Two less eyes continued….

Four months now and my vision isn’t completely back to normal.  I can read my computer just great, can watch t.v., and read.  Vision beyond 8 feet is still a little blurry.  I can’t yet read street signs from a distance, so driving is still out of the question.  At my last check-up, the doctor told me my astigmatism was corrected and he was confident that in one more month I should be seeing 20/20, as there has been measurable improvement each month.  After all this time, I’m both pessimistic yet also hopeful.  My vision is definitely better than it was prior to lasek surgery, but because the previous condition was corrected with glasses or contact lenses, it effectively feels as if there’s been a degradation of vision since the vision can’t be corrected while it is stabilizing, and the whole point is to rid oneself of correction anyway.  So it’s like needing glasses but walking around without your glasses for all that time…Blurriness becomes the norm, and you start to get used to seeing only what’s in front of your face… I just have to be patient and wait…

So, to go into more detail about the operation and recovery:

Prior to getting your surgery, you are given information sheets on what to expect, and you are also sent to the nearest pharmacy to purchase the medications you will need for post operative care.

Then they have you robe up prior to going into the operating room.  The operation itself was a breeze.  You lay on the table and scoot back until your eyes are lined up with the laser machine overhead.  They give you some local anesthetic numbing drops, which are totally 100% effective, and then put some contraption on your eyelids to hold them open, which you can’t feel at all.  The laser machine emits lights as it maps your eye.  If you get the M-lasek, which is for faster more pain-free healing, they will add more liquid, which feels cool, and you can smell the alcohol.  The one freaky thing occurs as some blunt instrument painlessly moves across your eye.  You know it is scraping the top layer aside, but you can’t feel anything – only you know when it is making contact, as it causes an aqua-colored impression the shape of the implement:  it’s pretty disconcerting just because the idea of what they’re doing is icky.  After that is over, you’re asked to look at a green light and the machine pulses, and then you smell something like burning hair.  Then they add more drops.  They ask you how you’re doing and then they put protective contacts on you.  All of the above only takes about five minutes, and then you’re done!  The surgery itself was not a big deal.

I can’t remember if it is before or after the operation where you have to sit with some test strips of paper stuck between your lower lid and eyeball, and that was a tiny bit uncomfortable and also dries your eyes out.

You can’t see much afterward but feel pretty good.  As the anesthesia wears off, it just feels like your eyes are red and dry.  Prior to surgery they told you to bring sunglasses, as your eyes will be super sensitive to glare for quite awhile.

You walk out feeling somewhat handicapped but not totally disabled and it is possible to bumble your way home if you’re by yourself, though reading signs is not easy.  Supposedly the second day is the worst, but it didn’t bother me too much.  They give you anti-inflammatory drops and antiseptic drops to take four times a day, some numbing drops for when the pain is bad, and you are supposed to bathe your eyes in prescription wetting drops as much as possible.  However, you should wait at least five minutes after the anti-inflammatory drops before using any wetting drops.  They also give you a cold eye pack to reduce swelling and pain.  I was feeling pretty invincible on the second day, as the pain wasn’t too bad at all, and I thought maybe I was blessed with my high pain threshold and looked forward to a painless recovery. It WAS really irritating and nothing really improved that, but it wasn’t unbearable, though being half blind also doesn’t help…

My friend Joyce came over on the third day because she had found that during her recovery it was difficult to cook, etc. for herself that first weekend.  She was sick at the time, and I think she was in more pain than I was.  However, in the middle of the night I woke up with SEARING pain.  Because I couldn’t find my antiseptic drops or numbing drops in the dark, and it hurt so bad, I started to panic.  I half-heartedly went to wake up Joyce, who was sleeping the sleep of the dead, with no success.  So I just kept groping around in searing pain, panicking.  Until finally I shook her awake, my moving her out of the way to see if my eyedrops had landed underneath her.  It was pretty terrifying, that panic!

The following day was pretty painful, even after I’d found the drops.  I found the only relief was numbing drops and the cold pack.  So I was down for the next two or thee days doing nothing but laying there, trying to get relief by sleeping before the cold pack got warm, throwing it in the freezer long enough to cool off, throw in numbing drops, repeat from across.  Fortunately I had the week off for winter vacation.  Joyce had to go straight to work, and I can’t imagine that…Vision was at about 50% during that time.  I could see the television okay, but was unable to read, do anything on the computer, or much of anything useful.

After that, the pain gradually decreases and your vision will slip in and out of varying degrees of improvement, each eye responding differently, so it’s hard to measure if you’re making much progress or not, as it’s so gradual and inconsistent.  You have to constantly add the wetting drops to sooth the irritated feeling of dry eyes and feeling as if there are foreign bodies there.  As time marches on you run out of the drops.  Both of us resorted to buying over-the-counter wetting drops, but was later told not to use them, as too much exposure to the preservatives can exacerbate the drying.  However, purchasing the preservative-free wetting drops is really expensive without a prescription, so you have to go back and ask for another prescription so the government health care plan will pick up some of the cost.  After your first eye check up, a week (?) after the operation, eye check-ups occur about once a month.

The prescription drops come in single-use plastic ampules.  Even after the end is nipped off, they don’t leak due to capillary action, and it is possible to get several applications out of each one.  The pharmacist warns not to re-use the ampules because they can get contaminated.  But they’re so expensive and your prescription never covers the amount you’d need if you used each ampule for only one application.  So I split the difference and, if they are kept clean, consider using one ampule multiple times within an hour perfectly acceptable.

As your vision improves and you get accustomed to the discomfort, it gets easy to forget your regime of applying the drops.  Mornings are especially dry, sticky, and blurry, though.  The doctor said my eyes were especially dry and he said that recovery takes longer in the winters, as the air is dried out due to heating. Keeping well hydrated with drink and moisturizing the air with a humidifier also help.

Soooo, it’s a long process.  Five months instead of the three that is in the literature you read.  I think it was worth it.  It will definitely be worth it if I reach 20/20 next month.  I can totally see why they push the lasik operation with the one day recovery, though.  Because when they say the lasek is painful it’s kind of an inadequate description for the long period of discomfort you go through.  However, I also think we were wise to be conservative and get many consultations because with my uneven eye surface and Joyce’s scarring from previous infections, as it would have put us at risk to get the lasik surgery other less conscientious clinics suggested we get.

I guess the moral of this story is to understand that this is a long uncomfortable process.  But like all things worthwhile, it has an end – and doesn’t seem so bad in hindsight!

TIP:  If you have a kitten, hide your drops because they look like toys and cats like to bat them under furniture, which is hard to find when you can’t see…

13 thoughts on “Two less eyes continued….

  1. i didn’t get the numbing drops, so my eyes felt like they were on fire and bruised and were being rubbed by sandy fingers for 2 days. ugh.

  2. I feel soooooo bad about that! I’ll lie and say they didn’t make any difference…I don’t understand why they don’t give them to everybody.

    But the being rubbed by sandy fingers analogy is kind of how I felt for a week after the surgery. The bruised and on fire is also a great description of day number 3. omg. But the reason I panicked was because I wasn’t sure if maybe I was experiencing pain ( NEVER experience pain – so wasn’t sure what I should do about it) because something was wrong, and because I’d misplaced the antiseptic drops (oh – forgot to mention those) I thought I maybe had screwed myself…

  3. my co-worker’s husband just got lasek surgery done at the same place. i told him to make sure to get the numbing drops. in the end, he didn’t take them because the nurses said that using the drops actually prolongs the pain! it all makes sense now… they probably didn’t give it to me because they knew i had to teach 3 days later.

  4. That does make sense. Glad you weren’t just indiscriminately left out! But damn…

    Folks, better to not work the week after surgery!

    You’re not supposed to use those numbing drops more than four times a day. Personally, I think you should have them just in case. (I think panicking that night did a number on me!) I’m the kind of person who’s always turned down pain killers because surgery hasn’t hurt me and pain killers don’t seem to do much anyway. Even with a headache I rarely take anything. But there were a couple times where being numb was a huge relief.

    I think you could easily use those drops too much, however…and I can see if you did that, how pain could be prolonged due to relativity. It’s definitely a crutch!

  5. Final eye exam. All healed up but I’m not ecstatic about the results. It IS better than before the operation, yet not fully corrected. The left eye can see better at a distance and the right eye can see better up close.

    The doctor is pleased with this result, as it produces a good average vision. Yet we discussed this mono-vision approach and I specifically said I wanted to be corrected for distance and preferred to use glasses for close-up. And, this averaging of correction between two eyes means I can not read street signs as well as I could before, which will affect my driving. I’m not going to run anyone over or anything, but it’s definitely at a level where I may pass by establishments because their signage will be blurred.

    I do know we can’t expect the outcome to be perfectly 100% predicted. So I’m not sure if telling me it’s a good result is a false reassurance or not, but whatever the case even if it was a screw-up, I really don’t want to go through the process again and I can/will/must live with the result. And, it is true that the vision is okay. So there you have it.

  6. Thanks for this extensive and thorough post on your experience with Lasek. I’m living in Beijing now but planning a two week Seoul trip in July with the main goal to get Lasek. As I’m interested in contact sports (racquetball, basketball, etc.) I’m definitely leaning towards Lasek as it does not preserve the epithelium and seems more secure.

    Question for you: after spending two weeks in Korea, my original plan was to come back and travel in China for a month with my wife before moving back to the US. We would book a stop over in Seoul en route to the USA, so we would be basically get two weeks of medical care/check-ups, then one follow-up visit a month later. Do you see any flaws or potential problems with this plans? For instance, is two weeks enough time to be able to function/travel/move around independently? Do you think it’s necessary to do any more check-ups in Seoul after the six week mark, or could those be done at doctors back in the US?

    Thanks in advance for your insight!

  7. You can travel after two weeks. I went to work after two weeks, but I was hating life. But you’ll still be really uncomfortable and your vision won’t be up to speed for several months, so don’t know how much you’ll enjoy your travels. Sunlight can really cause a lot of irritation too, (it never bothered me but really bothered Joyce a lot) so traveling in summer you’d really want some good sunglasses. I think it probably depends on the individual. I’d ask the doctor for a double prescription of eye drops too.

    Me, I’m really not a weenie when it comes to pain, but this was really a drag. No better word to describe it but DRAG. It just goes on far too long. Traveling is pretty taxing and I don’t think I would be up to it after only two weeks. But then again, after two weeks you’re also pretty disgusted and want to vanquish your irritation. Maybe it might be worth it, if you have the money, to buy an open ticket so you can play it by ear. A month is a really long time to travel too, and I’ve not heard a lot of great things about traveling in China.

    Why not split the difference? You might get to see a little Korea before you leave too.

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