Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Low Down on Lasik

Thanks to everyone for the well wishes. The procedure went very smoothly, and at my post-op check Saturday morning, my vision was 20/20. That was less than 24 hours after surgery. Absolutely astounding. People who told me it was no big deal, were right. And people who said I would wonder why I hadn’t done it years ago, were right. Though I usually avoid characterizing things as such, this is nothing short of miraculous. In Pre-Op, I asked the nurse what my current vision was. She said, “Ummm….I don’t really know, we kind of stop quantifying after 2400. That’s if you can’t see the big E.” I couldn’t see the big E. I knew I was legally blind without my glasses, and though I haven’t been able to see the big E for many years, I didn’t realize it had gotten that bad. Denial, I guess.

For those of you who have been considering having Lasik or a similar procedure, I thought I would give a blow by blow account, from the perspective of a bona fide chickenshit. If you don’t already know, I am extremely phobic about medical procedures; surgery in particular. And the fact that I would be awake and watching everything did not make it any more attractive to me.

But, I had grown increasingly weary and intolerant of contacts, and my glasses had become incredibly expensive. Because my prescription is so strong, I really have to have high index lenses to make them wearable. The term “coke bottle glasses” was quite literal in my case. Even with the special grinding, my lenses were still too thick for certain frames to accommodate, and the rimless style was completely out of the question.

In addition, due to the growth of blood vessels on the surface of my eye, caused by almost 25 years of wearing contacts, it was only a matter of time before I was unable to wear them at all. I just wanted to be able to see. So I pushed my fear aside and made an appointment for a consultation.

I chose the Emory Laser Vision Center. Why? Well, because you don’t get to practice at Emory by being last in your class. It’s that simple. With my issues, I needed to know that the person doing the surgery and the facility in which it was being done had a proven record of success and excellence.

The consultation was very thorough and extremely interesting. I had no idea that one could ultrasound an eyeball. I felt that the doctor did a good job of explaining all the risks and benefits adequately and she encouraged me to ask questions. Which I did. A lot. Because of a “steep spot” on my left eye, there was some question of whether I would be able to have Lasik on that one. She explained that insufficient corneal tissue prevents them from making the “flap” that is used in Lasik, but that I would still be a candidate for a corneal ablation. In terms of results the two procedures are very comparable, but the ablation has a much longer recovery period; about 3 weeks. She surmised that I had significant corneal molding from wearing toric lenses. I was told not to wear my contacts any more and the day of the surgery, it was found that the steep spot was gone. I was ok’d for Lasik on both eyes.

The day of the surgery, I arrived at 1:00, sans make-up, and was immediately taken to be prepped. There was really very little involved in preparing me for surgery. She went through the procedure step by step and warned me that I might experience a brief loss of vision at one point during the procedure. It was good that she warned me, because with my issues, I would have panicked immediately had I been unprepared. I was offered a low dose of Valium, (5mg) which I accepted. Then, I was given numbing drops, antihistamine drops, and antibiotic drops. I got a shower cap and shoe booties and I was ready.

I laid on the table, which was amazingly comfy. I was not strapped down, but I was warned not to move my arms or legs during the procedure. I was told to relaxe while they calibrated the machine. Relaxe. Right. But really, considering how anxious I normally am about medical procedures, I was much less freaked out than I expected to be. Even prior to taking the Valium, I was pretty calm, and I had slept just fine the night before. My husband kept asking me if I was alright, because he is fully aware of my tendency towards extreme anxiety. But I really was okay.

He was shown to an observaton window where he could watch the procedure, and he also had a video monitor where he watched everything close-up. Ick. But he thought it was cool and it didn't gross him out at all, even when a blood vessel on the surface of my eye burst. More on that a little later.

When the machine was calibrated, they slid me under it. Above me was an array of bright lights. I was told to focus on the green light in the center. First, they taped my eyelids open, then they inserted the retractors. I thought that part might bother me, but it really didn't. It wasn't uncomfrotable at all, and I actually felt relieved that I wouldn't have to worry about blinking. They placed a patch over my left eye.

Next, they placed a circular device onto my eyeball, and told me to expect some pressure. Suction was applied to pull my cornea into the aperature. It was an odd and mildly disconcerting sensation, but it didn't hurt. That was the point at which everything went dark, but it was brief. Once my cornea was fixed into position, I could see again.

Next came the slicing, which was the only part of the procedure that freaked me out a little bit. I could see the machine moving across my eyeball, and there was a lot of pressure. There was no pain, but after a moment, I realized that I could feel the cutting, and I could feel an odd...loosening...as the tissue separated. This was the only point at which I felt that I might panic. But it was very brief and of course, after the first eye, I knew what to expect.

The laser part was a snap. I had been told that there is a "fragrance" associated with higher degrees of correction as the laser reacts with the corneal tissue. Well, I wouldn't call it a "fragrance", but it wasn't really a "stench" either. The technician told me it would smell like burning hair, but to me it was similar to the smell when you're having your teeth drilled.

That was it. They patched the right eye and moved on to the left. It probably took about five minutes per eye, though I was probably on the table for about 20 minutes all told.

When I was done, the doctor told me that everything had gone perfectly. The only complication was that one of the prominent blood vessels on the surface of my eye had burst when the suction was applied. As a result, the white of my right eye has a large red area that looks somewhat alarming, but does not impact the success of the procedure or my overall eye health. It's really just a bruise on my eyeball. Or a hickey.

My left eye was crystal clear from the moment I left the table, and I have had absolutely no pain or discomfort whatsoever in that eye. The right eye, which, again, was my bad eye, had a lot of discomfort that day. I was told it would feel like I had an eyelash in my eye. I'm sure it varies from person to person and with the degree of correction, but to me it felt more like a boulder. Have you ever unknowingly put a torn contact in your eye and then wondered...MOTHER OF GOD why does that hurt so much?!?!? It was like that. It was irritating to the point that I really just wanted to keep my eyes closed and that's what I did. The doctor told me that was best anyway. When my eyes weren't closed, I was instructed to put saline drops in my eyes every ten minutes. And I have to put steroid and antibiotic drops in my eyes four times a day for seven days.

Saturday, the discomfort was MUCH better, and when I went in for my post-op appointment, my vision was 20/20. It is not consistent, however, and that is normal. My vision will fluctuate for a couple of weeks while the eye is healing and my vision will continue to improve for up to six months.

My main complaint right now is extreme dryness in my right eye, which causes haziness. It's kind of like when you've worn your contacts for too long, and in fact, I have stopped myself several times from reaching up and trying to pluck a lense from my eye. The fluctuating vision and the dryness make reading or using the computer for long periods of time tiring, but I am able to drive and do all my other day to day tasks with no problem. I can shave my legs without wearing glasses in the shower. I can read the bedside clock at night. Diminutive One caught my horrible cold, and while I was giving him medicine in the middle of the night last night, I realized I hadn't had to fumble around in the dark for my glasses or hold the measuring cup half an inch from my face. It was a heady realization.

So...was it worth it??? Yeah. Absolutely. It wasn't nearly as scary as I thought it would be. And even with the haziness and fluctuating vision in my right eye, it's amazing to be seeing as well as I am without glasses or contacts. Miraculous, really. If both eyes had been as easy as my left eye, I would say this was a piece of cake. An expensive piece of cake, but one well worth the price. The right eye will come along, I just have to be patient. I was warned that because my right eye is so bad, it might need some "tweaking", but I will be completely okay with doing it again if need be.

I hoped that helped someone who might be trying to make a decision about the procedure. It really was an amazing experience.

23 Comments:

  • At 3:00 PM, Blogger PunditMom said…

    Wow! Thanks for the blow by blow. I have thought about this for a long time, but am so afraid of something going wrong with the procedure and losing vision instead of gaining it. I say you were very brave. I'm not sure how I would handle the actual cutting part!

     
  • At 3:55 PM, Blogger Kate said…

    Cool. Glad you did it. LASIK is amazing. When I did it, they had me focus on a red spot...while the laser was going, that red spot--which started out as a cluster of great big blurry globes--became smaller and smaller, until, by the time they finished, it had resolved into a pinpoint. It was astonishing.

    This was (OMG) eight years ago; I think I need to get an additional correction on my left eye at this point. Well worth it!

     
  • At 7:15 PM, Blogger Glenn - USAEyes.org said…

    Excellent article about your personal Lasik experience. Our nonprofit patient advocacy fields "what is it like" questions all the time. I'll refer them to your blog.

    Glenn Hagele
    USAEyes.org
    Lasik Info

     
  • At 7:15 PM, Blogger Marc Menninger said…

    Thank you for the very detailed report of your surgery! I'm seriously considering the procedure myself and I'm in the middle of researching lasik surgery. I'd like to post a link to your story in my blog (http://www.LasikVisionBlog.com) if you don't mind. Thanks!

     
  • At 7:48 PM, Anonymous Kvetch said…

    I don't even wear glasses (yet) and this was rivetting. I actually Yelped Out Loud (which I guess would be YOL) when I read the part about the slicing though. You are a trooper --- and I am so happy for you!!!

     
  • At 7:54 PM, Blogger Magi said…

    Thank you so much. I've considered this for years, but have been terrified to do it. I have terrible vision, and it's getting worse. My glasses, like yours, are so expensive, plus I can no longer wear contact lenses. I may consider this now. I do have one question that may be too personal. Did insurance cover any of the expense?

     
  • At 7:58 PM, Blogger Scott said…

    thank you sooo much for this! i get this done next week, and i keep hearing it's gonna be all right! now i'm just excited about it, and am more worried about the 2-3 days afterwards... thanks again!

     
  • At 9:34 PM, Blogger Mrs. Chicky said…

    I'm glad everything went well. I don't need glasses or contacts right now but I'm sure I will in the future so I thank you for all this information.

     
  • At 9:38 PM, Blogger Oh, The Joys said…

    Great news! I'm so glad all went well. I owe you an e-mail...

     
  • At 10:16 PM, Anonymous reluctant housewife said…

    Thank you for posting this! I am soooo ready for Lasik but they won't take me in until I'm done having children.

    Bah!

    Also, your "Today in History" is about the island I was born in. I'm impressed.

     
  • At 10:25 PM, Anonymous Momish said…

    Thank you so much for really explaining and outlining the procedure. It has truly helped to dispel some of my fears. I have been saving for this and hope to get it done soon. I have no qualms about it now.

    Congratulations!

     
  • At 10:58 PM, Anonymous nina said…

    yowza...sorry but I realized I needed my own hit of valium right around the time they lassoed your cornea... broke out into a cold sweat, couldn't breathe...had.to.stop.reading...

    glad it went well for you though!

     
  • At 10:26 AM, Blogger Karyn said…

    Thank you for this. It is something I have considered a long time now, as my eyes are rapidly deteriorating and even with glasses, I squint a lot.

    I have a mega occular aversion though - I can't even think about putting contacts in my eye. I think they might have to give me more than 5mg of Valium and strap me to a dolly like Hannibal Lechter to do this.

    So while this is really reassuring and interesting and I will think even more seriously about it... I'm still scared witless.

    WAY glad you're well though and it was all successful. Rock on!

     
  • At 3:56 PM, Anonymous Violeta said…

    Told you so, Congratulations.

     
  • At 9:56 AM, Blogger Kristen said…

    I'm so glad everything went well and you're eyes are now 20/20- that must be an amazing feeling!!

     
  • At 10:20 AM, Blogger sunshine scribe said…

    Yay! I am so glad it went well. I don't know that I ever had 20/20 vision. I am going to get my husband to read your post as he's been on the fence about it for himself.

     
  • At 10:23 AM, Blogger Jaelithe said…

    Okay, your blow-by-blow made me want to hurl, because I am terrified of people putting things in my eye, let alone cutting my eye. A saw a video of the full procedure on TV a few months ago and had the same reaction.

    But still, I am very glad you posted this and I am going to make myself read it again and again until it doesn't scare me anymore. Because I really, really want to do this myself someday. My eyes are about as bad as yours are, and I am sick of being crippled without my glasses (and sick of being charged $200 a pair just for the lenses before insurance!)

     
  • At 4:34 AM, Blogger kevin said…

    I have considered this on numerous occasions. I even have a client who traveled to Canada to have the procedure done at a discount rate. I haven't heard of any negative experiences yet and am saving my shekels. Thanks for the info, and I'd look forward to an update.

     
  • At 6:09 AM, Blogger theotherbear said…

    I know one or two people that have had this sort of thing done and never had a complaint. Probably not for me because I have not too bad a prescription and can get by without glasses or contacts - I have only one dud eye. My optometrist told me she won't even think about letting me do it until my prescription has been stable for 2 years anyway or it'd be a waste of time.

     
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  • At 6:53 AM, Anonymous Debbie said…

    Oh thank you for the detailed description! I'm going to Emory Vision Center this morning for my exam and I'm getting nervous over only having the exam. Sounds like we have very similar contact background so it gives me hope that I can have it done. Think I'll ask for more valium though!

     
  • At 6:20 PM, Anonymous Debbie said…

    Just reposting to tell you my exam visit went just like you described! The folks at Emory Vision are quite nice and really took their time since I was so nervous. I'm scheduled for surgery this Friday! and will be having Valium too.

    Thanks again for all the info on this post and the post after your surgery. It gave me enough courage to actually show up at my exam this morning.

     
  • At 10:09 PM, Blogger Blog Antagonist said…

    Debbie, I'm so glad you tell me about it. I went to your blog hoping to find an email address to email you, but I am either blind, or stupid, or both!! I'm glad you had a good experience. Best of luck on Friday. When you are able, please email me to update. I'd love to know how it went.

     

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