Wednesday, March 14, 2001

On LASIK

I did it. I had LASER eye surgery done.

I didn't tell a lot of folks beforehand, mostly because I didn't want to handle the telephone and email traffic. Besides, I know some of you would have worried about it, and I was doing enough worry and concern for all of us. Forgive me if you are offended.

However, the surgery went extremely well. I can now see better than if I were wearing the glasses I've worn for the last 30-some-odd years.

I've been watching the technology for the last 3-4 years. I always get annual eye exams, and each year I would query my doctor about various corrective surgeries. You see, my eyesight was absolutely horrid; I could not function without corrective lenses, even just around the home. My eyesight was -6.5 and -5.75 diopters, which is classified as "severe myopia" or nearsightedness, on top of which I had astigmatism, odd-shaped eyeballs. The glasses I wore in grade and high school were like Coke bottles. I started wearing contact lenses in college, and with those my eyesight improved dramatically; I lost all the depth perception and curved lines problems I have with glasses.

Having worn contacts for the last 15 years I had become dependant on them. My eyesight was so much better with contacts that I didn't feel comfortable driving or flying with glasses. I have light-colored eyes so I also have a bit of light sensitivity, and I always wear sunglasses. All of this worked against me with glasses. The bigger problem came in later years: the contacts would become very irritating from mid-afternoon on. I clean them very well every night, but I just couldn't go through the day without getting red irritated eyes, and even feeling like I wanted to rip them out of my head by dinnertime.

Two years ago I changed my prescription eyeglasses to a more fashionable pair of frames. In addition to actually getting COMPLIMENTS to their appearance, they were a much smaller frame which allowed the extreme edges of the lenses to be not quite so thick. Those lenses helped a bit with the way I LOOKED with glasses, but I still had the limitations of not being able to SEE as well with them. In addition, they weren't very conducive to sunglasses.

So, I considered other options.

15 years ago I was asking about RK (radial keratotomy), a surgery where pie-shaped cuts are made into the eye and the eye is re-shaped. My primary reason was to correct my vision to the point where I could consider flying military and commercial. Unfortunately, not only was that surgery not well-accepted and had complications, but it was also disqualifying for both causes. I was always talked out of it by my eye care provider.

About 5 years ago I started learning about LASIK. I just watched. 5 years ago the eye doctor said it as a new technology, and he didn't recommend it. 3 years ago during my annual visit, he said it's getting there, keep watching. 2 years ago he said the experience is getting very good, reports are good, maybe next year.

This year he said, "go for it."

Thea and I spent countless hours on the web doing research. There are sites out there for folks that have had problems and complications. The more I looked into it, the more I began to feel that those who have experienced problems were broken down into groups:
  • not properly screened for suitability for the procedure
  • LASIK mills, shops that just get 'em in and get'em out for cheap prices
  • improper pre- and post-operative care (corneal damage, infections)
  • not following instructions
  • inexperienced doctors
  • luck of the draw
Of all of these, I had control over everything but Fate, which accounted for up to 1% of all cases. After briefly considering the $1000 jobs in Canada, I decided to maximize my 99% success rate and work with my own eye care provider for pre-and post-op care, and choose a surgeon in CT that had a stellar reputation.

There were other events that finally pushed me over the edge, making me a victim of advertising. First, I learned the Tiger Woods had the surgery done, and at the facility I was going to use. I thought that if someone were willing to risk a multi-million-dollar career for this, it must be sorted out. Second, I saw an TV interview with the comedian Drew Carrey. The interviewer said that she'd heard Carrey had had LASIK surgery, yet he was still wearing his black-rim glasses. He confirmed he'd had it done, but he was wearing empty-lens frames, because it was part of his image. He described his experience and pleasure with the surgery, and said he'd do it again in a heartbeat. Another multi-million-dollar career put at risk, and another happy customer.

Finally, one of my customers had it done, and I spoke to him at length about his experience and satisfaction. I was hooked.

I won't go into the details of the procedure, as there's plenty of web sites out there for that. Suffice it to say that the operation was more anticipation and trepidation than it was experience. The actual procedure itself had me on the table for about 20 minutes, and the LASER surgery itself was about 45 seconds per eye. It was not uncomfortable (the only uncomfy part being the tool that held my eyelids wide open); nor was it painful, I felt absolutely nothing (I was given anesthetic eye drops). You can't help but look at what's going on but they force you to focus on a bright blinking red LED, which garners your attention. The only thing I really saw was a lot of shapes and movements, I heard the doctor (an MD, not a machine operator) talking to me and his assistants, and I heard the machinery (the LASER made clanging noises). Other than that, it was all over faster than I can even type it out. A non-experience, overall.

Although I was sore that afternoon, and I had to have a friend drive me home, I celebrated my success with some liquid anesthesia (Sam Adams being the one of choice.) The next morning I woke up, removed the protective shields (worn for the first few days while I sleep), and had the immediate reaction of "did I fall asleep with my contacts in?" For the first time in my life, I was able to look over and read the clock without putting on my glasses.

Later that afternoon, I felt great and I even drove myself to the post-op appointment at my doctor.

It's two days later now. I feel fine, I'm careful to use the anti-inflammatory and anti-biotic drops, and I use drops to keep my eyes wet. Both doctors are very happy with how I'm coming along, and I'm tickled pink with my vision. It's only slightly blurry in one eye, but it's not expected that I'll be fully healed for up to a month. At them time, if necessary, I will have further corrective "enhancements" done to make it 20/20 or better (which are all covered under the plan I purchased. Lifetime coverage). However, don't get me wrong: I'm fully functional. I have no issue driving, and I even feel like I could fly (though I can't get that in for another two weeks as I'm going away on business).

I'm a happy customer. Ask me in a month when I'm fully healed and all risks of complications (corneal flap damage, infection) are past, and I'll tell you what I think in hindsight. To this point, though, I can find no reason other than financial to dissuade anyone from pursuing this themselves.

Greg