Coming up on the twelve-year anniversary of her Lasik eye operation, KAREN DIAS shares a first person account she had penned down all those years ago. While there have been many improvements in the quality of machinery over the last decade, many aspects of the experience remain similar although post operative care has been greatly simplified now, with patients being able to get back to work in a few days, provided they follow the schedule for eye drops and give their eyes adequate rest and care from dust
I had an eye operation!!! What’s that you say? You’re not impressed? So what if the operation actually took just 10 minutes; five for each eye?! I’ve got to follow loads of special routines for one full month. ONE FULL MONTH!
The procedure I went through is also known as refractive surgery/corneal reshaping/vision correction
The past week has been hell. No reading/writing/watching t.v./using the computer/using the gas stove/washing my face…
Yes, I’ve had to wash my face in secret. So my mom doesn’t see me. Because I’m not supposed to let any water get in my eyes and even if I try and explain that I’m just washing the bottom half of my face she’d just run on and on about how reckless I’m being. About how I shouldn’t take chances.
It seems a big illogical to me. After all she just let me take a really big one. Lasik surgery is very safe. BUT… well there’s always the chance that you could go blind if there’s some instrument failure or through that good old standby — human error. And she didn’t mind me taking a chance on that! Mothers!
Anyway, everyone’s been asking me about the operation. I thought of rambling on about the emotional impact but… (yes, yes, I can hear you heave a sigh of relief…) I decided to stick to a very practical description for once. This is going to be a mere recital of how the surgery was carried out. Or as much as I could figure out.
Every operation at the eye clinic is shown on a TV screen outside the operation theatre so my folks could probably explain the whole thing a little better. I did try to watch an operation the day after mine, but my eyes kept tearing up. I think they didn’t want to be reminded of the abuse they underwent. Or maybe it was just the strain of looking at the TV screen.
Okay, after running loads of tests the first day I was sent home with instructions to wash my hair and do everything I might want to do to my eyes. I’m not kidding. One doctor told me to do my eyebrows. Huh!
The next day they ran most of the tests again. I’m not sure if they thought my eyes would change overnight or if they didn’t trust their equipment. I don’t like either possibility.
They made me wear a green tie-around robe over my clothes and put plastic bags over my feet and my hair. (Maybe they weren’t exactly plastic bags but that’s what they felt like and I wasn’t wearing my glasses so…)
Then they put anaesthetic drops in my eyes and made me wait for the doctor. (Those drops really made a difference. I’m not sure how much actual pain they prevented but just thinking about them helped me convince my eyes they shouldn’t be able to feel stuff they insisted on feeling.)
The damn chair didn’t have arms and I was really surprised to find that I’d actually fallen asleep waiting for the doctor. The doctor was a really nice guy. The kind of guy who makes you scoff at the chance of the human error I mentioned above. Anyway, I was finally lying on the table, positioned properly under the machine, tucked in like a mummy. Then they covered my left eye and all I could think was ‘just a few seconds, that’s all it takes’.
They were very fast, I have to say. First they told me to hold my right eye open and they covered it with a clear plastic sheet/wrapper of some sort. My eye closed despite myself but they didn’t seem to mind. I found I could still blink under the wrapper and I thought they’d have to do it again but the doc just started cutting through the plastic. It was scary enough when I was lying there, it was worse watching it on the TV the next day. I haven’t seen scissors so close to an eye before.
Then he told me to focus on the pin point of green light above and told me I might feel some discomfort. I kept telling my eye it had been anaesthetised but I could still feel the pressure as he pressed down at the edges. As I saw the next day he’d put something round around the eyeball to prevent my eyelids from closing. Not a pleasant experience. My eyes started getting all teary immediately. I didn’t know what he was doing the next minute but my folks said that’s when he used a little brush or instrument of some kind to clean the surface of the eye.
Then came the worst bit. (I saw it the next day on the TV screen outside and it looked almost as uncomfortable as it felt.) The doctor told me to look straight at the green light and when my pupil was centred he put a suction thingy right over my poor pupil. It actually wasn’t very uncomfortable when he did it to my right eye but… but… when he did it to the left eye, I had to focus pretty hard on the anaesthetic drops.
After the suction came the best bit. The doctor had to cut a flap in the top layer of the cornea. This flap would be folded back so that the laser could be applied directly to the third layer. They’d warned me that everything would go black as they cut through and I’d expected to be scared, but I can honestly say that I wasn’t scared at all. My poor eye was so tired of all the bright lights and of being forced open, that it was a relief when everything started to go black. It seemed to take quite some time and when they finally lifted the flap back and I could see again my eye was a bit rested and ready for what came next.
The next bit was the main part. I had to stay focused on the red light of the laser. Once or twice my eye started drifting but the doctor was a sweetheart and he kept telling me how well everything was going. It’s so very hard to stay focused on one little light when your eyes are forced open. It’s so damn tiring.
Anyway, getting back on track, the laser reshapes the thickness of the cornea by burning bits of it so I also had to put up with the burning smell. Again, they’d mentioned it before, otherwise I’d have had a fit. In a way I enjoyed the burning smell. It seemed to carry with it a promise that the whole ordeal was almost over.
After the laser bit my eye muscles were so tired of focusing on the red, I didn’t really care what they did next. They put the flap back and then flushed my eyes with some liquid. I know I said the suction was bad but in a way this might have been worse. The liquid was so irritating I hardly noticed when they removed the clamp. I shut my eye and before I had time to let out a sigh of relief, they’d covered it and were moving on to my left eye.
The laser bit on my left eye seemed to take much longer because I focused so well, the doctor didn’t stop at all. My folks said the left eye was faster but it seemed to take a looong time because the doctor stopped all his encouraging prattle, making me wonder if I would be blind in one eye and if he was just trying to cover up some horrific mistake he’d made!
After the operation he told me I could open my eyes and walk out of the theatre. Yeah right. I opened my eyes and wished I hadn’t. The rest of the trip home was a blurry uncomfortable mess. Everything was too bright. Everyone was too loud. All I wanted was to curl up in a hole and sleep. Even after I went to sleep I had to wake up every hour for the eye drops.
And then at 4 pm that afternoon, after my dad put the drops in, I opened my eyes and all at once I knew it had been worth it after all. No irritation, no discomfort. Just a red mark on each eye that will take some time to fade. Life is so good.