Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Where I've been...

I've been busy lately...last Monday, November 2nd, I got LASIK! I didn't broadcast it too much beforehand, because when I went to go ask for the time off, my boss gave me a hard time and told me I shouldn't do it, so I thought other people might say the same. I know that's incredibly silly, especially when most people I talked to had only had good things to say, whether they or someone they knew had the surgery. But that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Regardless of my brief hesitation, I decided that after 18 years of wearing either glasses or contacts, it was time to make a change. The ophthalmology practice I used to go to when I lived in the Quad Cities was offering special pricing and financing this fall, and the doctor that performs the surgery there was recently ranked one of the top five in the country. Even with the airfare to get there, it was a better deal than my current practice here, and they also offer a more advanced technology - blade-free LASIK. Everything just seemed to line up and I decided to go for it. I had to wear only my glasses for two weeks prior, as even soft contacts can change the shape of the cornea. I used to only wear glasses before bed so I hadn't bothered to get them updated in that was a little rough. I did plenty of squinting in that time. Me in my lovely glasses:

I flew in Thursday night and had a consultation the Friday before I was scheduled for surgery - the technicians put in several sets of drops and ran a bunch of tests involving staring into various machines and not blinking. I also did more sets of, "Which is better, one or two?" than I've ever done before. The dilating drops they used were very strong, so there had to be at least 48 hours between the appointment and the surgery. It was a nice look for Halloween:

I slept well all weekend and really didn't start to get nervous until a few hours before the surgery. Fortunately, they prescribed a Xanax for me to bring with me and take shortly before the procedure. When I got there, I again received many eye drops, including numbing drops, and I took the Xanax. Just a few minutes later they said I could go into the operating room, so I leave it up to you whether the pill had already kicked in or it was just my own bravery that got me through the surgery...ha. I did have a tiny moment of, "what am I doing?!" as I climbed onto the chair and looked at the machine, but the assistants in the OR struck up a conversation to relax me, and a technician gave me a little foam football to squeeze if I needed to. My parents were behind a window and they were also able to watch the surgery on closed-circuit TV - they probably had a tougher job than I did!

Heather provided a detailed account of her LASIK a couple years ago and her description helped me know what to expect from a patient's point of view. The flap creation was definitely the most painful part because they use suction to keep the eye in place, and even with the numbing drops it was strong enough to make me feel pain below the surface - not to mention I briefly lost vision. I was definitely squeezing the football at that point.

After that, one eye at a time, they taped my eyelashes back on the top and bottom, put in another device to keep me from blinking, folded the flap back, and used the laser to reshape the cornea. It was very weird being able to tell all that was happening yet not feel it. All I had to do was focus on one red light as the blue lights of the lasers flashed for around 40 seconds per eye. They smoothed out each flap when it was done, putting plenty of drops in my eye, and like that it was over.

Immediately after the surgery, I could see, but it was very cloudy and hard to tell how much improvement there was. My doctor briefly examined my eyes in another room and said everything looked good. He put goggles on me (sorry, didn't get a goggle picture!) and then put some sunglasses over those (another lovely missed photo opportunity) since it was a bright day. We were in and out in 35 was kind of unbelievable.

I went back with my parents and slept for a couple hours, as recommended. The drops wore off during that time, so anytime I woke up briefly, my eyes stung. When I got up to have dinner though, I felt pretty good - still cloudy, but no light sensitivity and no more pain. I started my regimen of antibiotic drops, anti-inflammatory drops, and artificial tears - the first two so strong they left an icky metallic taste in the back of my throat.

The next morning, before flying home, I had a follow-up appointment. I had worn the goggles through the night, which was a little difficult, but the doctor told me I didn't have to wear them every night for a week (as my instruction sheet said), because the chance of "flap dislodgement" is much lower after 24 hours - lovely, eh? I had a quick vision test and I was already somewhere between 20/25 and 20/20, and they said it would only get better.

For about five days, I felt like I had a permanent eyelash in my right eye, but fortunately that's gone away. I also came away with some "eye hickeys" from the suction:

But those are continuing to fade, just like a bruise. My only remaining side effect is seeing halos around lights, especially at night, but that is normal for awhile, and can likely be corrected if for some reason it doesn't go away. I'm going to swing through both the Quad Cities and Twin Cities over Christmas, so I'll be able to have another follow-up then and make sure I'm on track.

For now, as I keep telling people, I'm just training myself not to automatically squint when I roll over in the morning and look at my alarm clock! It's just unbelievable - I don't think I can comprehend yet that I'll never again wake up not being able to see, and never again have to mess with contacts when I'm traveling. It's pretty awesome. If you have questions or want any more details, let me know!

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