This time two weeks ago I was in the scary laser room having laser eye surgery at Ultralase. I still have mixed feelings about it, but I think it’s time I blogged to describe it and hopefully help anyone who’s considering having it done. Please note that I had the LASEK form of surgery which is a lot more painful and has a longer recovery time than LASIK (this is because of the shape of my corneas).
It’s behind a cut and not for the easily freaked out…
In case you missed my other entries, I’d already had a 2 hour consultancy appointment with various eye tests and eye drops before they decided I was suitable. Because they had to consult a surgeon to check he was happy with operating (again because of the shape of my eyes), I then had to go back in for another half hour a week or so later so they could talk through the surgery, answer any questions and set up payment. Then I had to wait until the 21st April, the day of my surgery.
I was expected to be in the clinic for around an hour and a half in total, even though the operation itself takes approximately 12 minutes in total (and I have to say it didn’t feel that long). There were pre- and post-surgery things to factor in, but I have to say I can’t remember much of what happened before. All I remember is a check of my eyes, an explanation of my eye drops and various points about aftercare as well as telling me to look at a red flashing light in surgery and explaining what would happen (nothing gory, just the facts). I did get a LOT more eye drops than I expected though – four different kinds. Two different kinds to take every two hours, one every six hours, and some artificial tears if my eyes felt dry. This was for the first 48 hours (excluding natural sleeping time), and then it was two kinds of eye drops four times a day. Now I’m down to one kind of eye drop four times a day (confused? I still am), but I have no problems doing them myself which is great because I was worried about using them all up and missing.
Anyway, when it was time for surgery I had to put a silly plastic hat and ‘shoes’ on, and then I went into the surgery room where there were about 3 or 4 people. One was the surgeon and one operated the laser and that’s all I know. I do feel physically ill still about the next part because I still hate thinking about it, but then again I am quite squeamish.
I put my head back in the head rest and did my best to follow the light and keep still. My right eye was clamped open which my body hated for a few seconds until it got used to it, and there wasn’t any pain at all. I found it really difficult to keep completely still though because I was scared! They then put alcohol in my eyes (I’d already had two lots of anaesthetic in them), and so the actual laser bit I couldn’t see. But I could hear it – it’s a really loud buzzing noise, louder than a dentist’s drill, and I could smell my eyes burning. I’d been warned about it and once I got used to the idea I thought it would be fine. But I actually felt sick to my stomach, even though it only smells of burnt hair. I think my body knew that part of it was burning, and there was a point where I honestly thought I was going to throw up – and I’ve been sick probably about twice in the last fifteen years.
Luckily it was over quickly, and then the alcohol was removed and I could see the surgeon spooning something over my eye, or smoothing out the melted surface of my eye, or whatever it was he was doing. Then the procedure had to be repeated for my other eye. When I came out of the room I could barely stand up because I was so shaky and my head was swimming. I was really in shock I think because went I sat down in the dark recovery room I couldn’t sit still at all, and I was shaking a lot for quite a while. The nurse came in to speak to me and to offer me painkillers (although she couldn’t watch me take them because she was too squeamish!!!). Then the surgeon came in to see me and pointed out that, despite the expected blurriness, I could see better already. Which immediately cheered me up, because as weird as it sounds I hadn’t even realised it!
The journey home was agony…seriously, if you’re going to get it done do it in winter when it gets dark early, and book your appointment at dusk. I chose one of the sunniest days of the year to date, and every movement of the car hurt, along with the bright light. I was wearing sunglasses as advised, but seriously, I was in so much pain. The first thing I wanted to do was get something to eat though (lunchtime lol), so we picked up some food from KFC – I ate it with my eyes closed, and it wasn’t nice.
At home the pain was still unbearable. Like literally it hurt to think, let alone listen to music or any of the other things I planned to do. I regretted it so much right then, especially as every couple of hours I had to have the eye drops which irritated my eyes even more. My eyes were just like ‘Leave me alone!!’ so I could barely open them for the eyedrops. Not to mention the fact that they stung like hell (I was literally screaming they hurt so much), and I could taste them in the back of my throat. Ick.
I took a couple of sleeping tablets and I did feel a lot better when I woke up a few hours later. I had to sleep with plastic eye shields on (in fact, I only stopped wearing them a few days ago), which was really uncomfortable. Also, I did wake up one day with my finger rubbing my eye behind them, so that kind of defeated the purpose of them…
The day after my surgery I went back so they could check my eyes. They were really pleased with my progress – my eyes were about 80% healed in less than 24 hours, compared to most people’s 50%. I was happy that they were pleased and it did make me feel a bit better, and I was able to focus on the eye test for a minute or so without too much pain.
Anyway, over the next few days my eyes got a lot better. Around the third day I was watching TV again, mainly because I was just so bored. I was charging my phone once a day I was getting through the battery so quickly, I didn’t have much to do except music or get someone to read to me. I should have bought and downloaded audio books but I thought I’d be ok. Plus, for the first couple of days I could barely look at my phone because it was too bright for my poor eyes. I’d also printed out an eye chart because I read a blog where someone was frustrated that they didn’t have anything to compare their eyesight to. But I couldn’t even look at it for about four days, because even the thought of reading text made my eyes hurt.
After about the fifth day I felt like I could do normal things again. I didn’t go on the computer for more than a couple of minutes though. Even now it’s still a little bit blurry, especially in my left eye, but it’s bearable and there are another two weeks left before I’m going to worry, particularly as I’m still taking the eye drops. Around the fifth/sixth day, my eyes started to feel seriously irritated by the contact lenses. Previously, they’d felt a bit gritty just before my drops were due, but now they just felt annoyed more. I could have had the contacts out, but they wanted to keep them in as long as possible, so they were taken out at the seven day mark.
At this point they did another eye test, and I had better than 20/20 vision which is apparently better than expected, and they seem confident that my eyesight will continue to improve. I have a check up on Saturday, so we’ll see what they say. Getting the contacts out was another story altogether – she couldn’t get them out and then they kept me waiting for an hour before I saw a surgeon and he was very brusk, to put it nicely – which wasn’t the attitude I was expecting after £4,000, a traumatic experience, and being kept waiting for an hour. They sent me flowers afterwards to apologise which was nice though.
Now, I don’t feel like laser eye surgery has changed my life. Yes, it’s nice being able to see. Yoga is much easier, running is more fun, not having steamed up glasses is lovely, not having annoying red marks either side of my nose is good too. But I’ve traded my vision, because before I was short sighted and now I’m verging more on long sighted. I knew my short distance vision would get a bit worse because it was excellent before, but as I said my left eye is quite blurry, especially at night and reading close-up things. Reading is not enjoyable. I’m wondering if it’s worth it, and I may try reading glasses in a couple of weeks to see how bad my eyes actually are. I could have surgery again under my lifetime guarantee, but there’s no way in hell I’m going through all that again in six months’ time, or ever. I would actually prefer to be pretty much blind it was that horrendous (I’ll remind you though that I had to have the painful one). I realise I’m sounding pretty negative here, but I just think it’s overhyped as a ‘life changing experience’. Maybe if I had a career where eyesight was essential. At the moment my eyes are much better than before, and I’m still surprised at how crisp long-distance vision is when I notice things out of the corner of my eye, but I do miss reading. My eyes are probably still getting used to it though.
Speaking of which, last month’s charity was World Vision, so if you’re not poor like me and feel like sponsoring a child, look no further.