My vision was spectacular until I hit puberty. Then, it slid onto the -2.75/-2.50 abyss where it would remain for the rest of my adult life. This means that Caveman Don would probably be assigned the task of foraging for berries, particularly those within 17-18 feet, at optimal visibility.
And so I began almost two decades of refractive eyewear, starting from an unfortunate decision to wear over-sized aviator frames at the age of 14. Any time I traveled, each time I went swimming, or walked in heavy winds or rain, any time smoke or debris was blowing around, the fear of losing a contact lens would grip me: “Did I pack my glasses or extra lenses?” “What if I was blind in a foreign place?” How hard would it be for me to get home?”
I graduated from Ferris State in 2000 with a degree in Visual Communication. As a graphic designer, my eyes were elevated to become as integral in my career as they were in my daily life. Visual Communication falls to pieces without being able to visually communicate. But as technology got better and cheaper, and friends who had undergone the procedure continued to convince me it was the best decision they’d made in their lives, my worries also continued to grow. I’d heard nightmarish tales of people with reduced vision during twilight or night, perpetual dry eye and visual scarring around their corneas. I learned about the the microkeratome, an oscillating razor blade, that begins the surgery by cutting a flap in the outer layer of your cornea, and I became more squeamish. So I procrastinated and made excuses why Lasik just wasn’t right for me.
Finally, this summer, I made it a resolution to look into the surgery and attempt to assuage my fears. I learned about the latest invention, the IntraLase iFS, a bladeless, all-laser technique, that forms the corneal flap with an infrared light beam. The doctors told me they numb your eyes and give you valium (and even a teddy bear, if you want something to hug) before and during the surgery. After doing due diligence, I was able to negotiate a price within my budget and I—with no one being more surprised than me—booked the date for my surgery.
Last Friday, I finally had the procedure done. It was fast and painless and I woke up the following morning seeing a crystal clear world for the first time since I was 14-years-old, without refractive lenses. I’m prescribed two forms of eye drops (one anti-inflammatory, one steroid and antibiotic) that I have to take 6 times a day to speed up the healing process and thwart the chances of infection. Saturday afternoon, I returned to the clinic and learned that I now have 20/20 vision (that’s 6/6 vision to all you European/metric readers). The clinic only promises 20/30, so the operation was a complete success.
I still see halos around lights and am experiencing dry eye, which is especially difficult considering that I’m not allowed to rub my eyes. The doctors and my friends who have had the procedure inform me that these side effects should go away within the first month or so. But overall, I’m elated by the results and have even convinced my brother to undergo the treatment too.
Here are some things that I learned through the process that might interest you:
- LASIK stands for Laser-Assisted In-Situ Keratomileusis.
- The IntraLase iFS laser, which cuts the flap, does so by using an “inside-out” process. It is precisely focused to a point within the cornea where thousands of microscopic bubbles are formed to define the architecture of the intracorneal surface and the resulting flap. The surgeon controls the flap diameter, depth, hinge location (top of your eye, so it’s covered/protected by your lid) and width, and side-cut architecture. Bubbles are then stacked along the edge up to the corneal surface. It’s neither a hot nor cold laser and makes no “incision.” It simply dissolves the molecular bonds in your cornea creating the flap.
- The physician then exposes the prepared corneal bed for excimer laser treatment by (physically) lifting the flap. During this process, since your eye is entirely numb, you don’t feel the doctor flipping the flaps. You simply see your vision becoming blurry and the green and red dots that you’re staring at become something akin to a glowing blob.
- There was no pain during the surgery at all. In fact, the only discomfort I felt was when the doctor placed a ring on my eyeball to keep my lids from closing during the flap-creation process.
- While you can technically see, albeit badly, it’s good to have someone come pick you up from the clinic, rather than calling a cab.
- As a strange side effect now, I see dead people. Just kidding.