Sunday, January 8, 2012

Happy New Year! (Alternate Title: I got LASIK!)

Well, 2012 is here! I think one of the biggest changes for me personally this year has already happened.

I've had glasses or contacts for a long time - since I think 3rd grade (maybe 4th?) and while I have been VERY grateful that glasses and contacts exist, they aren't perfect. With glasses, they get dirty, you basically have no peripheral vision, every time it rains you get water on them, they slide down your nose......and so on. I stopped trying to wear contacts because they would only be comfortable until about dinnertime and I'd have to switch to glasses anyway, you weren't supposed to swim in them, and it was a pain to put them in....and so on.

So, when my eye doctor suggested to me that my vision was likely correctable through LASIK surgery, I was very interested! (And actually MOST vision problems can be corrected through the procedure, including many with astigmatism - the technology has gotten very good!)

We started investigating pricing, and different LASIK providers/surgeons to try to figure out where to go. As far as I could figure out - the biggie is to make sure that they open the "flap" with bladeless technology (a laser) and that they do a "custom" laser for the actual treatment laser. If you want more info about the actual ins and outs of the process, you'll have to google it - this is just my basic synopsis.

We went through Lasik Plus, which I understand has offices in many locations - there were 3 cities within 2 hours of us that we could have chosen from (we picked the office that google maps said was fewer miles away!). The initial exam was free - they measured my cornea to see if it was thick enough to do the treatment and did various other tests, compared my glasses prescription to my current eye strength, and answered some questions about the procedure. I was proclaimed "a great candidate!" and we went ahead and set the treatment date for 1 week from my first exam!

They send you home with a looooong list of potential problems and side effects that are POSSIBLE, even though the actual likelihood of having problems is extremely small. So, I planned out the weeks following making sure I had easy-to-cook meals in mind that wouldn't be too hard to fix if I had dry, irritated eyes, or if my eyes were tearing uncontrollably or some other such thing. I did all the grocery shopping, and in fact, I WILL NOT HAVE TO GO GROCERY SHOPPING AGAIN UNTIL NEXT SUNDAY!! :-) I made sure all the house cleaning was done and the laundry caught up.....just in case.... I was pretty nervous about the unknown, but deep down I was quite assured that all would turn out just fine, and the only side effect I'd experience from the surgery, if you can call it such, would be 20/20 vision! But still.....I was excited AND nervous all week.

So Friday came, the day of my LASIK surgery. I asked my husband to take my picture in front of the doctor's office door wearing glasses for hopefully the last time! (They have said that most people still need to get reading glasses around the age of 40 - but I'm hoping they may come up with new technology by the time I get to that point!) They give me another DVD to watch talking about post treatment care, I sign a LOT of paperwork, we pay, buy the fancy eyedrops they want you to use, they give me the Valium (so I am relaxed during the procedure, and am able to nap for the first 4 hours afterward) and then the Doctor calls me back to ask if I have any more questions, double check my prescription before they put the laser to my eyes, and then we go back to meet the laser surgeon. I get a hairnet to put on, the surgeon asked if I had any more questions, and then I followed them into the laser suite.

I was only in there for the actual laser treatment maybe 5-10 minutes tops. It was not painful to have it done. But how I wish I had better prepared myself for the actual procedure. It was pretty freaky to follow the nurse into the chair without my glasses (I couldn't see where I was going!) and not know what was going to happen next. That was TOTALLY my fault, because I SHOULD have asked more questions about the specific procedure, but I was thinking that "well, it won't last that long, it will be terrible/unpleasant no matter what, so I will be better off not knowing what's going to happen." I had plenty of opportunity to ask questions about the procedure and even could have watched the person that went before me through a window! I wish I had done that. I also wish that the Valium would have had more time to kick in! Even so, I'd do it again.

I don't know if the exact procedure is the same everywhere, but for me they had me walk in and lay down under the first laser, where they gave me numbing eye drops and then placed a "thing" on my eye (one eye at a time) to keep my eyelid open and they then created the "flap". I was disconcerted because I know at the dentist if you can feel it, you want to be sure the dentist knows!! Well, it was super uncomfortable to have that eyelid-holder-open-thingy in so when the surgeon asked "are you ok?" I said no! Anyway, I figured out that that part was just going to feel super weird, and got over it. It did not hurt even a little to have the actual laser flap created, aside from some bright light. Then the other freaky thing happens: your vision goes dark for just a moment (they do warn you about this). So then they repeat the process on the other eye: now the flaps are done. For me that was the worst part, which really only took like 3-5 minutes, tops? It was kind of alarming to know that after my flaps were made that I was to stand up and walk to the next laser machine. I had assumed that once the flaps were made that I'd have to stay still - but no, I was allowed to walk and blink, eyes open or not it didn't matter! The actual laser treatment was super easy. Same feeling of that eyelid-holder-open-thing, and keep focused on the red light for just seconds (they told me this was 9 seconds). There was a slight burnt-hair smell, and then that eye was done: the surgeon replaced the flap, kind of dabbed around my eye, put more drops in, and done! Repeat for other eye.

I was shocked when they told me I was already done! My vision was already more clear, though certainly not at all perfect, still very blurry. The surgeon looked at my eyes through a special machine, told me that the procedure went very well, gave me a pair of sunglasses, and told me to go home and take a nap. So my husband walked me to the car, and I propped myself up with pillows and rested for the 1.5 hour drive home, which I have almost no recollection of, because I was sleeping. I do know that my eyes watered a lot, and that anytime I tried to open my eyes the sun was so bright that I just decided to keep them shut, but they did not hurt. I never had any pain throughout the whole thing - the most discomfort was the feeling of a dirty contact, but even that was gone after I took my nap when I got home. My vision was still blurry after the nap, but clearer already. I had a lot of "halo" or glare around lights, which they told me to expect.

The next morning I woke up and headed to get ready to go (I had a follow-up appointment that we had to leave the house at 6:30am!). Matt asked me how my eyes were and I wasn't sure how to answer him. It seemed too good to be true....but I could see almost perfectly! Just a little halo still around lights, but I had peripheral vision! I could see the clock across the room! At my follow-up visit, when they checked my vision they said it was even better than 20/20, 20/15!

I have to put medicated eyedrops in at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and bedtime for the first week after surgery, and wear goggles to sleep for the first 3 nights. No rubbing the eyes or water in the eyes for the first week. I also have some artificial tears to put in about every hour or as needed. I have these really ugly looking red marks all around the whites of my eyes, which they say will be completely gone in 2 weeks. But no pain!!

I am writing this post on the Sunday after my LASIK procedure. The halo effect around lights is almost completely gone and I am floored at the difference in clarity in normal everyday things that I hadn't noticed in such detail before: the threads in the tablecloth, the grain in the wood on the floor - details in twigs in faraway trees, and best of all peripheral vision to be able to notice when my 2 year old is getting ready to smear mashed potatoes on my arm at dinner! At this point, I am very very glad I did it, and having seen such amazing early results (My vision should continue to improve slightly over the next 3 months) and if I had it to do all over again, I would gladly undergo the procedure, freaky as it was. Two things would have helped: more knowledge of the actual process, and allowing the Valium to set in better! But I am so glad I did it.

Now, at the place where I went they offer a lifetime enhancement - which basically means that if my vision gets worse over time, that they'll redo the LASIK again for free. In order to keep that, I am required to go back in a week, in a month, and then in at 3 months. Then I'm good to go!

I'm looking forward to life without glasses or contacts, and really great vision! Can't wait to go swimming with the kids without worrying about losing my glasses, or trying not to get water on my contacts. Looking forward to not having to clean fingerprints off of my glasses, being able to see the time if I wake up in the middle of the many things! So I'm glad I did it, glad that the technology was available, and I am thankful that God allowed my eyes to heal so quickly!