever I wanted to ride my bike.
  • The "cool trick" that happened when I switched glasses with my best friend in sixth grade, and my eye turned in.
  • Being told that my "glasses were broken" because bifocals were very, very noticeable in the 1990's and everyone wanted to alert me of the fact that something was very wrong with my glasses constantly.
  • Being told that I was cheating "because I had glasses" at the "no blinking" game, where two bored kids stare at each other and the first one to blink loses.
  • Everyone confusing "needing glasses" with "being blind" and asking me "how many fingers they were holding up" whenever I took my glasses off.
And then I got braces.

Anyway, when I was thirteen, I finally got contacts, which was a moment I had looked forward to forever. Unfortunately, contacts are expensive, irritating, and, since I was also graced with the gift of astigmatism, if they didn't sit juuuuust right (which they never did), I couldn't see anyway. So, ten years later, two months before my wedding and right when I had reached the last pair of contacts in the box of six, I decided that enough was enough, and I was going to schedule a LASIK consultation.

Wrong. No one looks like this while putting in contacts.
(freedigitalphotos.net)


I honestly expected the staff at LASIK Plus to tell me that I was not a candidate for the surgery, and send me on my merry way. That isn't what happened. The initial consultation was a series of vision tests, where I stared at various points and dots and my eyes were mapped, cornea thickness tested, etc. I was told that I was a candidate for LASIK, and upon checking out, my appointment was set for the next week. Your contacts have to be out of your eyes for a certain amount of time before the procedure, which is why I had to wait until the next week.

I didn't watch any videos of the procedure online, but I did search for reviews of LASIK in the days leading up to my procedure. I also asked people that I knew who had also had the procedure about their experiences. Still, having your eyes sliced -ahem, lasered- open is not a comforting thought, and no amount of research really calmed me down.

I emailed the LASIK Plus office and asked if there was any sort of sedative that I could use before the procedure. They wrote a prescription for me, and said I could pick it up the day before the surgery. Just so you know, this had absolutely no effect on me, so if this is not an option for you, don't worry.

The day of the surgery, my mom picked me up and we drove to the office. The cool thing about the LASIK office is that the walls of the surgical suite are glass, and a close-up view of the procedure is displayed on a television in the waiting area in real time. I had another quick eye exam before the surgery to make sure everything was consistent, and then eye drops were placed in my eyes to numb them, and my hair was pulled up into a cap.

The surgeon then came in to speak with me, and drew on my eye balls, which I was not actually aware of because my eyes were numb at that point. Then, I was escorted to the surgical suite.

There were two cots in the suite, and I was led to the first one. The first step (that I was aware of) was to cut the "corneal flap" which essentially opens the eye in preparation for the vision correction. A brace is placed on the eye to prevent you from blinking. Remember, your eye is numb at this point, and the medical staff use eye drops to keep the eye from drying out. You don't notice that you are not blinking. In fact, it still sort of feels like you are able to blink. The surgeon talked me through every step of the process, while asking me questions about my job, life, etc. to keep my mind at ease. It had been mentioned to me before hand that some people report feeling more pressure on the second eye to be operated on. This is true. In fact, I felt a slight burning sensation on the second eye, but I also had a headache on that side of my head that day before surgery even started, so that may have played a part. It wasn't painful, I was just aware of it. As the laser is working, pressure is placed on the eye, and my vision went from fuzzy to black/gray until the pressure released.

At that point, I was led from the first cot, to the second. I remember being really shaky while walking, but there were two nurses that helped me move, and, as mentioned before, everyone talks to you through the entire procedure, which helps. After laying back down on the second cot, I was instructed to stare at a green light over my head. While doing so, the laser works its magic, and strangely, the light actually came into focus as the laser was working. The same thing was repeated on the other eye. Absolutely nothing was felt at this point in the procedure.

Then, the surgeon put my eyes back together. According to my mom, he used what looked like a mini paint roller to flip the corneal flap back over, and smooth it out over the surface of the eye. I definitely felt pressure at this point, and as the flap moved, my focus moved all over the place (even though I was looking straight up from the cot, my vision at points was looking straight down at my body... weird!).

Immediately afterward, the surgeon took a look at my eyes. I was able to see clearly at this point, but there was a haze over everything. This may have been partly due to the medication that is placed on the eye after the procedure. I was instructed to wear my sunglasses, go home and take a nap (while wearing a really sexy pair of goggles made of plastic and tape), and to use a ton of eye drops (both medicated and moisturizing).

My mom drove me home, and told me all about the procedure ("It was gross!" and "You do have some yellow in your eyes... maybe they are green!"). As I drove home, my eyes started to get that burning, "dry eye" feeling, and I jogged from my car to my apartment with my eyes shut. My mom helped me tape the plastic goggles to my face, and I tried to take a nap before the numbness fully wore off.

Now, if you take a nap like you are supposed to, you will probably fare better than I did. Instead, I couldn't sleep, so I laid on my bed while fiery tears streamed from my eyes. LASIK Plus did call to check up on me several times throughout the day, and I did finally fall asleep. When I woke up, the fiery tears had stopped, and I was able to see!

At first, night time vision was blurry, mostly due to the halos around lights. Those disappeared within a few weeks. While my nighttime vision isn't fantastic, it's better than it was before I had the surgery, and my vision in the light is amazing. The day after surgery my vision was 20/15, and at my most recent (and final) appointment, six months later, it was 20/10! For the first few months, I did have very dry eyes in the morning, but after about four months that had almost completely resolved.

So, do I recommend LASIK? Absolutely. I wore glasses and contacts for 21 years of my life, and, six months later, I can hardly remember what it was even like to have to put in contacts every day.This past week, I saw a 3D movie, and went to a baseball game, and it was amazing to be able to see everything. Silly as it sounds, it's even amazing just to be able to see the thermostat setting from across the living room! So, I definitely recommend laser vision correction, and, if you are planning to have the procedure yourself, I hope that I was able to set your mind at ease, and wish you the best of luck!