I couldn’t see the alarm clock in the morning. My eyes were dry and itchy after a long day, and my glasses were thick and uncomfortable. It’s the same story shared by countless others with poor vision. And like so many others, I have thought about LASIK eye surgery for a long time, wondering if the technology had advanced enough for me to be comfortable and if it was worth the cost. And then I decided to do it.
I became convinced LASIK eye surgery was the right choice while at a friend’s house for a party recently. The kitchen was packed shoulder-to-shoulder, and the radiator heat was blasting on the cool evening. Almost immediately, my eyes were irritated. My contacts felt dry and scratchy and my vision was hazy like someone had turned on a smoke machine. It’s amazing what a person will get used to, and this fuzzy eye feeling had become such a common occurrence. No more, I thought. It’s time for LASIK.
Like many people, I rely on my vision for my job. As a journalist, I spend long days staring at a computer or late evenings covering meetings. Glasses also weren’t a great option for me being an active person. Jogging and hot yoga were tough with thick lenses slipping down my nose.
In the weeks leading up the surgery, I kicked into hyper research overdrive, immersing myself in seemingly everything ever written on the topic. I pored through journals, studies and personal accounts of the surgery. I called friends I knew who had the surgery and spoke with another who was an ophthalmologist. As a journalist, I was overflowing with questions and skepticisms, and as a person prone to high anxiety, I was scared.
I first spoke with Dr. Nancy Tanchel for a story I was writing for a newspaper about whether people were cutting back on certain procedures during tough economic times. I began to later research Dr. Tanchel and her background for my own surgery, and I was pleased to find out she uses the latest technology. The femtosecond laser – the Ziemer Femto LDV – is a far cry from the days when the surgery actually involved a tiny blade. The laser makes tiny pulses to cut the flap of the cornea, which ensures the cut is cleaner and more accurate. Of course, I knew if I was going to do this, I wanted to have it done with the latest tools, and the more I learned, the more confident I felt about Dr. Tanchel and her set up.
Once it was determined that I was indeed a candidate for the surgery, I made the appointment and donned by Coke-bottle glasses for the week. During that time, I continued to research, read and re-read personal accounts, and barrage Dr. Tanchel with questions.
Finally, surgery day. I had managed to relax a bit and come to peace with my decision. For the amount of research I did and anxiety I had, the procedure went by in the blink of an eye. It lasted a few minutes from start to finish. I’ll leave the details of just what they did to the pros, but I do know there was one laser that cut the flap in my cornea and a second laser that reshaped it. To begin with, eye-numbing drops were used. As the lasers did their work, Dr. Tanchel talked me through the entire surgery. The procedure was uncomfortable – and I was gripping squishy yellow stress balls in both fists while trying to remember to breathe – but not painful. Remember, I’m a person prone to high anxiety. The apparatus used to keep my eyes open and position the lasers felt strange, but really, before I knew it the whole procedure was done.
Soon enough, I was sitting up and looking at the clock. It was just as she had described: like I was looking though a layer of Vaseline. I could see more clearly, but there was blurry layer over everything.
During the prescribed three to four hour nap that afternoon, my eyes just felt uncomfortable, like there was sand in them. But I knew to expect this and tried hard to relax and keep my eyes closed. When I got up that evening, I could see. No kidding. It was still a bit blurred, and my eyes were sensitive to the light, but sure enough, I could see. First, I peered at the alarm clock across the room, then I took a peak out the window at the street below. Unbelievable, I thought – and still find myself thinking. I went right to the bathroom and tossed my contact lenses and solution.
As the days passed, my vision continued to improve and sharpen and my eyes felt more comfortable. About two months later, I haven’t a single complaint. I keep rewetting drops on hand and put them in my eyes a few times a day for dry eye, but I expect that side effect to fade.
Surely there are patients, particularly in the earlier days of the procedure, who had a not-so-great experience. It seems counterintuitive to go messing with your eye balls (you only get one pair, right?), but considering how advanced the technology has become, there now seems little reason to not consider the surgery. Perhaps I could have saved myself some anxiety, but ultimately I am relieved – and at times incredulous – that I chose to have the surgery and can see so well without the worries and hassle of contacts or glasses.
– Sara Michael