I went under the knife on Tuesday. Actually, I went under a laser. I had LASIK eye surgery, to correct my nearsightedness, eliminating my need to wear glasses or contacts ever again.I’m going to recap my LASIK experience in this post, mostly because I want to remember it. Some surgery details may make you uncomfortable, but I’ll give ample warning, so you can skip over those parts if you like.
The procedure is quick: only 15 minutes, for both eyes. There was about an hour of preparatory stuff first, though. There’s paperwork. I had a long consultation about recovery and post-op dos and don’ts. They took some final measurements of my eyeballs. And I met with the doctor one final time, who looked over my notes and asked a couple questions. Then the doctor left, and prepped Laser Room 2 (that’s what the actual sign on the door said) for the big moment.
When the doctor was ready, I was brought into Laser Room 2. I didn’t have my glasses at this point, so some of the details are literally a little blurry, but I sat down on a big chair, kinda like a dental chair, that was fully reclined so I was flat. My head might have even been a little lower than my chest and waist.
The doctor made sure I was comfortable, because he didn’t want me moving at all during the next 15 minutes. So I got comfortable, physically, although my mind was racing a mile a minute. It was nervewracking. I was anxious.
My doctor slid a big machine over my face. A ring of light shone down on me, which I presume illuminated my face for the doctor. In the center of the ring was a flickering orange dot, which I was told to focus on.
He started with my right eye. The doctor’s assistant started administering numbing drops. I was going to be awake throughout the whole procedure, but my eyeballs would be numb. As the numbing drops took effect, the doctor taped back my eyelashes, so they wouldn’t get in the way.
If you’re squeamish, you might want to skip ahead to the next bolded sentence, because I’m going to get very specific about eyeball surgery.
Once my eye was numb, the doctor inserted a device designed to hold my eye open. I was told it might pinch a little bit, and it did, especially because the doctor had to maneuver it underneath my upper and lower eyelids. I imagined I looked like Alex in “A Clockwork Orange” in the scene where he’s forced to watch movies.
My doctor, by the way, talked aloud during the whole procedure, telling me what he was doing next and what I should expect, which I appreciated very much.
Now that the eye was numb and forced open, he could start the actual operation. First he used a microkeratome to cut a flap into the surface of my eyeball. Some doctors use a laser for this, and some use a microkeratome, which is a mechanical device that has a metal blade. He placed the microkeratome over my eye and told me that I would feel a bit of pressure and experience about five seconds of darkness.
You can look up images of a microkeratome, but it sure seemed to me, in the moment, to be a fancier version of one of those devices that snips the end off a cigar. Except this device wasn’t used on cigars, it’s used on eyeballs, and it doesn’t make a complete cut, it leaves a bit connected on one end, like a hinge, so the flap can be lifted up off the rest of the eye and folded back.
Fortunately, the microkeratome is only used for a matter of seconds, and afterward, the doctor told me that the worst part was over. Then he told me he was going to peel back the flap, providing access to my cornea beneath it. I saw a tiny pair of tweezers approach my eye, and I watched part of my eye get pulled away from my face, and my vision instantly dissipated into blurriness, like I had turned the focus knob on a microscope. It was positively surreal.
The next thing I heard was “I’m going to start reshaping your cornea. You might smell it. It smells like burning hair.” And guess what? I did smell it. It reminded me of the smell when I got my tattoo.
The doctor slid the laser over my eye, and was using it to reshape my eyeball. The laser would hover over my eye for a few seconds, and then the doctor would move it away, check his work, and then move it back for some more. He did that four or five times. It took a matter of seconds.
Then he delicately put the flap back in place. He used a tiny little spatula to nudge it into the right position and make sure there were no creases or folds. I could tell instantly that my vision was better. We had to wait for 30 seconds for it to fully settle. Then they administered some antibiotic drops and some steroid drops, and the doctor removed the device holding my eye open, and took the tape off my eyelashes.
And then he did the whole thing again with my left eye. You can watch videos of the whole procedure on YouTube. I can’t finish an entire video, it makes me squirm too much, and I lived through it! I’m so glad I didn’t try watching before I had it done.
Surgery description complete! If you skipped ahead, you can resume reading NOW.
There was nothing left to do after the surgery but go home. I had already received and filled my prescriptions for antibiotic and steroid drops, which I’ll be using for the next 1-2 weeks. My friend Tavi came with me and drove me home, and when we got in his car, I reclined my seat all the way, so I could relax and look up at the ceiling of his car, instead of out into the bright sunlight.
I was wearing sunglasses, and was urged, before I left, to try to keep my eyes closed as much as possible. If they’re open, you’re more inclined to blink, and blinking can be hazardous so soon after the operation.
I was tempted to open my eyes during the drive, just to see how well I could see. I succumbed to that temptation at a stoplight, as we were headed north on Western. The first thing I saw, way off in the distance, on top of a mountain, was the famous Hollywood sign. Every letter was crisp and clear. I could see!
They had warned me that when the numbing drops wore off, in about a half hour, my eyes might burn a little, and by the time I got home, they were burning a lot. It reminded me of when I was a kid, and my eyes would sting after a two-hour swim practice in a very chlorinated pool. But this was much worse. I took a couple Tylenol PM and knocked myself out. By the time I woke up, five or six hours later, the burning was gone. (I was given special goggles that I need to wear in bed, so I don’t rub my eyes in my sleep, or smash my face into a pillow.)
I’m following my post-operation instructions to the letter. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ll be unable to exercise, except walking, for the next month. I’m giving myself the eye drops when I’m supposed to, and bought artificial tears, which will help with dry eye, which I may experience for months.
Most importantly, though, is that the surgery worked. There’s a mandatory check-up appointment the next day, and I was told that my eyes looked great, and after a vision test, I learned I had 20/20 vision. For the first time in my life, or at least for the first time since third grade, when I first got glasses. My eyes are slightly cloudy, and they may be for the next month or so. It’ll go away. I’m already able to drive, and I only took one day off from work. The very minor side effects are well worth not needing glasses. This is such an exciting time!
Keep it up, David!
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