My Eye Surgery Experience – Part 1

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A number of you requested that I blog about my experience having laser eye surgery, and – 7 weeks after my surgery date to the day – I am FINALLY getting around to writing this post. This is going to be LONG.

Most people who wanted me to write it did so because they are thinking of having LASIK or PRK and I know from experience that you want detail when you’re reading posts about the surgery (as I read a lot before mine!), so that explains the length.

To try to keep it a little bit shorter, I have split it into 2 parts – this one, about the procedures and my surgery day, and then another post next week re: my recovery.

I have a good reason for why it took so long for me to write this. I had PRK surgery – it is important for you to note that this is NOT LASIK and thus my experience will be very different from someone who undergoes LASIK surgery (I’ll touch on that briefly in a second).

PRK has a longer recovery time in general and takes a lot longer for results to be evident, which is why I wanted to wait a while before writing the post. Even now my eyesight is not what it will be once I am fully, fully healed, but I feel I have gone through the majority of the recovery process and am therefore able to blog about it.

The above pic is just of a checkup, not the surgery!

Quick rundown on the differences between PRK and LASIK (if you’re squeamish, you may or may not want to read this part):

  • LASIK uses either a blade or a laser to create a flap that is held back while the eye is lasered. After lasering, the flap is repositioned over the eye and you are done. You go home, you wear some dark shades for 24 hours, you sleep as much as possible and then 24-48 hours later – if there are no complications – you should be able to see great and get on with your regular daily life (this is a very simplistic explanation and I’m sure there are a lot of exceptions!).
  • PRK does not involve cutting. Instead, the outer layer of the eye (the epithelium) is dissolved using chemicals of some kind (ha, I didn’t ask what), and then the eye is lasered. A contact lens is placed on the eye after surgery to protect it while the epithelium grows back. This takes about 5 days, at which point – if your eye is ready – the contact lenses are removed.

Why choose PRK? Well, I didn’t.

There is almost always one type of surgery that is better for your eyes than another. My eye doctor is the best – she had PRK herself and she insisted on referring me to Coal Harbour Laser Centre, who did her surgery, as they offer BOTH LASIK and PRK. She stressed it is very important to try and go to a place that offers both, because you want a doctor who will examine your eyes and recommend the surgery that is best for you. Not just push one on you because that’s all they offer.

The basics:

To be really basic about it, the stronger your prescription, the more tissue is removed from your eye during surgery.

Creating a flap (LASIK) takes up a lot of tissue as it is. Removing the epithelium (PRK) takes far less tissue.

So with the strength of my prescription, there was no way there was enough tissue there to create a flap, and so LASIK was out for me (they say that often people with a prescription stronger than -5.00 will be a better candidate for PRK than LASIK, but it just depends on the individual).

Yes, LASIK has a much faster recovery time of 24-48 hours, whereas PRK takes much longer – I still couldn’t really see well when I returned to work 10 days later. However, LASIK is a more invasive procedure, whereas PRK is more, to use my nurse’s word, “organic”.

Before surgery:

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This was the toughest part of the whole process for me, lol. If you are a contact lens wearer, you have to wear glasses for 2 weeks prior to your consultation, and then 1-2 weeks prior to your surgery date. That was 4 weeks of nonstop glasses wearing for me. I have not worn glasses on a regular basis since I first got contacts at the age of 14.

Because my prescription is so strong, my glasses are quite expensive as I have to buy the super-thin high-tech lenses, so as my prescription got worse I didn’t always update my glasses. I wore them to bed and that was it. That meant that before my surgery, I had to go for 4 weeks with glasses that were 2 prescriptions too old. I couldn’t drive and I felt really self-conscious wearing glasses (that even with the thinned lenses are still pretty thick). I had headaches because I couldn’t see 100% and I was nervous about the surgery. So yes, this was definitely the worst part of the process. By the time the surgery day arrived I just wanted it to be over with!

Surgery day – prepping:

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However, of course, I was still pretty darn stressed. They gave my eyes another check-up, went through the bag with all the drops I’d have to take after surgery (there are a TON of drops, I had to draw up whole schedules to remember to take them all!), and then, if you’re nervous, they give you a sedative. I have my own sedatives at home and had taken one before coming because I knew one wouldn’t do it for me (NOTE: I do not recommend this!), so I took their one for my second. Sedatives don’t really relax me but they make it so that my thoughts kinda slow down so I become very focused on what I’m doing.

Therefore, by the time I went into the operating room I was super zoned in on just listening to the surgeon. I listened intently to everything he said, and just focused on doing what he was telling me. He spoke in a soft, calm voice and just explained what he was doing as he was doing it (I had requested this beforehand as I knew it would relax me, but he told me he does that for everyone anyway).

The surgery itself:

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The nurses (there were 2 in the room with the surgeon) applied a ton of numbing drops (they drench you in them, so don’t worry, you’ll be numb!), then the surgeon put the clamp in my eye socket to stop it from closing (the right eye first). He poured some liquid on my eye and told me to focus on the red light of the laser (which was not yet on). I focused and then my vision went all white and red and blue as he used something (kinda like a Q-tip I think, but I couldn’t see) to swirl the outer layer of my eye away. You do not feel ANYTHING when this is happening, but your vision goes all swirly too. I just told myself this was normal and focused as much as I could on the red light, even though it seemed to be moving all over the place as my vision swirled.

Then he turned the laser on and told me to focus on the red light. I focused with all my might, even though if your eye does move the laser instantly shuts off, so it’s not like you’re at risk. It makes a LOUD noise when it comes on – kinda like a generator humming – and yes, it smells like you are burning your hair. I had been forewarned of these things so it wasn’t a big deal.

My lasering took longer than most people’s because of the strength of my prescription (I was -9 and -9.5 in my right and left eyes respectively). Most are done in a matter of seconds – mine was maybe 1-2 minutes. Or maybe it just felt that long, who knows? (I was in the surgery room for a total of 15-20 minutes). Then he said “brain freeze, very cold” and he doused my eye in liquid. No joke, this was the most painful part. Major brain freeze! My eye may be numb but my head wasn’t so it is COLD. He then used tweezers to place a contact lens over the eye and removed the clamp so I could close it. I did not find the clamps uncomfortable – some say it’s tough because it’s keeping the eye open all the time but I didn’t struggle with this at all. Again I was pretty zoned in!

The left eye was exactly the same, though at one point he said my eye was rolling in a lot so he was going to have to ‘hold’ it to keep it still – I didn’t feel him do anything, but I did wonder if my eye was rolling in because I had had two sedatives. This is why I do not recommend that lol. I am not as sensitive to sedatives as most people because I used to take them for panic attacks (I haven’t taken one in a couple of years), but I remember the very first time I took a sedative and half of one made me all loopy. So if you’re new to them, just take the one they give you!

Once the left eye was done (and the lasering on this eye took even longer as it has a worse prescription than my right) I cringed waiting for the cold liquid. Again, the only part where I felt anything and I hate brain freeze! Then the contact went on, the clamp came off, and they said I could sit up. I removed the shower cap they put on your hair and the booties they put over your shoes and went into the recovery room. They had me wear some shades and told me to lie in a chair for 10-15 minutes and the surgeon would come and check on me.

Funny story:

The recovery room had a floor-to-ceiling glass wall that looked into the surgery room. I had offered my mom the opportunity to sit in the recovery room during my surgery, on the nurse’s suggestion. She had been watching HGTV on the TV in the waiting room and didn’t want to watch my surgery at all, but I told her the recovery room had nice leather chairs and it had a TV too. All she had to do was not turn to the right and look through the glass wall into the surgery room (and even if she had, because of the position of the bed, she would have only seen my feet). So she went to sit in that room and stayed there for my surgery. When I joined her in there after surgery she told me that she sat down to watch TV, but the screen came on and there was my eye – giant, taking up the whole screen. She had watched the entire surgery because that’s all the TV in there did! I had no idea, it was so funny. She said she was squeamish at first but then curious so she watched it all, which is why I can tell you things like “he used a Q-tip to wipe away my eye surface” because she told me that’s what it looked like.

After surgery:

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While in recovery, the surgeon did another patient, so I watched the TV a little bit too to see what he was doing (even though I was supposed to be sitting with my eyes shut! Whoops).

Afterwards the surgeon came in, took my glasses off and took a quick look at my eyes. I said to him “Did the surgery go okay?” to which he replied “Yeah” with a shrug. What does “Yeah” shrug mean?!! When I went back the next day for my check-up, I asked the doctor checking me out what the surgeon meant by “Yeah”. He laughed and said, “Don’t worry about it. It went fine. It’s a very mundane procedure, you know.”

Ha! I replied, “For YOU.” Geesh.

Anyway, this post is plenty long enough so I’ll cut it off now and post the rest, about my recovery, next Thursday!

QUESTION:

  • Have you ever had, or considered having, laser eye surgery? Was it PRK or LASIK?
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Comments

  1. enjoyed reading this! again, i am so glad you faced this and it all went okay. i completely agree with you about the pre-surgery prep being really hard! having worn contacts for so long – i remember it was really tough to wear glasses for the 2 weeks or whatever it was prior. i kept tripping over my feet! and working out! that was super tough! ha!

  2. Very interesting! I’m still at the point where I’m putting off going to an eye doctor because I’m in denial of needing glasses. And will probably put it off until the point where they tell me I can’t renew my license until I get glasses! Declining eye sight is inevitable for all of us, so it’s nice to know there are options!

    • Ah yes denial is the best haha! If you just need a low prescription it’s not that bad – maybe you would just need them for driving?? But yes, sadly laser eye surgery doesn’t prevent the bad eyesight that comes with aging once you’re over 40…so I’ll probably still end up with glasses somehow! One day. But for now, it’s nice to have a break!

  3. Shoot…I would’ve taken two sedatives too! There is *NO WAY* I wouldn’t have!

  4. oolalang says:

    That’s incredible. The thought of touching and putting chemicals on an eye makes my stomach queasy. It’s amazing how strong our eyes are to withstand things like clamps though!

  5. Ha! Your surgeon! That’s funny 😉

    What a journey you wen through, though Anna! You’re one tough cookie! Thanks for sharing! ❤ I love you

  6. Wow, I’ve always wondered about how the actual surgery for LASIK went down. My grandma underwent it about 7 years ago and I went along. I nervously waited and couldn’t configure how it all worked. Thanks for informing me! It must have been really interesting for your mom to watch it all! I know I get really fidgety about watching those type of things, because it’s like my brain will constantly rewind it and play it for hours afterwards. But, I’m glad your eyesight is somewhat okay now and I look forward to hearing about your recovery :)!

    • Thanks love, though please note I did not have LASIK – so LASIK surgery might be slightly different. The recovery certainly would be. Overall though, there are a lot of similarities – having your eyes played with is scary no matter what!

  7. ahhh I have so many thoughts about this post! first, thank you for this effort! this is so great to read.
    1. At least you look adorable in your glasses! 😉 haha, I’m the same, though- I got my contact lenses at 14 and am only rarely caught in my glasses (usually at bed time, and once for two weeks when I had a small cut in my eye). Not looking forward to that part! Though, much as I hate them, I get a lot of compliments on them.
    2. I will likely have to get PKU as well. Good to know that your prescription plays a role- I always thought it was a choice. I think I will be going to Coal Harbor Eye Centre as well. (My eyes are -6 and -6.25.
    3. The thought of being awake made me squeamish, but it’s awesome to know that the laser is very exact. I think that’s what I was scared of most. I actually feel less panicked reading about that.
    4. Your poor mom! Haha, I would have done the same- not wanted to watch, and then would have done it out of fascination. That last bit made me laugh.

    Thank you thank you thank you for writing this post, Anna!! I’m so looking forward to Part Two…and my own surgery! 🙂 xoxo

    • You may have to have PRK but I do know of people who have had LASIK with a strong prescription – it will probably depend on the thickness of your cornea and other things (I have really large pupils, which also made it more difficult to do LASIK, for example). I’m super excited for you to get it done, you will love Coal Harbour, they’re super affordable and super skilled. Yay!!! Let me know when you have a date!

  8. I went for consultations to like every clinic in Van then cancelled my appointment last minute because I chickened out. I have extremely dry eyes and was soo scared that it would make it worse because some people had lasik and PRK ruin their lives because they’re eyes got so dry afterwards they couldn’t even go out anymore. Did you ever suffer from dry eyes?

    • Hi Katy! I would recommend you go with PRK if you are given the choice, because it is known that eyes tend to be drier with LASIK. I am still healing, so yes I still have *some* dryness, but by the time I’m fully healed (with PRK it takes 6 months), it should be very minimal.

      The funny thing is my eyes never FEEL dry, but once I put artificial tears in, my vision suddenly clears up a whole lot. So what happens is, your eyes are drier because they are so focused on healing, and the drier they get the worse your vision gets. So as soon as you add some moisture your vision suddenly improves. But I only feel that my eyes are dry when I get up first thing in the morning, and then some quick artificial tears gets rid of that.

      It should also be noted that when I say your vision ‘worsens’ as your eyes get drier, at this point in my healing (7 weeks out from surgery) I don’t notice my vision getting poorer. I just make a point to put tears in on a schedule – every few hours – because I know that as soon as I do I will suddenly see so much better, even though I didn’t realize I was seeing poorly before (if that makes any sense!). So what I’m saying is it’s not like it affects your ability to do or see things in a noticeable way.

      Hope that helps, let me know if you have any questions! theguiltlesslife@gmail.com 🙂

  9. Looking forward to seeing how you are doing. I had PKR on the 14th and my recovery, the first couple days was tough. Really sensitive to light. This is day 5 for me and my vision isn’t fully back. Anxious to see how you are doing. My prescription was -9 and -8.5.

    I stumble on your blog on the day of my surgery and was reading prior to going into the operating room.

    Hope all is Well!

    • Congrats on having the surgery! We had a very similar prescription. I am amazed you can even read this post by day 5 – it is very slow-going, recovery-wise. The best advice I can give you is to be patient because it will be very frustrating how little you can see for a while. After about 10 days you should be somewhat functional but you will see a lot of improvement in the month after that. Then the rest of the improvement is very gradual. Check back this Thursday as I’m posting my recovery post! Good luck Marty!

Trackbacks

  1. […] for all of your comments and questions on last week’s Part 1 post. I know a lot of you are thinking about the surgery or just had it, so hang in there (or, if you […]

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