More than two weeks have passed since I had corrective eye surgery (LASIK). I was always intrigued by the results of the surgery. I was in college when I first met someone who had the procedure done. They had just left the clinic only several hours prior, and were going about their day, only without their glasses. After mulling over the idea in my head for several years, I finally began shopping around for a clinic at the beginning of April.
I wanted to get rid of my glasses for some time. I hated having to put them on in the mornings and wear them during exercise. Getting LASIK also made sense as an investment. I would be spending the same amount of money over the next 10-20 years on glasses anyway, and the way I saw it, it was better to just pay all that money now and not have to wear glasses at all.
I booked a free consultation with LasikPlus in Austin, TX. Several weeks later, I was consulted by an optometrist who checked my eyes and told me that I was a good candidate for LASIK. They dilated my pupils, gave me an iPad to watch an introductory video, checked my vision, scanned my eyes, then showed me the laser room. The optometrist asked me if I had any questions. I had already done all the research I possibly could ahead of time, and couldn’t think of any more questions to ask.
They gave me a quote for $3,400, including a lifetime warranty for my eyes. I agreed to do the procedure first thing Saturday morning, just two days after the consultation.
I went to a pharmacy the day before the surgery and picked up the necessary medication – two sets of eye drops and two Xanax tablets.
I had a friend drive me back to the clinic at 7:00 am on the day of the surgery. It was a quiet morning and I was the only one in the clinic. I was able to finalize the payment and consent forms minutes after I arrived. The receptionist told me to apply the eye drops.
After the paperwork was complete, the ophthalmologist saw me and checked my eyes one more time. He asked if I had any questions. I said no.
He instructed me to take the Xanax, then I went back out to the waiting area and sat down.
I was both excited and afraid. I heard mostly great things about the outcome of the surgery, but also some challenges with recovery. I didn’t think that anything would go wrong with my surgery. I was more excited to see with a new pair of eyes. During the ride to the clinic, my friend told me that I shouldn’t have booked the first appointment of the day. “What if there is something wrong with the first zap, what if the machine needs to warm up? You should always be second, man,’ just as we were pulling up to the entrance.
Five minutes later, they called me into the room.
I thought about what my friend said when I walked into the bright room and saw the giant machine. I assume they have a way to test the laser to make sure all things are in order before the first zap.
The ophthalmologist was sifting through paperwork in a white coat. The two other technicians were wearing face masks, dark blue short-sleeved shirts, and scrub pants. Everyone was running around preparing for the procedure.
They told me to lay down on the cool leather bed. They set a hard leather cushion under my knees. Then the seat slowly buzzed into position so that my eyes were directly under the laser. It was only a shiny dark lens at first.
They suddenly placed a teddy bear on my chest. I held it. Then they covered me with a soft blanket.
The doctor told me to look straight at the green light. There was a solid green light right above my eyes. Sometimes it blinked, and when the correction was being done, it became wide and blurry and covered most of what I could see. On either side of the green dot were two red dots, though I wasn’t instructed to pay any attention to those.
They applied numbing eye drops regularly. And they voiced every motion or change that happened during the procedure – whenever they were going to rotate the bed, what kind of light I was going to see, what color the light would be, what the light would do (blink, remain solid, blur, etc.) I could hear the technicians telling the doctor when the laser was ready, sometimes the doctor notified everyone the times when there should be no talking (this happened, it seemed to me, when he needed to put my cornea back into place) and I could see him brushing a clear plastic instrument over my eye.
They fit clamps in my eyes to hold my eyelids open. Then the first laser was adjusted onto my eyeball. They told me that I would feel some pressure as the laser made the cut. I felt the pressure, and I also felt the cut. It was very subtle, a hot stinging circle made around my pupil. My eyes are naturally very sensitive. For me, applying eye drops is somewhat of a nuisance.
They rotated the table towards the corrective laser, all I could see were different colored lights moving away from me and other colors moving into my cloudy field of vision, until I was stopped under the green light again. The light blurred and took up most of what I could see, though on either side I could still see the red lights from before. I heard the technician tell the doctor that the laser was ready. The machine fired up next to my head, and sounded like a large fan was going off inside. The light got brighter and blurred. There was the smell of burnt hair. They told me that I would smell something weird during the procedure, but that I shouldn’t worry, the machine has its own distinct smell as it works. But I think the smell was really my cornea burning (or more appropriately, being reshaped).
Several seconds later, the green light began flashing, and the machine was quiet again. The doctor assured me everything was going exactly as planned.
They did this technique in both eyes – stick an eye patch on one eye, apply numbing eye drops in the open eye, set the eye clamp, laser cut one eye, roll to the corrective laser, light blurs and the machine smells like burning cornea, doctor brushes your cornea back into place, then they take off the clamps and put an eye patch over the corrected eye, and repeat.
After they were done with both eyes, one of the technicians instructed me to sit up. She said that it was normal for my vision to be cloudy, and for there to be a haze over everything. She also told me that the haziness would soon fade and that I could already see the clock. I looked towards the end of the room at the clock, and yes, I could see the time. Haze over the numbers of the round clock, but I could see it nonetheless, something I couldn’t do less than 10 minutes ago.
The procedure took a total of maybe 5-10 minutes, from the moment I entered the room to when I walked out.
The doctor was sifting through papers again. One of the technicians took a photo of us, then I was led out the door to a dimly lit room and sat down with the optometrist. She checked my eyes, told me everything went great, gave me a pair of sunglasses, another set of instructions for the ride home, and led me outside where my friend was waiting in the parking lot. I was in and out in less than 40 minutes, home in less than an hour.
I needed to take a nap to sleep through the normal discomfort that follows the surgery – two to four hours of burning, stinging, eye-watering pain that you can’t get rid of.
In the parking lot, I took some time to marvel at all the road signs, distant shops and buildings, and highways that I could see from very far away that I could not see before without the help of my glasses. It was very sunny, even with my sunglasses, and the numbing eye drops were already beginning to wear off, so we hopped into the car and quickly drove home.
Complications and vision changes
Once home, I checked my eyes in the mirror — they were bloodshot, teary, and hemorrhaged. I could barely hold them open. It felt as though I had sand in my eyes. I couldn’t see too well. I had a headache. I put on the plastic face mask they gave me at the clinic and jumped into bed.
The burning was intense. I was tearing profusely. The moment I opened my eyes, the tears flowed down my face. I kept applying eye drops, but it didn’t help. They told me to make sure I went to sleep right away, but because of the pain, I couldn’t.
After laying there for more than two hours in pain, I finally fell asleep. I slept for 4 hours, and the pain was gone when I woke up. I got up to apply eye drops and make dinner. I could see everything from a distance but there was still some haze. I got back into bed and slept for 12 hours.
When I woke up the next morning, the first thing I felt was my eyes. It felt like I had a new pair. Completely well rested, well-lubricated eyeballs, with extra sharp vision. Better than they had ever felt. I marveled at the paintings along the walls of my home, at how crisp and clear the drawings were, I could see the street signs from very far down the street, the earth had a level of detail I hadn’t experienced since I was a child. And in all the common places that I have returned to since my surgery, I notice details that I never saw before, because my vision is better now than it was when I wore glasses.
The new vision is nothing short of incredible, but the recovery is not without its complications. During the first two days, I had trouble focusing my eyes on my book or laptop. Even as I tried to focus them. Far away, the details were crystal clear, but up close or at an arm’s length I could not get my eyes to focus, or the focus would suddenly break as I was in the middle of reading an article or watching a video. But by the third and fourth day, I no longer had the issue.
I still see starbursts at night. The darker it gets, the more intense they are. They are most intense in the headlights of oncoming traffic. And if I stare at them long enough my eyes will strain. The sun’s reflection on glass and metal is extremely bright. There is a glow around lights indoors. It is especially visible if the rest of the room is fairly dark. Though, day by day I notice these symptoms improving.
I apply eye drops as recommended, though I can go for longer than recommended without feeling the need to use drops. My eyes don’t get as dry as other people have experienced. They are, however, dryer than they were before the surgery.
The Monday following the surgery, I went back to the clinic to have my eyes checked. I now have 20/15 vision. They instructed me to continue using the eye drops, though less frequently than before, and they said to continue wearing the face mask so that I will avoid rubbing my eyes during sleep.
My next appointment will be in August, and I’m looking forward to more good news.
Other thoughts about the procedure
The results for LASIK are immediate, but the healing process takes several months. Sometimes longer.
I’m experiencing some dry eye, though it isn’t too bad. It is still better than having to wear glasses. I’m careful when I shower so no water or shampoo gets in my eyes. I wear my sunglasses regularly, though already I am slightly less sensitive to the sun and don’t need to wear them on cloudy days.
Overall, it was a great experience from beginning to end.
Keep in mind that the LASIK experience is more than just the improved eyesight, how the staff in the clinic treats you throughout the process and the resources that you are given matter. Places that cost less usually don’t have great customer service. Be wary of deals that seem too good to be true, there are usually added costs in the fine print. But at the same time, don’t overpay. Shop around for a clinic that you’d feel comfortable going to. Make sure that the deal comes with a lifetime warranty on your eyes. You may or may not need to be re-corrected during your lifetime, but it’s reassuring to know that you’ll be able to at no additional cost.
If you’ve had LASIK, comment below. I look forward to hearing different experiences with the procedure, and more importantly, the healing process.