In late 2009 I made the decision that I would investigate having LASIK surgery performed on my eyes to correct my fairly abysmal vision. This was a good time for me have this discussion with my eye doc, Dr. Bindal, because I had somehow lost or had stolen from me a very expensive pair of Oakley glasses on the Amtrak from NYC.
Scaredy-cat is an understatement for how I was at the time about having anyone touch or even put drops in my eyes, which was the reason I had procrastinated for so long. I also was aware that the technology behind the surgery has progressed at a healthy clip over the year, so why not, I thought.
One of the first tests the doc gave me was to see if I was even a candidate for LASIK. This test involved testing my eyes, an in particular, the cornea depth. They accomplish this by poking a lighted probe into your eyes after administering a drop to numb the eye. Brilliant. I mean really, who came up with the winner of an idea that poking things into eyes is an effective way of determining the candidate. Anyway, I somehow managed to make it through having my eye poked, I recall this took some time, as I backed away from the probe each time the probe came near.
Lesson 1, I would make a rotten candidate in a scientific or lab study.
The other big test involved having my eyes dilated to ensure there were no underlying issues or glaucoma. This one went ok, but again, I think the doc had to kneel with his knee on my chest to hold me still enough to allow the drops to be administered to be able to scope out me eyes.
Lesson 2, make sure to let people know you had your eyes dilated if you are meeting with them post-doc, else they think you are nuts. Also, be sure to wear sunglasses outside.
Turns out I was a great candidate for LASIK, plus I could pay for it; two things health care practitioners like. I was scheduled for a referral to the docs who would perform the surgery, the Eye Doctors of Washington. I subsequently learnt they did the eyes of many Caps players, including the likes of Ovi.
Lesson 3: I figured if it’s good enough for Ovi and NASA, it’s good enough for me.
The initial screen session involved another probe (yay) and more drops in the eyes and a map of the eye giving the inital outline for corrective surgery. I was not enjoying this aspect of the process, but it was necessary conditioning. Once they gave the ok too, I was scheduled for an early January surgery with Dr. Kang.
Being initially worried about getting my eyes lasered when it’s frigid outside, I was reassured based on the quick recovery time that this shouldn’t be an issue (it wasn’t).
Prior to the surgery I took a prescription that helps condition the eyes to stay moist, preventing a side-effect of the surgery, dry eye, but that was it. On game day I turned up at the practice, filled out the paperwork then moved on back to the surgical waiting area.
Once I was called back I took a pill to calm me, Valium or something weird like that, and waited to go to the room with the very large eye-messing machine (I think it’s actually called the ALLEGRETTO WAVE Eye-Q excimer laser). Called into the operating room, I lay in the machine, with the doc looking at me and he thoughtfully gave me a squeezy stress ball. I don’t think this helped as I wouldn’t keep my head still.
Lesson 4: the laser isn’t a red or green, good or evil one like something our of Star Wars…bummer. Also, this is proper surgery, and things can, and do go wrong.
The surgery itself was remarkably fast and straightforward, just follow the directions, watch the birdy, feel the pressure on the eye, and that’s it. I would never have imagined I could tolerate it, but I could. There was no old school blade cutting the eye to open the flap for the laser, it was all done with lasers and strangely enough, no smell of burning eye – and that’s a good thing.
With all the laser talk, a quick interlude: Austin Powers – Sharks with lasers
Once it was done, after some great coaching from the doc all the way through, I had a quick eye check and was sent on my way. That was it, no real recovery time at the surgery. Eyes did feel like they had been lasered, but I knew the drops would help with that. You don’t really see the improvement immediately. In hindsight, my scheduling was terrible to have this knowing I couldn’t go straight home afterwards, but I was psyched, and mentally prepared to have my eyes messed with, so I wasn’t going to reschedule.
Lesson 5: Go straight home once you’ve had the surgery.
Once home, a religious course of eye drops half-hourly, and a nap on the couch got me back to being normal. After sleeping with a mask on (so as to not rub the eyes, a big no-no) the first night, I looked out of the window, and I could see everything clearly, no flare or other issues, which was impressive given it was less than a day after the surgery.
After several round of check-ups, the eyes continued to improve. This was fascinating to me, that the eyes continued to improve in strength during the weeks following the surgery. I was 20/20 post surgery. A year on, I am close to 20/15 or there abouts, driving is great, riding a bike, nighttime vision (no halos or flares) as is everything where I previously wasn’t able to see things well.
Turns out one of the most important things to do was to continue with the eye drops. Over time the frequency can drop down substantially, in fact, there may be weeks that pass and I do not use my normal eye drops. There has been no up-front downside for me, in fact, I would say quality of life has gone up a good amount, especially when riding or watching a baseball game or film, for example.
I would certainly recommend LASIK, but spend the money (and this isn’t cheap, though a FSA can at least allow you to fund part pre-tax) for a good doctor, one who is competent and using the latest equipment, plus offers multiple follow-ups. Part of my success was due to a rigorous pre and post-op set of tasks to make sure the surgery was as effective as possible.
Long term impacts may take some time, it is likely that bifocals will be needed at some point as I (and anyone) age, but hopefully there’s a laser for that too. Oh yeah, and I can stomach putting drops in my eyes now. That is an accomplishment for me!
Thanks again to Doctors Bindal and Kang for getting me through it.
Lesson 6: From one of my favourite scenes, don’t be Homer: