What it’s like getting LASIK laser eye surgery

I can see. Still a bit hazy, and it feels like I’m wearing dry contact lenses, BUT I’M NOT AND I CAN SEEEEEE!!! :)

I’ve logged as much as I could over the last couple weeks, because friends thinking of going for LASIK have been asking what it’s like. My notes are disjoint; I was very nervous. Between booking surgery and going in, I got little sleep. Even without fixating on worry, my body just didn’t handle the stress well.

You go for two pre-op assessments before booking a LASIK procedure. The first is a general appraisal to see if you have the type of eye problem that can be fixed by surgery. There are different types of eye problems and different types of surgery. Typically, if you’re myopic (short-sighted; things are blurry far away), LASIK will work for you. An optometrist does the refractive and vision tests for this first appraisal.

The second assessment is with the surgeon who, if you qualify, will perform the surgery. You need to have your contact lenses out for a set time before going in – contact lenses stifle your cornea of oxygen, so the shape of your eye alters a bit due to blood vessels reaching in for more air. The surgeon measures the topography of your eye in preparation for surgery, so you need to be wearing your natural eye shape. During this appointment, they’ll use anaesthetic and dilating eyedrops, so you’ll want someone to drive you cos shit is fucking bright when you get out.

When the surgeon deems you suitable for surgery, you book. I was lucky to get a booking the week after my surgeon appointment. This meant leaving my lenses out an extra week, foregoing football an extra week. Basically, I’ve had an extended break from my usual routine, which has been both great and fattening.

I was not at my best in that gap week. Trouble sleeping, bad tummy, flat, depressed, skin breakouts, and had to make a conscious effort to drink water because I hardly felt thirsty. It was dumb, a purely physical reaction to stress, like an allergy.

On the day, an hour before check-in, I make myself eat something. I was hungry, but stomach didn’t want food. I was scared I’d throw up if I got nervous enough. It really wasn’t that bad, though. I spent the morning chatting on MSN, appealing to Facebook friends for relaxing kitten pictures; I won a game of LoL.

It was helpful to learn that HEAPS of my friends have had LASIK, most of whom I’ve come to respect as considerate, thinking individuals. It reassured me that I wasn’t unwittingly signing up to some cockamamie fly-by-night snake oil circus that would leave me blind and bewildered. I mean, the stakes are high, sure, but this is quick, routine science nowadays, so the risks are low.

10 minutes before check-in, my stomach protests as we leave home.

2 hours before surgery, we settle the bill. Because folk have asked, it’s $6000 ($3k per eye) split into two amounts – one for the surgeon, one for the clinic. Laser surgery is still considered cosmetic according to health funds, thus not covered, but apparently what you spend can be counted at tax time. Interested to hear what my accountant says about this.

1 hour 55 minutes before surgery, I’m told to chill out in the foyer and come back in half an hour. Did you know there’s a fish pond at the clinic? It’s full of goldfish – comets, fantails and a couple of lionheads. I bet their eyes are fine.

1 hour 10 minutes before surgery, they take me into the Day unit and give me a Temazepam. I usually find Temazepam quite subtle and contemplate asking for two tablets. I would have been happier with a Restavit, but that’s probably not good for the eyeballs. Tummy is grumbling, neck is sore – body making a lot of excuses not to be here.

1 hour 4 minutes before surgery, I overhear the nurse on the phone complaining about climate control. It’s 26 degrees. At least I know I won’t be cold. It’s fine. I’ll be fine. I have thick, healthy cornea.

1 hour before surgery, the caretaker arrives to look at the aircon. I see the nurse wearing glasses. Why is she wearing glasses? Why doesn’t she have laser eyes? Worried that I should be worried. 57 minutes before surgery, I finally have a magazine: Better Homes & Gardens. i’m feeling both proud and ashamed of being such an old fuddy-duddy. Hurry up, Temazepam. I want to not care about this.

32 minutes before surgery and I like this magazine. I get now why a 30 minute procedure asks you to set aside 3 hours of your day. It’s not “fix the fuckups” time allowance, but a chance for the sedative to settle and for you to get used to your surrounds. Still waiting. 21 minutes before surgery, I’m feeling woozy, but still nervous. Want to go home and try some craft projects from the magazine. Kinda bored without my phone, but better off without phones if they’re not safe around the medical equipment.

Finally, they lead me into the annex before the surgery room. The surgeon talks me through what to expect. He has a no-bullshit manner about him that inspires confidence. I like people like that. Next thing I know, I’m lying on the bed holding the teddy bear they give to nervous patients like me.

Surgery happens in 3 parts:

  1. Cutting the flap.
  2. Slice & dice (not really what happens).
  3. Sealing the flap.

The nurse administers anaesthetic eye drops; a little sting that passes quickly. They cover one eye and have me look around with the other while they place a tiny suction ring on it. This is fine. The anaesthetic means I hardly feel anything on my eye until they apply suction pressure. Then it’s less fine. My vision clouds. May have lost vision in that eye – all I saw was a dull white light, which was probably just my other eye open under the cover. After a very short while, they slowly release the pressure, apply some cooling drops and repeat the process on the other eye.

So now there are flaps.

The bed is rotated slightly so my head’s under a different machine. They stick my eyelids open with eyelash tape and place a no-blink frame inside my eye. Even though I can’t shut my eye, my blink muscles still work, which is a relief – so long as I feel like I’m blinking, I feel like I have some control.

The surgeon gives me more cool eye drops and tells me to fix my gaze on a blinking red light overhead, ignoring all the other lights he turns on after. We’re calibrating the eye-tracking on the laser now, so the slice & dice can happen even if my eye makes tiny movements in the process. He makes some marks on my eyeball and lifts the flap, tells me to keep staring at the blinking red light and gives a heads up that I’m about to hear a strange sound.

It’s a fucking strange sound, an evil sci-fi abducted-by-aliens strange sound. And the smell! Oh, there’s a burning smell. It takes a moment to register that IT’S MY EYEBALL MAKING THAT SMELL. I’m mangling the surgeon’s teddy bear thinking how it won’t spring back to its original shape. But we’re done in a matter of four short, noisy bursts. Seconds, not even minutes. Surgeon closes the flap.

To be honest, that whole thing was pretty gross. And I felt a bit of unpleasant poking, which I mentioned quietly. The surgeon and nurse were calm, but administered extra anaesthetic before starting on my other eye. It was nowhere near as unpleasant the second time around.

All up, I think it took about 30-40 minutes, which passed rather quickly – especially after the long wait. I was woozy, tired but not sleepy, and looking ridiculous in the plastic shields they stuck to my face. I asked the surgeon whether crying was okay cos I planned on hanging out with mum this week and watching happysad movies. He said crying keeps the eyes lubricated, which is good for the healing process.

An hour after surgery, the anaesthetic wears off and, as the surgeon warned, my eyes feel pretty damn dry. Mum and I get to the bit in Downton Abbey where Lord Grantham tells Bates he doesn’t have to leave. Mum sniffles and I’m sitting here all FML cos my eyes are still too tired to cry.

4 hours after surgery, my vision is pretty good. I can see stuff on the other side of the room. Still dry and hazy, but better than before. My eyes feel more comfortable closed, which is annoying cos I just want to spend the evening looking at things.

Today, my eyes are fine. Hazy and tired, but fine. I can see. I CAN SEE. No contact sport for 4 weeks in case I get bashed in the eye, but I can get back into other sports any time (apart from swimming, wait one more week). In fact, I can get back into most anything any time, except for prolonged computer use – and that’s only cos it’ll make me tired.

Really glad I got this done. Really glad I had to wait years since deciding to do it, because the science is so tight now. All I could think about on the way home was how some of my mates got it done the oldschool way, with a scalpel. Brave cunts. I’m glad I got it done here in Perth, in my comfort zone with family nearby.

I am indeed quite tired now after all this typing. Going to rest now and tomorrow look for a class on how to use my new laser eye super powers to draw Hello Kitty faces on my toast.