20/20 by 2020: My LASIK Experience

I have been wearing glasses since the second grade; that’s 20+ years where corrective lenses have been a part of my identity. I have owned countless pairs of glasses, always trying to find fun frames or styles that I can make my own. As it does with everyone, my eyesight and astigmatism got worse with age; the glass lenses got to the point of being thicker than the frames that held them! When I started wearing contacts around 13 I thought things would get easier…sadly, they did not. Because my eyesight was so terrible and the astigmatism occurred in both eyes, my contacts were dailies and incredibly expensive. I have always loved wearing glasses, LASIK was never even a thought in my mind growing up.

Over the years my eyesight was draining my energy and my bank account, but what was I supposed to do? I was pretty much legally barred from leaving my house without glasses or contacts, blinder than a bat in the sunshine. Enter LASIK.

About 10 years ago I started researching the possibility of doing LASIK. I was approved by my eye doctor and quoted around $4500. As a college student that just wasn’t going to happen! Occasionally I would revisit the idea every few years, casually bringing it up to my eye doctor or seeing a surgeon to get an updated cost, but that’s as far as I always got. When I hit 28, I had a 6 month stint where I got 4 separate eye infections and a scratched cornea back to back. The frustration made me bring it up again with my doctor and she said that if I waited another year or two I may not be an ideal candidate for LASIK. She said PRK might still be an option but it takes longer to heal and is a more in-depth process. So the hunt begins again…

Being a Ravenclaw, I researched every facility in the state of Washington, what my options were to have the surgery in Canada at a lower cost, payment plans, the actual surgery and post-op care etc. I got multiple quotes, met with several doctors, scrounged around for coupons, read reviews, and googled until my fingers metaphorically bled.

When all was said and done, I ended up choosing LASIKPlus+, they have campuses all across the US but thankfully there was one about 20 minutes from my apartment in Renton, WA. Let me start this post off by saying this is not an ad, I was not paid to write this, it’s going to be honest, raw and slightly graphic so if you’re squeamish you might want to fast forward to the end!

BECOMING A CANDIDATE:

If you have little to no experience with LASIK or possibly considering it, know that there is a minimum level of criteria you have to meet in order to be considered a viable candidate. I was very concerned that with astigmatism in both eyes and my strong prescription, LASIK would no longer be an option for me. Come to find out, they factor in prescription, scarring, astigmatism, and corneal thickness to determine if you’re a LASIK or PRK candidate. Thankfully, my corneal thickness was above average, it balanced out the strong prescription and astigmatism. A big part of becoming a good candidate is regular visits to your eye doctor. Your prescription must be relatively stable for over a year in order for you to get approved for surgery. They want to make sure that there isn’t a huge decline in your vision quality.

As I mentioned above, there are two different types of surgery, LASIK or PRK. Healthline has a great breakdown, but there are few key differences. PRK and LASIK are both used to modify the cornea of your eye, but they both use different methods to correct your vision and reshape your cornea. With PRK, part of the top layer of cornea tissue is removed before using lasers to correct and reshape. With LASIK, a flap is cut which allows your surgeon to move this layer to the side before reshaping with a lasers or a blade. Because the flap remains attached, it can be put back in its place after the surgery’s done, rather than being fully removed like with PRK. The recovery period for PRK can take a full week before your sight is no longer blurry and up to a month before you stop feeling some discomfort. With LASIK, you’ll see clearer almost immediately after surgery. There will be some residual blurriness, your eyes might burn for a few hours but that fades within 24-hours.

THE CONSULTATION:

LASIKPlus+ was the 4th facility I had gone to and while the exterior of the office is unassuming, the warmth of the staff immediately put me at ease. The initial exam is free and can take anywhere from 60-90 minutes; it was more or less the same as other appointments I’d had (chat about the doctor, the process, post-op care, the cost, and the exam). The exam took the longest. They check for every conceivable test you could think of for your eyes: visual acuity, corneal thickness, pressure checks, pupil reactivity, retina health, glaucoma etc.

When the exam was finished they showed a really informative video of the actual procedure instead of just roughly telling me what was going to happen. My nurse was amazing, having a very honest and realistic approach to my concerns. I told her that I knew a lot of my concerns were unfounded and statistically unlikely but she never made me feel dumb for asking questions. When we got to the fun part where we discussed costs, she saw my face and happily walked me through the various financing options they offered. The quote they gave me was less than others but still within a good range to where I didn’t feel like I was being scammed. Not to mention, this surgery came with a lifetime warranty! They gave me an awesome booklet with printouts of all they had discussed, including information on the procedure, my doctor, the procedure quote, my post-op eye drop schedule etc. I left the facility and immediately called my mom to tell her that I had found where I wanted to get my surgery!

THE PREP:

There really wasn’t a ton of prep involved physically, but mentally I was thankful for the 2 months I took to schedule the actual surgery. It may sound strange, but my lenses have always been a part of my identity. Even when I switched to lenses, the muscle memory to reach for my glasses first thing in the morning or to pop my contacts out at night has always been there. It was time to come to terms with who I was going to be when I wasn’t hiding behind my big frames!

This was also a great time to review my finances, so I took those two months to save up for the surgery. I knew that I was going to use a combination of my Chase Sapphire credit card, hello bonus points! Another source of funding was my Care Credit account, since they had a great deal for 12 months, 0% interest. I wanted to use these to pay but then pull the money I’ve saved to pay it off as quickly as possible. My goal was to have at least $1000 saved up, so hello overtime! I got an additional discount through my VSP eye insurance and a $50 referral discount because my roommate had gotten the surgery the month prior after my recommendation.

The doctor told me I needed to stop wearing my contacts for at least 3 days before my surgery.

Lastly, you need to have a ride/driver to get you home after the surgery since you won’t be cleared to drive. Other than that, I was good to go!

SURGERY DAY:

I woke up around 5:30am with a nosebleed, because why not, right?! Once I got that under control, I ate a light breakfast of some oatmeal and had a cup of tea. My appointment wasn’t until 9am but my nerves had me wired! I couldn’t take my ADD medication because it is a stimulant, so my anxiety over not taking my meds didn’t help with my nerves either. My roommate and I headed down to the facility in Renton, checked in with the nurses and filled out all the necessary paperwork. My heart about stopped when she rang my credit cards through, as if I hadn’t fully committed until that moment. You watch a few informative videos about the procedure and what your aftercare is going to look like. We waited in the front room for a little over an hour before they were ready for me. I met with their optometrist, Natasha Balani O.D., who quickly re-checked my prescription to make sure there weren’t any major changes since my last appointment. Upon request, she gave me a Valium to calm my nerves and keep me still during the actual procedure.

I was walked to a different room where I met my surgeon, Dr. Mark Walker, M.D. He has over 18 years of LASIK experience and has performed 80,000 laser refractive procedures, he even performed this surgery on his wife! Dr. Walker did a quick inspection of my eyes, let me ask him any last minute questions I had, then popped a few numbing eye drops in each eye before taking me to the treatment room!

THE PROCEDURE:

At this point the Valium started to kick in but my nerves were definitely trying to fight against it! They laid me down on a chair where they placed a patch with some tape over one of my eyes. They then put some sort of device over my eye that created a very weird pressure feeling before your vision all of a sudden goes out. This would have absolutely freaked me out if he hadn’t warned me about it ahead of time; it feels like they’ve intentionally made you blind but it only lasts for about 30 seconds while they cut the flap for the procedure.

Then they move you under the microscope, and eyelid holder is used to keep you from blinking which is uncomfortable but not unpleasant. There are two red lights and a green light that appear and flash throughout the procedure. The surgeon maps the laser to your eye so it tracks pupil movement, that way if your eye naturally starts to move it doesn’t mess anything up. As the laser works it’s magic, Dr. Walker talks to you the whole time, offering encouraging words or reminding you which light to focus on. The smell is definitely off-putting, you are kind of smelling parts of your eye burn away and it smells a little like burnt hair.

It’s over much faster than you realize, I would say I was probably in this room for no more than 12 minutes. They sit you up, ask you what you can see, and then it hits you… you can see EVERYTHING! Tears definitely happened, I could blame the Valium but I definitely know I would have cried even without it. I couldn’t believe it, I could see…

POST-TREATMENT:

The first thing they gave me were two Advil PM, on top of the Valium, because my homework was to go home and keep my eyes closed for 2-5 hours. The discomfort kicked in within 20 minutes, burning and itching which is totally normal.

They give you these really cool (aka hideous) sunglasses to wear on the drive home because your eyes will be very sensitive to light. The second pair of attractive eyewear they give you are an awesome (aka equally hideous) pair of plastic goggles for sleep to keep you from rubbing or pressing into your eyes.

When you wake up you get to start the fun eye-drop regiment that you’ll be doing for the next 4-6 weeks. There are a lot because your eyes will producing less than 50% of the natural tears they’re used to, if you work with computer screens then you’ll have even greater issues with dry eyes. Antibiotic drops (1 drop 4 times a day), artificial tears (1 drop every 30-60 minutes), Hydro-eye capsules (2 in the morning and 2 at night). All of these are to prevent you from rubbing your eyes, which could damage the fragile flap while it heals.

You can resume normal activities, work and/or exercise, within 24 hours of LASIK surgery. For the first week after treatment, they recommend that you prevent water from getting directly into your eyes. Avoid eye make up and intense face washing, always keeping your eyes closed while cleansing. No swimming, hot tubs, saunas or submerging your head in water for at least 2 weeks. There are some symptoms that can last up to 3 months, dry eyes, nighttime glare, or halos, but you’ll slowly start to adjust and eventually learn to live life without an additional lens!

So far my favorite moments have been seeing my boyfriend’s face with my real eyes (cheesy, I know), calling my mom sobbing in the grocery store because I could read the grocery aisle names from far away, and not having to take my contacts out every night or put my glasses on my bedside table before I go to sleep!

My follow-up appointment is scheduled for 4 days post-surgery. I will continue to update this as I go through the full recovery process the next 3-6 months!

I absolutely loved my experience with LASIKPlus and would recommend them to anyone who asks. This is something I had considered for a while and I can’t believe I actually pulled the trigger. I’m so excited to (eventually) swim without having to worry about my contacts drying out or not being able to see anything clearly underwater. I can’t wait to travel without having to worry about how many backup pairs of contacts or glasses I need to pack. This is going to be a life changer! 🙂

 

* UPDATE * I had my follow-up appointment and my vision improved so much more than they were expecting. I went in with -7 vision (-10 if you include my astigmatism). According to my most recent exam, I AM NOW 20/15!!! Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could see so clearly, but here I am walking around just able to look at things like everyone else!

About Essentially Erynne

• 📍Seattle • 📝 Writer • ➿ 3A/3B Curly Girl • 🦅 Ravenclaw • 🏃🏽‍♀️ #therunningmuggle

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