One month ago, I did something I thought that I would never, ever do -- I let a doctor shoot lasers into my eyes. Up to and during my laser eye surgery, it was scary and I questioned my sanity. A month out, I can tell you that I believe it was worth it and I don't regret it. Not even a little bit.
I've been asked lots of questions by friends and family over the last few months. I thought I'd try to round up those questions into one post. Here it goes.
Why did you get laser eye surgery?
That's a simple question but I'm afraid I don't have a very good answer. I guess it was a mix of vanity, convenience and practicality. I like the way I look without glasses better than I do with them. I acknowledge that is heavily influenced from being a nerdy kid who became the nerdy kid with glasses and you know how that story goes (FOUR EYES!). I find it easier being active when I'm not doing the glasses vs. contacts shuffle. Sometimes I just want to run without smudging my glasses and getting sweat in your eyes while wearing contacts stings. I'm also always paranoid a TSA agent will confiscate my contact lens solution when I travel. While my prescription had stabilized a lot in the past 10 years, it was already a pretty strong. Sometimes that made finding frames I liked and that could support my prescription hard. What would happen if it got worse? What would happen when I needed bifocals, as I assumed I would one day? Would I end up looking like Professor Trelawney?
Do I think I had one good reason? Not really. Did I need one? Not really.
How did you decide where to have laser eye surgery?
This was really easy -- I asked my optometrist. I first broached the idea of laser eye surgery during a routine eye appointment. I started by asking if, in her opinion, I was a candidate for it. She asked me a bunch of questions and I asked her a bunch back. She discussed the place she recommended and said she could send them my information and have them arrange a consultation if I was seriously interested. Knowing there were open lines of communication between my eye doctor and the doctors who would perform the procedure added a level of comfort for me.
Waiting for surgery and pretending I'm not totally freaking out.
What procedure did you have done?
If you haven't investigated eye surgery recently, you should know there are different kinds. I was able to get some first hand accounts from friends. One had LASIK. Another had PRK. I had Intralase SBK. Not all facilities perform all procedures so that's something you'll want to think about when you are investigating your options. The cost of the surgery will also vary depending on what type of surgery you choose to have. The facility I used performs both PRK and Intralase SBK. I was a good candidate for both but opted for Intralase SBK due to its shorter recovery time.
What pre-op preparations did you have to do?
The very first thing I had to do was stop wearing my contact lenses. If you are a contact lens wearer, you'll have to as well. How long will depend on what kind of contacts you wear. In my case, I couldn't wear mine for a minimum of two weeks before surgery. For other people, it is just a couple of days. You will find out how long during your consultation. I had a few pre-op appointments so they could take all kinds of measurements and pictures of my eyes. That was pretty much it.
In surgery. There was a glass wall so my husband got to see everything. Lucky dude!
Where you nervous the day of your surgery?
Hahahaha. Someone was going to shoot lasers at my eyes. MY EYES. YES! I WAS NERVOUS! I was also very, very vocal about being a big scaredy-cat throughout all my pre-op appointments. They were able to address my fears and work out a strategy for how to address my anxiety on the day of surgery. Here's a hint: it involved drugs. Even though they gave me medication to help deal with my anxiety the day of surgery, I still burst into tears when I walked into the laser room. The doctor and his staff were lovely and treated me very well. If you are feeling scared, tell the staff. You won't be the first. Or the last.
Did it hurt?
Nope. They put freezing drops in my eyes before the procedure and I received pain medication immediately after. During the procedure I felt some pressure but no pain. On the drive home, my eyes just wanted to close so I let them but even then they didn't really hurt. They just felt really, really tired.
What was it like after surgery?
Between the medication they gave me for my anxiety and the pain medication, I don't really remember much of that first day. I came home and put in eye drops -- there are lots and lots of eye drops during the recovery period. Then my husband helped me tape plastic shields over my eyes so I wouldn't rub and injure them in my sleep (I had to wear these when I slept for 10 days) and I took a nap. When I wasn't sleeping, I had to wear the sunglasses they provided outside and even inside the house. I wasn't really allowed to do much until after my 24-hour post-op appointment. No screens. No reading. I downloaded some audio books from the library before my surgery and that's something I would recommend.
Listening to an audio book after surgery. Audio books are the best!
When were you able to go back to work and resume your regular activities?
I had laser eye surgery on a Thursday and I went back to work the following Monday. I was able to start using my computer and watch television after my 24-hour post-op appointment. I eased back into my screen habits slowly over the weekend. I took a few more breaks to rest my eyes in the first few days back to work than I normally do. I was able to add other activities back over the next two weeks. After three days I started running again. (Contact sports would have been longer.) I wasn't able to wear eye makeup for ten days. No swimming for two weeks. After a week I was able to switch from wearing the sunglasses they provided to my own.
What would you recommend to anyone considering laser eye surgery?
First, ask questions. Lots and lots of questions. Even if you think it is a stupid question. I asked good questions and stupid questions. One of my favourites to ask the people I met with during my consultations is whether or not they'd had the surgery done. (Everyone had except one person who apologetically confessed she had perfect vision.)
Secondly, if you are scared, be honest about it. They deal with people who think the procedure is scary all the time. The staff told me I wasn't the most relaxed patient they'd had, but I wasn't the most freaked out either. It is scary. There's no shame in being scared.
And finally, I really, really do recommend audio books for the recovery period. Pick something deliciously fun. I personally really like middle grade and young adult fiction on audio because I think they have the best narrators but choose what you love.
Would you do it again?
If you had asked me the day after I had laser eye surgery, I would have said maybe. Did I mention I was really scared before the surgery? Like, really, really scared? It took awhile to put some distance between me and that fear. A month later, I can say that I'm glad I had it done. I love being able to see. Opening my eyes first thing in the morning and being able to see without corrective lenses of any kind is not an experience I've had for almost 30 years.
Have you had laser eye surgery? Have you thought about having it?
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