Everyone who has had LASIK tells you about that moment, that magical moment when the surgery is over and you sit up and can read the clock on the wall in perfect clarity. I’ve heard it several times from several people. I wanted to experience that. To go camping and not have to leave dry, icky contacts in for days. To be able to actually find the binky in the middle of the night so everyone can just go back to bed. At nights while Audrey would wait for me to come to bed while I took my contacts out I would say things like, “If only I had LASIK you wouldn’t have to wait for me right now.”
After years of plotting and saving and investigating different eye surgeons I was ready to take the plunge.
Bye bye contacts
I throw away my last pair of contact lenses. Kind of weird. I have been wearing contacts almost every day for the past seventeen years. For the next two weeks I’m supposed to wear my glasses so my eyes can adjust to their normal shape for the surgery. I haven’t worn my glasses for that many consecutive days, well ever. I think they’re just making me do it so I will appreciate it that much more when I can finally see without my glasses.
Everything is sort of rushed since I have a plane to catch to go to my grandfather’s funeral. They check my eyes, then hand me a packet of Important papers that I need to sign and some special eye drops I’m supposed to use before the surgery. I stuff everything in my bag to review later and rush home to load suitcases in the car.
After waking up way too early to catch a flight home, I go to the surgery center. They check my eyes again and I watch a movie that explains everything that could go wrong. (Well, not everything. The movie made a point that there was no way they could cover everything that could go wrong.) It was like watching a really long version of one of those commercials for some new wonder drug that will cure you of a foot fungus but has the “minor” side effects of extreme halitosis, stomach ulcers, insomnia, and the occasional sudden death spell. Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but it was concerning. I sign the papers anyway and am off to the surgery center.
There are four or five other patients each waiting at a numbered station in big leather armchairs. One by one the nurses administer various eye drops including the important anesthetic ones. One by one the other people in the room are led out by a nurse and brought back about five minutes later all wide eyed like they’re seeing the world through new eyes, because they are.
They do my eye drops. I have butterflies in my stomach in spite of the Xanax I have taken at the surgeon’s recommendation. Before I know it, it’s my turn. I leave my soon-to-be-unnecessary glasses back at my arm chair with my paperwork. The nurse leads me into the surgery room with the Big Laser Machine. They have me lay down on a table and the nurse who lead me into the room hands me a stuffed animal–the “Lasik Lamb.” Um, okay. I hold the lamb sheepishly (couldn’t help myself). The surgeon puts a patch over my left eye then lines up my right eye under the machine.
Doctor: “You’re going to experience some pressure and then your vision will black out for eight seconds.”
Eight seconds. That’s really precise. What the what? Right about then the nurse starts gently stroking my hand. Super weird. This is the opposite of helping. How bad is this going to be that they have a person assigned to just try to calm the patient down? Well, he wasn’t kidding about the pressure. It takes three tries to get the device to successfully suction to my eye. The combination of me flinching at them poking me in the eye and the particular shape of my eye is making things difficult.
After quite a bit longer than eight seconds, the right flap is cut. They switch everything over to the left eye. Not looking forward to doing that all over again. On the second try, it sticks and I can hear the laser clicking as I count down in my mind. Before it’s done, however, I hear a little pop and very blurry vision returns to my left eye while the laser is still clicking and I think I can see the little rows of bubbles its creating in my cornea marching across my field of vision.
Apparently that was bad.
From there it’s all kind of a blur. (I know, I know.) They had me get up, he looks at my eyes, they try again. It doesn’t work. The surgeon calls it off. I sit up and he explains that since the eye-flap-cutter-laser-suction-thing popped off in the middle of the cut, the flap wasn’t cut all the way on the left eye and that I won’t be able to have LASIK on that eye anymore. Ever. However, if it is any consolation, after a month, if I still want, I can have PRK on that eye (complete with a longer and more uncomfortable recovery) and have them finish the LASIK on the right eye. What? I’m supposed to be seeing that clock right now. I’m pissed.
Nobody seems to know what to do with me at this point. I feel like this is the first time they’ve every had anything go wrong. I am taken back through the room with the armchairs and deposited in an office. I guess nobody wants me to alarm the other patients. I call Audrey to come pick me up, but I don’t try to explain the situation over the phone. Am I crying or is that just my eyes watering from the surgery? One of the nurses comes in and offers me what I think is a bag of pretzels, but I can’t tell for sure. Wait, I can’t see. Where are my glasses? My vision is still uncorrected and I can’t see anything further than two feet from my face. I accept the pretzels stupidly. I ask the nurse to get my glasses for me.
Audrey arrives a few moments later and the doctor explains everything again, this time to both of us. None of it is really sinking in. We head home, leaving the papers explaining what could go wrong and the schedule I’m supposed to follow for post-op care on that leather armchair. At home, I sleep before confronting the myriad of emotions I’m feeling. Later that evening the doctor calls me from his home to see if I’m doing okay.
The next day, I go to work and between eye drops and actually working, I spend too much time looking up LASIK surgery complications. I learned a few things. First, what happened to me is exceedingly rare. According to this study, this kind of thing happens 0.03% of the time. Also for more than half of that 0.03%, they were able to put it back on and finish it up the same day with no further complications. According to everything I can find, the surgeon did what he was supposed to and called it off before irreparable damage was done. I’m just very unlucky.
That afternoon I have an appointment with the surgeon. Audrey comes with me, all fired up and ready to record the whole conversation in case we needed it later. (She looked it up. It’s legal.) We don’t end up doing that. After examining my eyes, he explains again that I’ll have to wait a month to heal before trying any further surgery and answers our questions about what the next surgery will be like. He also hands me a check for a full refund and says that they’ll discount it if I decide to come back for another round. I’m more than a little apprehensive to go under the laser again, but the cheapskate in me can’t even think about losing the money we already put in flex spending to pay for this.
This all happened in early January. It has really taken me this long to write, mostly because the first few drafts were really depressing. On the bright side, I got double airline points by paying for the surgery twice with my credit card. Also, now I get to probably be the first person on the internet who can compare personally the experience of having both PRK and LASIK surgery. Maybe it will make this blog famous. Anyway, you’ll have to wait until next time for that.