LASIK: My Experience [personal]

I have a number of friends and coworkers who have had LASIK eye surgery over the years. Every one of them sings its praises, but until now I never gave it any thought for myself. My eyes hurt all day from wearing contacts, I don’t see well out of glasses, and my night vision is the point I avoid driving in the dark if possible. But mostly I’m just tired of the daily fight with my contacts.

In Mid July, 2012, I started researching the different LASIK centers in my area and talking to my friends about the details of their experiences.

Based on reviews and recommendations, I decided on Shannon Medical Center in San Angelo, Texas, and set up a consultation.

7/19/2012 11 am

I arrive (after a 3 hour drive) for my initial consultation at Shannon Laser Eye Center in San Angelo Texas.
I have never been to any of the Shannon medical facilities. I was impressed as soon as we checked in. They are super efficient, and instead of being handed a stack of paperwork to write the same information over and over on, I spend less than 5 minutes at the registration counter, where they get all of information, copy my insurance (though LASIK is not covered, they got everything on file). I am giving a small print out and directed to go down the hall to the Ophthalmology department,  where the receptionist takes the printout, and … that’s it. They already have everything in the system, I sit down in the waiting area outside Dr. Goldman’s office, and less than 5 minutes later I am being called back. This impresses the hell out of me.
In my hometown, going in for ANYTHING, even a vaccine that doesn’t even involve a doctor, is a total day-waster. No matter how many times I have been at a doctor’s office, I am given reams of paper to complete, each asking for the same thing, and after  giving myself a hand cramp filling it out, they STILL enter the wrong information in their records and I have to spend half an hour making sure they put it in right. Then I wait … and wait… and wait. I have had 2pm appointments and still been in the waiting room at 530pm. Once you get called back to the doctor’s office, it’s at least another 30-45 minutes before the doctor actually comes in.
There’s no waiting once called back at Dr. Goldman’s office. Bridgett introduces herself and explains everything we are going to do. Less than an hour later, we sit in her office, where she has compiled the results of all the tests and goes over the results with me. While Dr. Goldman has to make the final decision, she shares all the information with me, and what the results mean, from how the thickness of the cornea affects someone’s ability to have LASIK, to how the machine actually works. We talk about my reason’s for wanting it, and in the end I feel I have been given all the information I need to make an informed decision. But Dr. Goldman still has to approve, and Bridgett lets me know not to expect to hear from them until sometime next week.

7/19/2012 5 pm

Bridgett called just hours ater we left. Dr. Goldman has reviewed everything and all looks great, I’m a candidate for LASIK. I go ahead and set the appointment up for August 30. As soon as I hang up, I have second thoughts. Not about the actual procedure, but about the cost. Do I really want to spend $4,000 on this? Will it be a good investment? I decide to leave the appointment in place and if I change my mind, will cancel it later.

8/15/2012

Today is the last day I am allowed to wear contacts. In order for the eye surface to return to its original shape, no contacts for 10-14 days before surgery.
I take out my contacts and toss them in the trash. I have decided that the investment will be worth it if I don’t have to have sore eyes and fight contacts each day. I’m committed to having the surgery done on August 30.

8/26/2012

Already, I am tired of wearing my glasses. I haven’t gotten used to having no peripheral vision and to having to turn my entire head to see.
At work, I have been laughed at (in good fun of course, I don’t work with TOTAL assholes). I have lost my glasses twice.
I have fallen asleep in them and woken up with a headache and the bridge of my nose bruised. I’m surprised I haven’t broken the glasses yet.
Now I am looking FORWARD to getting this done and over with!

8/29/2012

Luckily, the surgery date fell on a day my husband is in town, so this afternoon we make the 3 hour drive to San Angelo. Got a nice hotel room, went out to dinner, and just enjoyed each other’s company. Bridgett called at 430 to give me some final instructions.
Make sure I remove all eye makeup, and don’t wear any tomorrow.
Don’t wear any lotions or perfumes.
Get a good night’s rest.
I’m starting to get a little nervous.

8/30/2012 8 am

Pre-op. I met Dr Goldman, very nice man, easy to talk to, shares information in an easy to understand way without glossing over the important bits.
We go through all the tests again to ensure they have the readings from my eyes they need, and Dr. Goldman says everything looks great.
He explains with more details the procedure, the possible side effects, and makes sure I understand that there are no promises that my vision will be great afterwards.
I’m a bit more nervous, but decide to go ahead. Surgery will be at 3pm. My eyes have been dilated, and the moment we walk outside I’m blind, and my eyes hurt, I hide behind my sunglasses and my husband guides me to the car.

8/30/2012 1130 am

Back at the hotel room, we brought some lunch back, my husband takes a nap.

8/30/2012 1 pm

I am seriously nervous now. How bad will the pain be? How uncomfortable will the procedure be? What if something goes wrong?
I can’t sit still.
I wake my husband so we can drive around and keep myself occupied.

8/30/2012 245 pm

I check in, pay the $4,000, and within 10 minutes am in Dr. Goldman’s office being prepped. My eyes are numbed, then disinfected. A tacky hospital hair net in put on me, and they give me 2 Ativan tablets. They gave me 2 because in the past, none of these ‘relaxing’ drugs have ever worked on me. They do nothing at all. They promise me 2 will relax me. I walk into the laser room, lay down on the chair/bed, and they begin.
It’s very cold in the room, and I’m glad I listened to Bridgett and brought a hoody. My heart is racing, I am fidgety but do my best to lie perfectly still. They add more numbing drops, and while everything is a bit overwhelming, there is no pain. The worst part is when they have to put the ‘cone’ on the eye in order for the machine to cut the flap. It’s a lot of pressure, but no pain.
The Ativan never kicks in, my heart races the whole time and I struggle to breath deeply and evenly so I can try to be still.
Everything with my right eye goes great, but my left eye isn’t so lucky. Dr. Goldman put a clear contact over it to lessen the discomfort and hold the bits in place while healing starts. When I stand from the chair/bed, its like looking through milk. No pain, but no vision.
Back in Dr. Goldman’s office, they go over the post-op care, and what to expect. My eyes are still numb, and the Ativan hasn’t done a thing for my anxiety, so by the time we leave, my stomach is in knots and my body is shaking from keeping all that tension under control.
I wear dark sunglasses, and we go back to the hotel room, where I am supposed to sleep as much as possible. It is now 430pm. Wow, that was fast!

8/31/2012 405 am

My husband downloaded an audio book for me to relax to when we got back to the hotel. Sometime after 7 pm I dozed off. So much for Ativan!
My eyes began to sting and burn, and the only way to get any relief was to keep them closed. We taped the clear eye cups on around 6 so I wouldn’t have to worry about touching my eye if and when I did fall asleep. I woke up just after midnight, and my right eye was dry, and very irritated. Felt ‘scratchy’ but the milkyness was mostly gone, and I could tell that the vision was already a bit clearer.
My left eye felt as if someone was shoving nails into it, I could hardly open it long enough to put in the prescribed eye drops. And it was just as milky-hazy as it was when I left the laser room. This morning, both are about the same. My right eye is even clearer, and the irritation is tolerable though still pretty bad. My left eye is horrible, both the pain and the vision. Without my husband here supporting and helping me, I think I may be in panic mode right now.

8/31/2012 8 am

Follow up appointment with Dr. Goldman. The appointment wasn’t until 9 but I can’t stand the pain, he sees me early.
He numbed my left eye and removed the contact, and the pain got even worse. He put in a different kind of numbing agent and looked it over, deciding it would need more time to heal, and still needed another contact. He put anther on and between it and the numbing agent, I thought I could tolerate it. He said the right eye looks great. I am to go back in on 9/5 for another followup to see if we can remove the clear contact and allow the left eye to continue to heal normally.

8/31/2012 8 pm

The drive home was excruciating. When the numbing agent wore off I was in hell. The nails were back with a vengeance, and no pain medication was prescribed. I popped ibuprofen, hid under my hoody away from the light, and cried. When we got home, I hid in a darkened room. My right eye is clearer, still a bit hazy, but the irritation is nominal as long as I stay away from bright lights, but the left is constant stabbing pain.

9/1/2012 230 pm

When I woke this morning, both eyes were swollen, but after putting the steroid and antibiotic drops in, the right one cleared up. It’s still a little fuzzy, but I can mostly see from it, and since its my dominant eye, I can function pretty well. By this afternoon, there is no irritation at all in it. It’s still quite sensitive to sunlight, but overall I am happy with it. The vision isn’t perfect, but greatly improved over my non-corrected sight, and I feel like it has improved steadily over the day, with short lapses of blurriness here and there.
My left eye is a whole different story. It still gets regular rounds of stabbing pain, and the slightest amount of light is unbearable. It is now finally clearer, blurry, but not hazy. The pain is bad, but still much better than it was yesterday, I can feel the improvement, even though I’m still miserable. I think tomorrow will be better. I hope it will be.

9/2/2012 730 pm

Today was much better. My right eye is great. No irritation, no discomfort, vision is GREAT. I am very happy with the results. My left eye is still very irritated, but the stabbing pain feeling is happening less often. It’s still very blurry, making general vision a bit difficult as it takes a second for me to focus on things, and it feels like my depth perception is off. When I woke up this morning both eyes were a bit swollen, but quickly went away, and the steroid and antibiotic eye drops no longer sting when I put them in (in either eye). I have noticed that neither eye is drier than usual, which is one of the things that many people experience after LASIK. I don’t have to use the artificial tears unless I go outside or into a bright room. Sunlight still hurts the left eye, and is uncomfortable on the right, but a good pair of dark sunglasses helps that. And my eyes aren’t dry afterwards, but the artificial tears relieve some of the discomfort from the bright light. This evening I whacked myself, in the left eye of course, and the pain was really bad, but only for a few seconds. I contemplated pulling out my clear safety glasses and keeping them on because less than an hour after whacking my left eye, I did it AGAIN. I didn’t seem to cause any more damage, as the pain went away and the vision and general discomfort level went back to where it has been all day. I’m a bit worried that when I wake tomorrow morning it’s going to be painful and swollen though.

9/3/2012 7 am

WOOHOO! Woke this morning and no ill effects from me poking myself in the eye, twice, yesterday. No swelling in either eye, no gunky buildup, and other than the left eye having it’s usual irritation/discomfort/blurriness, my eyes actually feel better than they have even before the surgery. I have worn contacts every day for many, many (25+) years, and I can’t remember a time when I have woken up and not had puffy irritated eyes. Basing everything on just my right eye, I will say LASIK was a good choice for me. I am hoping my left eye gets to this point soon! I’m ready to have this clear contact removed so my left eye can get on with the process of catching up!

9/4/2012 4 pm

Back to work today. Huge mistake. I work in front of a computer screen, and had to play catch up from being out last week for the surgery. Worked from 5am until 3 pm, made a small dent in my work, and am in agony. Left eye burns, stabbing pain is back almost constant now. Can not see at all from it, is solid hazy blur, like it was the day after surgery. Is also very red, which it really hasn’t been. I hope I haven’t caused any damage! Follow up appointment is tomorrow. I’m going to my darkened room and resting my eyes now. Hope it clears up.

9/5/2012 530 am

Eye is still very irritated, red, and painful this morning. Also still completely blurry and hazy. Have to close it to type. I’m very glad my right eye is working perfectly otherwise I’d be completely useless. Heading to follow-up appointment later this morning. Appointment isn’t until 230pm, but have that 3 hour drive, and my daughter is driving me since husband is back to work. We will need to take the trip a little slower as she is still an inexperienced driver. On the up side, at least she’s going to get some highway practice today. Hoping doc has some good news for me, I need to get back to work before I get so far behind it will take me a year to catch up. And I have a major project hanging over me that I NEED to get back to, but need to be able to focus on to get it done, and between the bad vision and the pain, I just can’t get any work done on it. And since LASIK is elective, I really can’t justify (to myself) using it as an excuse not to get that project addressed. Getting stressed over my job now on top of the pain and discomfort of the surgery. And I CHOSE to do it. I share productivity and balance tips all the time, but I just can’t seem to find a way to reconcile this to myself and keep the stress and worry down. My annoying inner voice keeps saying things like “You did this to yourself, you can’t let your productivity and quality of work suffer all because you are too damn vain to wear glasses when the contacts got too uncomfortable”. I know that voice, and she’s an idiot, but sometimes she’s pretty convincing.

 9/6/2012 730 pm

The follow-up appointment yesterday went very well. Doc removed the contact and said it looks good, just will take longer to heal. The blurriness should improve over the next few days. I have had no pain in the left eye since having the contact removed. Discomfort yes, but no pain. It now feels more like the right one did a day after surgery. Which was not fun, but is MUCH better than it was with the contact in. The blurriness is worse than my vision was before the surgery, but every now and then I feel like it may be improving, but it may be wishful thinking.

9/7/2012 8 pm

I drove myself to work this morning, so either the blurriness in the left eye is improving, or my brain is just using the right even more than it usually does. I worked all day, and other than a slight headache I have no pain. The flourescent lights in the office were very uncomfortable, so I tried working with the lights off, but the monitors then bothered me, but nothing was bad enough to not make it through the day. Definite improvement! I have chosen a spot at home to check my vision periodically. I stand about 10 feet away from the whiteboard is the home office and check to see if I can notice any improvement in the vision of my left eye. Yesterday, the large words “week planner” were completely blurred into the whiteboard, and I wouldn’t have even been able to tell there were words there at all if I didn’t already know. This evening, there is a small black blurred line were those words are. The letters are 1.5″ tall so that’s not good, but it’s a start!

9/8/2012 9 am

Noticeable improvement in left eye today. I’d say it’s just a tad bit better than my vision pre-surgery. I can see 2 distinct blurs on the whiteboard where “week planner” is written in 1.5″ tall letters from 10′ feet away. No discomfort at all today, though it does feel drier than usual. I’m using the steroid drops 6 times a day in that eye (at Docs orders). I’m not sure what the effect of the steroids will be on my eye, seems like the area around my eye is puffier. Hoping just an effect from the eye drops, as my face was asymmetrical enough without having this be part of my features permanently!

 

I think I wrap this journal up today and get it posted. I’ll update as I notice more improvement. It’s still early for me to make a pronouncement about satisfaction with the surgery overall, so there will definitely be updates posted later!

 

 

Photo credits:
Eye: photo credit: Elliot Tomkins via photo pin cc
WaveFront: Capt’ Gorgeous via photo pin cc
LASIK procedure: peretzp via photo pin cc

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One Comment

  • Thanks for this Renee. It helps to have someone I trust talk about how it went throughout the whole process.

    Reply

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