This is part 1 of a series. Here’s part 2.
WARNING: IF YOU ARE AT ALL LIKE ME AND ARE MADE UNCOMFORTABLE BY THE DESCRIPTION OF SURGICAL PROCEDURES, NO MATTER HOW MINIMALLY DESCRIBED, THIS MAY NOT BE FOR YOU (BUT MAYBE IT IS).
SECONDARY WARNING: IF YOU ARE MADE UNCOMFORTABLE BY TALES OF A MAN SHAKING IN VERY UNMASCULINE WAYS, TURN AWAY NOW!
As was mentioned more than once on this blog space here, last week I went under the metaphorical (or perhaps I should say, photonical(I doubt that’s accurate), knife. There was no actual blade involved, but there was some cutting. It’s all sciency-lasery stuff that not even the people who invented it understand, I’m sure :-).
As was also mentioned last week, I promised to give a bit of a post-game article reviewing the process and letting you all know what it might be like for you, should you decide to have portions of your cornea vaporized by blue/purple/gray lasers.
First, let me answer the question that I’m certain is on everyone’s mind, whether you’re here as a regular reader, or you found yourself here because of your interested in the LASIK process. Yes, I do most certainly believe it is worth it. Sure, I’m not quite a week past my procedure, sure the swelling in my eyes has yet to go down to a level where it doesn’t feel any different than it did when I wore contacts on a regular basis, and yes, lights still have a pretty darn large halo around them, meaning that viewing christmas lights isn’t all that much fun at this point. However, those last two items are things that I’ve been assured should disappear within a week or so, one month tops. I’ll definitely keep you all updated on that in some fashion, I’m sure.
The end result is nothing short of amazing. In fact, per my post-op exam, my vision is currently at 20/15, even with the blurry/haziness I’m currently experiencing, meaning my vision is actually better than it was with glasses and way better than it was with contacts, seeing as I didn’t have correction for my astigmatism in those little pieces of plastic. You heard me right, my vision right now, without glasses, is better than it was less than a week ago with glasses.
Now, my vision will fluctuate a bit for the next week or so, so who knows where I’ll actually end up once everything is said and done, but I’m guessing that I’ll stick closer to that high number, since the only thing that’s really causing me any trouble seeing is the bits of haze that comes in when it’s about time for another session of re-wetting my eyes.
But we all know that no one really cares about all of that. You’re just here to see how I shook like a frightened baby while I held on to my squishy toy crying out for it all to be over, right?
I’m going to walk you all through the entire process, just so you get an idea of what the entire thing could feel like for you, in case you are one of the many people who have told me of their interest in getting this procedure done for themselves.
First, I’ll give you a little idea of how long the process takes in its entirety. I walked into the building at TLC Vision Centers here in Eau Claire (yeah…I gave them a straight up shout out. Maybe they’ll hook me up with free rewetting drops or something, who knows?) at 9am on Thursday. I walked out at approximately 10:30am (information on why I wasn’t actually paying attention to the clock to come). The procedure itself only takes about 20 minutes.
So, once I walked through those doors, I was greeted with some smiling faces from behind the counter. You’ll notice that smiles are something that will be mentioned a lot. These folks do a lot to make sure the patients are feeling as at ease as possible. I was definitely one of the folks in need of it.
I was the first customer/patient in the building that day, so I have a feeling that some of these pieces may change if you are there later, but after a few minutes of filling out paperwork, I was escorted back to get my pre-op exam. I didn’t even have time to sit in the waiting room. One of the many ways in which I felt more like a customer than a patient…I’ve never been to a doctor’s office in which I didn’t have to sit in the waiting room.
Once in back, we sat for a couple of minutes as we awaited Dr. Harvey to come and visit with us. He put some numbing drops in my eyes, checked out a few things, marked my eyes with some sort of marker (the first of many odd experiences to come for me that day) and basically stated I was good to go. We sat in there a few minutes longer before one of the nurses came in, gave me a valium, some booties, and a hair net and directed us into the pre-op waiting room.
Now, I had already been exhibiting many of my typical signs of anxiety. My loving wife, who stayed by my side for this whole ordeal, noted early on about how goofy I get when I’m nervous. I won’t deny that I was trying to come up with as many silly things to focus on that morning as possible. Once we made it into this pre-op room, however, I was finding myself running out of steam. This room was created with the obvious intention to relax folks. The calming music, the sound of running water from some feng shui fountain, and the dimmed lighting probably does a great deal toward helping people relax before laying down under the laser. I saw all of these things and realized that they were trying to get me to relax…which caused me to freak out a little bit more.
Quick side-track here, as I feel it’s important to mention. There really is nothing to be afraid about. Everything I read about the process highlighted this fact and did a fairly good job outlining what actually occurs under the laser. I, however, am incredibly squeamish when it comes to any form of medical procedure. When my wife was pregnant, I had to leave the room every time they took blood, or did any form of poking or prodding. The entire time they did they’re post-birth stuff on our first kid, which was a fairly long time, I wanted to pass out, even though I wasn’t watching. Just knowing it was going on next to me was more than I could handle. It’s rather silly, to be honest, as I have no issues with blood or other bodily fluids (parenting definitely helps on that bit), but the idea of cutting, stitching, poking, or whatever just makes me squirm to no end. So…knowing this, you can imagine how much I was squirming in my chair knowing the one simple thing I knew about the procedure I was about to undergo…they were going to cut a flap in my cornea and I was going to have a front row seat without the ability to close my eyes when things got too hairy…
They called me into the laser room well before the valium kicked in. In fact, I was asleep at home before that sucker kicked in. I walked behind the doctor barely aware of my surroundings, feeling like a man walking toward his execution. Once I entered the room, they pointed at a selection of soft toys and suggested I grab one to hold on to. I laughed at first, reminding myself that I am a man and should not need toys to get through something so simple…then I remembered everything else about myself and picked the squishy football, although the teddy bear looked much more enticing.
They laid me down in the chair that I can’t really call a chair because it’s not for sitting and things started moving quickly. After a series of miniscule head movements to make sure I was located in the appropriate location for the procedure, they taped one eye closed, taped my eyelids back on the other eye, brought out the speculum (the thing that would keep my eyes open through the procedure), and were officially ready to start…
I don’t know the names of the tools involved from this point out, and my view of the proceedings was pretty minimal, so be aware that everything I tell you from this point on is in question as far as how true it is. I’m merely able to tell you my first person account of what happened from this point. Of course, that should be all you’re interested here, as you can get fairly detailed information on what actually happens almost anywhere.
So, they brought out this circular device. That’s all I really know about it. It was a circle, they put it over my eye. I do know that this is the device that they use to suck my eye into place. Which they did…and my vision cut out, similar to a basic fade out in a movie. For the next 30 seconds or so, I was blind as they did the exact thing that had me most squeamish about the event. They spun my chair over to the appropriate location and began repeating the phrase don’t move a muscle. Of course, when blind, one doesn’t really know if they are moving their eye or not, not to mention the fact that I had now begun shaking because of my unease with the situation. The shaking just got worse as they continued to repeat the phrase because I knew that at any moment they would be cutting the flap in my cornea.
Then they started the countdown for how much longer I needed to stay still. My wife assures me that I looked completely still, but I was certain that I had begun full-body convulsions at this point in the procedure. Then I felt a little tug on my eye and they said it was done. There were some noises, which other people documenting the procedure claim sounded like a saw…there was no saw, at least not in the bladeless LASIK I was undergoing. There really was nothing to it. Completely painless, of course, and, well, incredibly quick.
They spun my chair back under the laser and released my eye from the suction cup. Vision returned, but just barely. Things actually looked a lot like the old Commodore 64 versions of pictures where there were only 8 colors available to make them with, but incredibly blurry. I saw things moving across my eyes, which after some thought I realized was them moving the cut flap of cornea away from the center of the eye so they could begin the actual procedure.
The Commodore 64-ness was now gone, but things were incredibly blurry. All I could see was a light. They asked me to focus on the blinking light. After a great deal of searching through the blurriness, I noticed a very faint blink occurring in the center of the light. They then told me to keep looking at “the blinky”, that it was my “friend for the next minute”. And then it started. An odd noise, not unlike a dot matrix printer, sounded from above and my eye caught flashes of blue and purple as I was suddenly able to see the light and the “blinky” a whole lot better. They again repeated the phrase to not move a muscle, as I became anxious about the fact that my eyes were constantly refocusing on this blinking light above me, due to the fact that my vision was constantly changing. For what felt like forever, although based on the counting was more like 30 seconds, I started at the blinking light, hoping I hadn’t forever screwed up my vision by moving my eye a millimeter or something. The air was filled with the odd stench of vaporized cornea, which I can only describe as similar to burning hair. My shaking continued, although much less with this point, because lasers vaporizing layers of cornea is apparently not as bad in my mind as a laser cutting a flap in that same cornea.
The countdown ended and I watched as they spread the flap of cornea back over the center of my eye and then used some sort of wiper over it (which I’m guessing might have been some sort of glue to keep it in place).
And then it was done.
One eye down, second to go. The second eye was exactly the same, except I found that I was shuddering even more (which my wife once again assures me was not visibly noticeable). The laser paused for a minute on the second eye, which I’m guessing is because I moved it slightly. I’m not certain this is the case, but rest assured that the vision in my left eye is just as good as my right.
And although things felt like they took forever, suddenly I was done and they were asking me to sit up. I finally took notice of my hands and the death grip they had on the tiny little football as they asked me how things looked. I looked around and realized I could see. Sure, things were incredibly blurry, but I could not only see the clock on the wall, but actually make out the numbers on it, as opposed to only minutes prior where it was nothing more than a white blur.
And that was it… I mean, they did a quick look at my eyes under a microscope dealie to make sure everything looked good, but that was seriously the end of it. Within minutes of having my surgery completed, I was walking out the front door and heading home for a long needed nap.
I was still shaking for as long as I was awake after the procedure (about 30 minutes, tops), but that’s simply because of my own squeamish nature regarding all of this. The procedure itself couldn’t have been more easy.
And I can see!
In fact, here’s my attempt to show you the before and after of how my vision without glasses looked:
It’s fraking incredible.
Well…I’ve already gone well over my standard word count and I’ve got a busy day ahead of me, so I’m going to end this quickly. As you can see, the LASIK process itself is simple and worry free, and although I’m still in the healing process, I’ve been watching TV and reading books and, you know, typing long articles on the computer, with minimal issues. About twice a day I have to give my eyes a rest and I’m still pretty sensitive to bright light. That’s it.
If you are one of those folks looking for info on all of it, I’d be more than willing to answer any further questions you might have for me as a person who has experienced it. I’m pretty darn happy with it so far and believe I’ll just be getting more happy as the healing process continues. And, best part is…I haven’t had to hunt for my glasses in the morning. Although…I have been hunting for my rewetting drops. Those things are awesome right now.
Have fun out there!