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I Am Lasered

04/23/06

  12:21:10 am, by Nimble   , 1737 words  
Categories: Announcements [A], Journal

I Am Lasered

After watching my wife enjoy a year and a half of good glasses-free and contact-lens-free vision from laser eye surgery, I decided to take the plunge myself.

I went to the same outfit my wife did, Lasik MD.

I had the consultation on Thursday. It's a little like moving through all the stations at a science fair, only you have to wait in between. It's a pretty thorough optometric checkup - they look for eye shape, condition of your retina, and they numb your eye and dilate your pupils for some of the later tests.

They warned me that with the dilation test, my vision would get blurry, and in about 10 minutes, I probably wouldn't be able to read. I think it's a testament to how little light true blue eyes' irises actually block that I could still read just fine with my pupils wide, wide open.

They indicated that I was a candidate - I had pretty thick corneas, though pretty large pupils (the sole 'contraindication'), and they gave me the rundown on risk factors of the various procedures. Regular LASIK was an option, but had some increased risk of after-effects, so I decided to go with the ZyOptix instead.

They do the occasional Saturday, and it just so happened that they were doing some this Saturday, so I signed myself up.

I think I had quite a few butterflies in my stomach that day.

Preparation consists of some more numbing drops and a shower cap to put all of your hair into, and to cover your ears with. The pre-operative room is the same as the post-operative room - just a radio, clock and chairs, and other patients, some before and some after surgery. It can be pretty quiet. Most people are trying to relax and some are in a bit of pain.

I had bought glasses some five weeks before, because I had been wearing gas permeable rigid contact lenses for many, many years. Four weeks is the recommended minimum to go without the rigids - it's much less for soft lenses.

I took my glasses off in the pre-op room so I'd be able to experience the full not-being-able-to-see-to-being-able-to-see experience.

At this point, they will offer you a mild sedative. My advice to you, if sedatives work on you (they don't on me) is to take one. It will ease many of the things to follow, especially if it helps you sleep afterwards. Keep Advil and Tylenol, which you are allowed as well, ready after the surgery as well, though I'm not sure how soon you can take it (once again, my biochemistry fails me here - this is my payback for not getting headaches :( )

When your name is up, you sit on the chair right outside the room. You get called in for your turn, and the setup is that there's the laser machine and a padded table for you to sit on.

I found getting each eye prepped in surgery was one of the more icky parts of the experience, mostly because my eyes, or rather my eyelids, are pretty twingy and reactionary. They need to keep your eye open, of course, and the equipment to do this was uncomfortable.

They add pieces onto this, and you have the strange sensation of not being able to see out of most of the eye (they ask you to verify this; it's part of the procedure), then they take the flap. It takes about 10 seconds, and you are not to blink. I tried my darndest. It would have helped if I were less nervous.

Then they put the flap back to expose the cornea underneath, which they shape. At first, you see three lights: a solid red, a solid green and a blinking red. They make a bit of a wide pattern once they're aimed at you correctly. You stare at the blinking red light until they're done (in the procedure I had done, it seemed like there were three "passes").

When they're done with the eye in question, they put the flap back, and "paint" it with a solution (is it water? I don't know). Open your eyes wide when they tell you to so they can remove the rest of the equipment, and then close your eye slowly. (They said "Close your eye" and I did it quickly before I heard them say "slowly") Closing quickly or hard can wrinkle the flap. They had to irrigate that first eye a little bit for me because I didn't quite get the instructions right (an eyelash apparently got caught in there)

Then they do it with the next eye.

It's uncomfortable, but it lasts all of ten minutes. Then they lead you back to the post-op room.

You do get to experience quite a lot of haze, but you can read the clock. My numbing came off pretty fast (unfortunately), so things started feeling stingy pretty fast. For me, this turned into by far the most miserable part of the whole thing. Yes, my eyes have just had surgery performed on them, but OW. OW, OW, OW.

I was actually a pretty pathetic creature after that. It hurt for hours afterwards. They checked me at the hour mark, and even though it was hurting like hell, they said that things looked good, and that I could go any time I pleased.

Dena came to pick me up and whisk me back home (on the Saturday, you don't have to hang around too too long afterwards). I was stumbling over myself a little and couldn't open my eyes at all, so I got to spend some time blind. She took me straight home - I bit my fist, paced, anything to distract, then headed upstairs for rest.

If you can get to sleep during this time, it really is for the best. I couldn't (I can hardly ever get to sleep with distractions, even if I'm really tired), so I got to spend this time fully aware of the ouchiness.

Then, around the sixth hour after surgery, things started to improve. I wasn't in horrible pain any more if I kept my eyes closed. It would start to hurt a lot if I opened my eyes, but that was still an improvement.

My eyes were a bit 'welded shut' with my tears and whatnot. When they finally came open about a half hour later, I couldn't open my eyes very much, but it wasn't so stingy, and I realized that I could actually see things.

At about seven hours after the surgery, Dena and I went to Dairy Queen for a treat. This is where the wonderment started setting in. I was looking down at the pebbles, reading store signs from far away. I had to keep reminding myself that even though I had glasses on my face, they were mere sunglasses, and not focusing my vision at all.

I could read pretty much the entire menu at the Dairy Queen. From further away at an angle, I couldn't see some of the flavours listed. Dena said she couldn't either, which made me quite amazed at how far things must have come along so far.

They do advise not watching television, doing computer work or reading for the first 24 hours. I watched the TV that Dena was watching out of the side of my eye, and wasn't feeling too much strain, but thought I shouldn't overdo it.

Life after surgery is drops, drops, drops. You get drops for refreshing your eyes (both liquid and gel - gel is for just before night time), an antibacterial drop, a corticosteroid drop (for inflammation), and a numbing drop (you only take it on the day of the surgery if things get pretty bad - I could have taken it for relief, but they also advised that using it sets back healing a few hours, so I toughed it out).

You also get to tape plastic eyeguards over your eyes for sleeping, so that you're not pressing anything against your eyes while you toss and turn.

I went in for the next-day checkup today (at 8:20 in the morning - ulch!), and they checked me out and advised me that my right eye was still somewhat inflamed, so increase the corticosteroid drops for that eye to double the frequency (every 2 hours instead of every 4). Everything else seemed okay, but they want to see me again on Tuesday instead of Friday/Monday. Should be okay, though - it's probably related to getting that lash caught and having to have the eye irrigated. I'm nearly 20/20 in the left eye already, and the right eye, though inflamed, is not too far off)

The sunglasses stay on for a while. I'll have to look up how many more nights I'll need the eyeguards, because they are uncomfortable (but sleeping in sunglasses wouldn't be any nicer!)

Man, I look like a white Stevie Wonder right now (if you saw, you'd see why :) )

There's a list of the number of days before you can do certain activities. However, it is worded "Recommended Activity Schedule Following Uncomplicated Bilateral LASIK Surgery", which makes it sound like you should be doing everything on the list!

A couple of examples:
Day 3 activities:

  • Light exercise (e.g. treadmill, Stairmaster, stationary bike)
  • Playing with children (be careful)
  • Moderate alcohol consumption may be resumed
  • Lifting weights

Day 7 activities:

  • Applying eye makeup (avoid touching the eyes)
  • Jogging outdoors
  • Rollerblading
  • Relaxed bicycling (no mountain biking)
  • Playing golf
  • Sun-tanning and salon tanning
  • Motorcycling, snowmobiling, boating (wear eye protection)
  • Skiing and hockey (with caution and eye protection)

Dang, my next Saturday is going to be hellah busy jogging outdoors on rollerblades applying eye makeup on my way to play golf and suntan before I ski back home to play hockey relaxed on a bicycle. Phew!

Would I do the laser eye surgery again if I knew what was entailed? Perhaps. It really does take quite a bit of dedication, pain management, and some nerves of steel.

All in all, though, it's a blip out of your life, and so far, I'm freakishly happy with the results. I'm going to take it slow here, though, but I'm definitely looking forward to life after eye guards, drops and healing. I'm also glad to be without contacts lenses, solutions, never really just being able to take naps without taking out the lenses first and being debilitated by dust under my lenses. I should be all healed up for Africa :)

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