I’ve put this off for awhile now, mostly because I don’t want my street cred as a depressive, put-upon, real-life person to be ruined. HOWEVER, when I was looking into getting laser eye surgery last year, I was frustrated that no one actually detailed the event to my satisfaction.
I’m a worrier. For some reason, I like to know exactly when the dentist is going to stab my gums or the moment when the scalpel will be applied during a Cesarean. In short, I hate surprise pain.
And so, a little over a year ago and thanks to reckless spending of Uncle Sam’s return, I had LASIK. Not only that, but I wrote about my experience once permissible to use my eyes. I include it here in the hopes that some other morbidly curious potential surgery-receiver may be helped by it.
I also split it into three parts, for your squeamish level convenience.
After all of the descriptions is the summary. Pick whichever section works for you, then scroll down to the three asterisks.
May 12, 2017
Safe Description (your queasy, paranoid grandmother could read this and not faint):
After sitting through a consultation in December, I finally scheduled and lay through laser eye surgery.
It was freaky but cool.
I seemed to be able to see as expected, so it worked.
Medium Description (you’ll only pretend to cover your eyes two or three times, but actually be fascinated):
In December, I sat through a standard consultation appointment at Hoopes Vision. It was free. It involved a video on an iPad, an exam with an eye doctor, and Dr. Hoopes himself talking to me about The Procedure. Then, I met with a man who discussed cost and price-matched what a neighbor of mine had been charged over five years ago. (It was still, understandably, a lot of money.)
After a few jinxed attempts at scheduling, I arrived ready for surgery the morning of May 11. This meant that I had arranged for payment, babysitting, a ride, two prescriptions, rewetting drops (that turned out to be the wrong kind), and self-control in the face of a terrifying situation.
Kevin (my ride and my husband) and I met with a woman who took our money and witnessed me signing the release agreement.
I was handed a summary of what-might-possibly-happen-during-each-laser, and it somewhat concerned me.
Then, we sat through a live human who gave us an automated message regarding surgery and recovery procedure (she did not crack a smile or deviate from her paperless script).
At her query, I reiterated that I did not wish to ingest the standard drinkable Valium. I was going in sober.
She put blue cloth covers (booties) over my shoes and a matching larger version (shower cap) over all the hair on my head.
I had another eye exam with a Dr. Macintosh because it had been nearly six months since the one during consultation. Six months is their cut-off time to get the surgery done, else one has to pay for a new consultation. She assured me that the summary description was generalized and I would not, in fact, feel pressure or black out as it suggested might happen. Yes, she’d had LASIK. Yes, she was still alive and could see.
I used the bathroom.
Just before entering The Room, I sat in a chair and had numbing drops put in each eye by another assistant. She explained that it would sting (it didn’t) but that was how I knew it worked. I explained to her that it didn’t feel nearly as bad as putting the wrong contact solution in one’s eye, and was personally concerned that it hadn’t worked because I hadn’t thought it stung. She assured me it had.
We entered The Room. Kevin sat outside. I was led to a space-age “bed” with a head area and a roll of cloth that was to sit under my legs. I lay as directed, and panicked a bit that they were just going to fire it up without telling me first. They talked me through another numbing drop in my right eye, applying stickers to my top and bottom lashes, and a special support to hold that eye open.
I saw a ball of light, like a picture of an atom in a science-fiction movie. Dr. Hoopes talked me through the machine getting into position and explained that the light was going to move around and then fade a bit.
Before you decide you’re too squeamish: It did not hurt. The only uncomfortable part was that the support piece holding the eye open poked my eye socket a tad. I have small eyes.
The right eye was done first, then the left. Each eye took fifteen seconds.
After moving the bed to the right, I sat up and walked over to lay under a different machine. This one had three colors of lights: two red to the right and left, and one green in the center. Things looked a bit blurry, but they always do for me.
Dr. Hoopes talked me through taping down eyelids/lashes and wetting my right eye then lifting the cornea. This is your second squeamish part. Again, it did not hurt. From my perspective, the lights got a bit blurrier. He told me to watch the green light; to keep track of it. The assistant said it would be nine seconds. The machine made a noise, Dr. Hoopes explained that the green light would blur a bit but it would be back again, and nine seconds later it was done.
He explained his actions in wetting and replacing the cornea.
They repeated this with the left eye, but it only took six seconds.
The bed moved, I sat up, and they led me from the room.
I was told to keep my eyes closed for ten minutes, while I sat in the chair I’d been in for my eye exam a few minutes prior.
Dr. Macintosh came back in, smiling and congratulating me. She looked at each eye, reminded me of the specific follow-up procedures, and gifted me a pair of cool shades.
She recommended we stop at Costco to purchase the correct rewetting eye drops.
I was on a schedule of Prednisolone (steroid) drops every two hours, Oxysomethingorother (antibiotic) every four, and rewetting drops every fifteen to thirty minutes. Expecting to have to record wet vs. soiled diapers as well; we were told that, unlike caring for a newborn, I only needed to apply the eye drops whilst awake.
Speaking of, I was also given two plastic eye shields to tape across my eye area when I slept. DO NOT APPLY ANY PRESSURE TO YOUR EYES in the next 24 hours, I was told -even to wipe away drop solution.
Gory, Detailed Version (Do not read this if you can’t handle the truth):
I will only fill in some extra pieces to the Medium Description so we don’t overload l’internet.
The consultation video one watches on the iPad is informative, giving you the same information I did in the medium description. It tells you that the cornea will be cut by an amazing process of creating air bubbles in between the corneal layers to naturally sever its connection.
The video and their descriptions are detailed enough that you can safely say Hoopes didn’t mince words, but not so technical that you know the names of the founders of laser surgery and which machine they’re currently using at which speed per second laser, etc. That information is on a timeline on the wall, for Pete’s sake.
Many of the assistants have had LASIK. Dr. Hoopes himself had it done waaay back when, under much less safe conditions. He laughed and explained that his took more like a minute each eye, instead of a few seconds.
I found out that I have really good eyes for surgery. Who knew thick corneas were a desirable attribute? I also learned that surgery very rarely goes “wrong,” and most of those errors can be -and are- fixed by follow-up surgery.
Thursday of the surgery, we arrived almost-on-time. We handed over a cashier’s check for close to $4000. If you felt faint at that, you probably shouldn’t keep reading while I tell about the laser cutting my eye and such.
You’ve been warned.
I signed an agreement that said that many things could go wrong, although they weren’t likely to. It literally said they could not list every possible outcome and that I was agreeing that this was all elective and that I knew what I was doing.
The paper we were given from Assistant Robot Woman said that the first laser needed to come down and form a suction around my eye. It would apply a light pressure, and I might have my vision go completely black for a full minute.
I wasn’t able to read over all of the warnings about the second laser due to time, though Dr. Macintosh assured me (as I stated) that it wasn’t really as bad as I imagined it would be. She was right.
I was concerned about the numbing drops working because of perfectly normal paranoia, and also because of experiences with oral surgery and baby removal surgery in which the anesthesia had not fully saturated when they began operations.
Happily, Hoopes was correct. My eyes were numb.
I panicked a bit internally when the first machine came down toward my eye and formed its suction on the plastic plate. At the advice of Dr. Hoopes, who was detailing each step in a comforting tone, I trusted it would not hurt and that I was simply looking at a light.
It didn’t, and it is just a light. A glowing, ball-like light that moved in a circle; fading to a pinprick and then reappeared as a stationary, blurry ball.
On the second machine, the panicking part for me was the smell. As the laser was cutting for its nine seconds on one eye and six seconds on the other, I had trouble maintaining to my logical side that it was just a light when I could distinctly smell burning.
It did not hurt. It was not uncomfortable. It was just concerning.
I mentioned the smell to Dr. Hoopes. He agreed that the smell was there, and further explained that the laser used something called “cold heat,” and that doctors used lasers for years before a more technical sales person explained exactly why they could smell something as it worked. He also told me that the doctors performing this surgery repeatedly developed complications from ingesting the extra materials and now they all wear specially-formulated facial guards and why was his pink but his assistants got blue ones?
Just pull a blue one from their box. Sheesh.
***It’s safe to look now.***
After the procedures, Dr. Macintosh explained that my vision was like looking through water. I thought it was like looking underwater while wearing contacts. I could see, in a different sort of blurry than I usually did, and with the sensation of having a contact lens in.
In fact, I told several people this summary since: I felt like I left my contacts in for too long, and wanted to pull them out. But, I couldn’t pull them out because they were my corneas and I needed to leave those in.
At the follow-up appointment nearly 36 hours after the procedure, I was cleared to drive and told I had 20/15 vision.
I still had the sensation of the old contacts, however, and was told this would remain for about three days.
The steroid and antibiotic drops needed to be put in every four hours for a week, then discontinued. The rewetting drops needed to be used every hour for a week, then throughout the day for a few months.
I was banned from high-impact activities like swimming (for one month) or water skiing (six months?) or impregnation (three months).
Such is the miracle of sight. Thank you for reading.