Thursday, March 06, 2008

Seeing the world through new eyes

After an initial false start, I am now seeing out of my freshly-lasered eyeballs.
My LASIK appt was on Feb. 7th. We arrived on schedule and were in the waiting room for over an hour. I had decided that I was not all that nervous so I had not asked for any valium, which some people take prior to the procedure. As we waited, I felt a bit more nervous. Interestingly, Jim was very uncharacteristically chatty which was distracting me but not in a good way. It occurred to me that he was nervous too so I didn't say anything to him about it, though I wanted to tell him to be quiet.
When they took me back, they talked about what they were going to do, and got me comfortable in the procedure chair. It's a comfy chair, like a reclining dentist chair but more plush. The first step after numbing drops are applied is to make a flap out of a thin layer of the corneas. They let that settle, then they use the laser on the part underneath to change your vision. The flap is like an internal contact lens. I used to wear contacts but always had trouble with them. They often felt dry or itchy, and so I was constantly using drops. I was always aware of the lens in the left eye; it wasn't painful but I always felt it. Once I got a serious bacterial infection in my cornea; that was no fun.
Well, I guess my eyes didn't want internal "contact lenses" either. They applied a suction cup type thing to my eye as they started, but it lost suction. Three times this happened, luckily before they cut the eye, so they stopped. The surgeon told me to come back the next week and he would do PRK instead. PRK is the precursor to LASIK; it's basically the surgery on the surface of your cornea with no flap. It's a procedure that is prone to more pain and has a longer recovery period, but is still safe and effective. The doctor warned me that my eye was bloodshot from the suction and advised me to use steroid drops for the next several days. I went to use the restroom and "bloodshot" was an understatement. I had developed an almost perfect blood ring around my iris, with more blood on the outside part of the white of the eye. It was pretty gross looking, though it didn't hurt at the time. I went out to the waiting room to wake Jim up, and then took him out of the office to tell him what happened. I was disappointed and cried a little, but still wanted to return the next week for round 2. We went home and my eye was starting to hurt, so I took some ibuprofen and a long nap. The next day at work a colleague told me I had an eye hickey, which amused me.
I was rescheduled for the 14th, Valentine's Day. I knew that I would be much more nervous this time so I had requested a Valium this time. I've never taken Valium before but decided it might be a good idea. The nurse told me not to take it until I arrived for the appointment. When I checked in at 1PM, I asked if I should take my pill and was told to wait until the tech came to see me. They had told me that they wouldn't be actually taking me back until 1:30, and they came out on the dot. Immediately they walked me back to the procedure room. What about my Valium? I asked. Oh, you can take it now, I was told. Uh oh...
The procedure itself, I liken to painting a room, where you spend far more time prepping than actually painting. I was seated in the comfy chair, and my eyelids were cleaned with betadine. The surgeon then put a patch over my left eye, and numbing drops in my right eye. My eyelashes were taped back and an eye speculum was put in. It bothered me in theory that I couldn't close my eye but I didn't fight it as much as I thought I would. Then the doctor "roughed up" the surface of the cornea using some small tool. Once he was done, they started he laser procedure itself. I was told to stare at a blinking orange light. It takes 28 seconds which doesn't seem like a long time except when your eyeball is being burned! I smelled a burning hair smell briefly; that was my cornea. I had read about others having this experience so I wasn't surprised or particularly grossed out.

After the laser did its thing they put some medicine in my eye, removed the speculum and tape, and moved the patch from my left eye to my right. I thought I could feel him doing the "roughing up" a little more so he put in additional numbing drops, which made me feel less nervous because I was worried I would be able to feel the laser! While he was prepping it occurred to me; this man is scrubbing at my eyeball. If I could really feel it, I would be screaming in pain right now. So, the numbing drops clearly are working!
Once that eye was done, they sat me up and the tech gave me some directions along with my bag of "goodies". Each patient receives a small leather-ish toiletry bag containing: a bottle of antibiotic drops, bottle of steroid drops, pair of sunglasses and a pair of goggles. I didn't need the goggles since I didn't have the LASIK, but they have LASIK patients wear them to sleep in for the first few nights to keep from rubbing their eyes. A post-op instruction sheet was also included. They tucked into a side pocket a prescription for percoset.

And that was it. I was in at 1:30 and out at 2:00. Jim and I got the prescription filled, and then went to Friendly's for a late lunch. I took some percoset right away as my eyes burned some. I was sensitive to light so I kept my sunglasses on (a pair I had bought, not the ones from the doctor), a baseball cap on my head, and my head down. I continued to be sensitive to light at home for the next several days. Two days post-op was the hardest; I awoke at 6AM to a strong burning in both eyes. I took percoset periodically, interspersed with ibuprofen, and slept most of Saturday. Sunday I felt much better.
It was amazing how well I could see right away. I still have some blurriness at times, more so in the right eye than the left, but my vision is still quite good even when blurry. I do see a "halo" around lights at night sometimes, but not all the time. Driving has been fine. It took a couple of weeks to stop reaching for my glasses on my bedside table, and when getting out of the shower. I did try my glasses on at one point and it was weird to see how bad everything looked, especially knowing how clear they had made everything before. It does feel odd not to have clear and blurry vision, not to have my peripheral sight be as sharp as it is. I think I've mostly adjusted but my brain is still catching up in small ways.
Everyone seems used to how I look now, without my glasses. I'm starting to wear eye makeup again; I know I look washed out without it but it hasn't become part of my routine yet. It bothers me more to see my gray hair roots now. Apparently with glasses on they weren't so obvious to me; now I'm thinking I need to schedule my coloring appointments closer together. At my last hair appointment I got my eyebrows done. The woman who does them at my salon used a combination of sugaring and threading, and told me I'm pulling too many from the beginning of each brow. Who knew?Certainly not me, who is far from a fashion advertisement.
I still have some healing to do; the doctor says at six months out I will really feel the difference. But I'm pleased with it already, and am looking forward to any additional improvements healing will bring.


Pollyanna said...

Oh yikes. I couldn't read the details. For some reason anything to do with eyes is just too much for me. But I'm glad to know it is over. Whew.

I know when I got my ear fixed, I had a hard time adjusting to hearing things. I imagine it is similar to having your eyes done.

Yah for you and I'm glad to see you updating on your blog!

The Bear Maiden said...

Wow. I've considered LASIK but I dunno. But I always love to hear of my lady friends gettin' dolled up and gettin' their brows done! Congrats!

My dad had cataracts removed recently. He too said it was amazing how quickly he could see well.