Taking the Plunge: Laser Eye Surgery

In January, 2015, I finally made the decision to get laser-eye surgery. My prescription was awful and I had been considering it for a long time by that point. A year ago this April, I’ll be hitting the anniversary of the surgery, and I’m still so happy I had it done. If you’re on the fence, this post might help you!

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This post is going to include a detailed experience of the consultation, the surgery, the after-care and all my thoughts. I’ll put clear warnings whenever I discuss parts that could make people queasy.

This is also a good time to mention I am not affiliated with LASIK, nor am I receiving payment for this post. This is strictly so that anyone who is curious about the process can read a firsthand account.

I didn’t always wear glasses. In fact, it wasn’t until the middle of grade 5 when I realized I couldn’t read the board very well anymore and that I was squinting like a perpetual sun was shining in my face.

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My prescription wasn’t too terrible to start with, but it continued to decline at a fairly steady rate up until two or so years ago. I don’t embarrass easily – and I thank my mom picking me up from 1st and 2nd grade with the car windows open and the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack blaring for that – but my prescription became a source of great embarrassment for me. It progressed to the point where I would physically react – a gnawing, sick feeling in my stomach – to people looking through my glasses and stating, Wow, your eye sight is really awful. Gee, thanks.

For some reason – societal norms? – it feels important to me to stress this was not a decision based on vanity. It was instead a culmination of all the little things that irritated me about having glasses over the years – not being able to see when I opened my eyes in the morning, snow/rain/’defrosting’ impairing my vision, Canadian winter days so cold the arms would stick to the side of my head, not being able to properly lay on my side to watch a movie or television, not being able to easily switch to sunglasses without the added use of contacts, etc. I reached my boiling point, and I had had enough.

Around the same time that I really started to consider having the procedure, a woman I know had it and loved the results. She chose LASIK, and I immediately looked into the procedure with them, eventually booking a consultation for January.

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My consultation was relatively a breeze, but in some ways it was more annoying than the surgery itself. As I mentioned above, this will be a detailed account of my experience there, and I will provide bolded warnings for anything people may be squeamish about.

My consultation appointment was roughly an hour and a half long, and broken up into three parts (much like the day of the surgery). During Stage One, I met with a technician for roughly 15 minutes worth of generic tests (eg. reading letters/numbers off a chart, following a red dot with your eyes, and keeping them open to get a proper measurement).

During Stage Two, a specialist reviewed the results with me and completed a few of her own tests. She also used a bit of dye to check out my eyes, which was probably the strangest part. The dye makes it easier for the machine to read your retinas, so she has to actually put it in your eye. One eye stung slightly, but the numbing side effect quickly caught up. After that, she held a handheld monitoring device (sort of similar to a pen) directly on my eye for more tests, at which point she explained the different types of laser surgery.

In my case, the specialist suggested the wavefront over the standard because it would give a better result. They automatically guaranteed at LEAST 20/20 vision in both eyes with wavefront, and sometimes it’s even better.

 

Warning: For anyone who may be squeamish. Skip down to the next bolded line.

The specialist also briefly described the actual procedure, which sounds much more terrifying than it actually is. An incision is made in the corneal tissue to create a flap, the laser is used, and you’re done in about 5 to 10 minutes per eye.

 

Safe to read again.

 

Stage Three is the financial aspects. The consultation is free, and you are under no obligation for the surgery. I don’t want to go into too much detail here, as prices have surely changed, and I ended up getting it done during a deal period. I chose the wavefront, which is guaranteed for life, and cost a few hundred dollars more than the standard, but gave me added benefits. Only you can decide which is best for you!

One thing I will add about this stage is that you book your surgery here. Even if you are still unsure, they will suggest you book now anyway with the option of canceling it. Brit had the consultation the same day I did, scheduled her surgery for the same day I did, and then postponed it once and eventually canceled. She still hasn’t had it done, but she was charged nothing for the consultation and cancelation.

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The day of the surgery, I was a nervous wreck. Although the procedure only takes about 15 minutes tops (seriously, I wasn’t even “in surgery” for more than about 10 minutes), they advise you that you will be there for roughly four hours (although my time didn’t quite hit the 3 1/2 hour mark) and that you absolutely require someone to provide you with a ride home.

Stage One of surgery day is reviewing your information and signing paper work while in the main area. You are also given an activity sheet, which lists the things you are unable to do (in 24 hours, a week, a month, etc.), and when you are able to do them again. From there, your eyes are measured and tested once more, although nothing is put in them.

After a bit of a wait, you’re on to Stage Two, which is the financing aspects. Along with sorting out your payment plan (whatever option it may be), you need to purchase the $60 eye drops. These are crucial to the healing process, so be prepared to dish out the money. You can buy them elsewhere, but that means another stop between you and home.

Once you have waited again in the lobby, they’ll call your name, and honestly, this was one of the worst moments. You are seated in a solitary chair – the hot seat, if you will – while you remove your glasses (for the last time!) and put a hair net on. At this point, my hands were shaking so badly I could barely put my glasses away.

Once inside the room, Stage Three begins. The surgeon looks quickly at your eyes and then you stretch out on the table/bed. They put a pillow under your knees and your head sits in a basket-like contraption (it doesn’t hurt, but you can’t move your head). The best part happens next – an assistant hands you a stress ball for each hand (I’m pretty sure that’s the fastest attachment I’ve formed to another human being since age 3).

The surgery is done very quickly (more details will be between the bolded lines below), and you’re free to head out to the darkened section of the waiting room (more on that beyond the second bolded line).

 

Warning: For anyone who may be squeamish. Skip down to the next bolded line.

The surgeon puts numbing drops in your eyes, covers one up (for me, my right eye was done first), and tapes your other eyelid open. A device is then put inside your eyelids to hold them open, but even though you can see it there, you can’t feel it, so it seems like it’s from a distance. It did give me pretty bad bruising, although that is common and expected.

The surgeon then used the tool to cut the flap for the laser (I had been told the tool would heal with less ragged edges than cutting with the laser, thus my choice), and a circular device is placed around your eye. At some point – my nerves made the experience a little fuzzy afterwards – the surgeon informed me that I would temporarily lose sight. It lasted about five seconds, and was startling only because I knew my eye was open but I couldn’t see anything. I then had to stare up at a green dot while the laser was on for about 17 seconds. Afterwards, he used the tool to close the flap, and switched eyes.

If I had to choose the worst part, it would be the burning smell. It was a shock to me, because no one I had spoken to previously and nothing I had read had made mention of it. My brain at the time had a lovely coping method of thinking ‘hmm, that’s a weird smell’ during the procedure, and only letting me fully process the cause afterwards.

 

Safe to read again.

 

After the surgery, everything was hazy. I don’t want to say blurry, because it wasn’t the same as what it was before. Your eyesight will continue to get clearer for the first week or so, and may fluctuate, but I knew from the second the laser finished that I could already see better.

When you’ve been given the dark sunglasses and lead out to the darkened waiting room, you need to sit there for 45 to 60 minutes. At roughly 20 minute intervals, an assistant comes over to put the first two rounds of eye drops in your eyes. After the wait is up, another specialist looks at your eyes and you are free to go!

It seems like there are a million and one types of eye drops to be taken. For the first day, the anti-bacterial is every 4 hours, the anti-inflammatory is every 2 hours and the lubricant is every hour (or up to 2, if you’re resting). After the first day, the drops are 4 times a day, so it’s much better. You have to keep the sunglasses on for the first 24 hours, and then every time you’re outside for the first week.

 

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One last selfie with glasses, and my first without!

 

Results

My surgery was a huge success. Right from the 24 hour check up, I could see better than 20/20. I just had my one year follow up last Friday, and I can still read at a 20/20 line in each eye.

Occasionally my eyes still get dry (usually when I am tired), and I still see the halos at night around lights (but I always have, so it doesn’t really faze me). My eyes are now far more sensitive to sunlight than they previously were, but since sunglasses are so easy to wear now, it doesn’t matter.

This surgery was life-changing in so many ways, and I am beyond relieved I had the guts to finally do it. My suggestion if you are unsure whether to get the surgery or not is to go for the consultation. You won’t know if you don’t try!

Have you had laser eye surgery? Are you considering it?

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