Eye can see clearly now – My Lasik eye surgery experience

Firstly I would just like to say that this was my personal experience with lasik surgery. It was a very positive one. Everybody’s experience is different. This is my story and why I would personally do it all again in a heart beat.

When I was 16 I was driving my car through the back streets of the city at night. I stopped at the traffic lights and when the light went green I proceeded to drive straight ahead up over the curb and into the grasslands infront of me, much to my passengers horror. My eye site was so bad that I didn’t even realise that there was no road ahead of me! I had my eyes tested and yeah you guessed it, I needed glasses.

At 18 I got married and didn’t want to wear glasses on my wedding day. I was too scared to try contact lenses so at my wedding all the guests were a blur. Not long after that I built up the courage to try lenses and once I got used to them I found them to be a great option.

When I was in my early twenties I was introduced to lenses that I was able to wear day and night for a month at a time. They were an absolute game changer!! Waking up in the middle of the night to children and not having to rustle around for my glasses was such a luxury. I wore them for years! It was like I had no sight issues at all. So much so that while we were holidaying on the Gold Coast one time I had completely forgotten to pack my glasses or spare lenses, as I was so used to only having to take them out and swap them over once a month. I don’t think I even put my glasses on at all during that time. I remember playing with the kids in the wave pool at White Water World when my eyes randomly started feeling really gritty and irritated. Long story short, it got much worse very quickly and I ended up having to take the lenses out for some relief. Only I had nothing to help me see! Remembering I could barely make out my hand if I stretched it out in front of me. I went to see the first optometrist I could get in to and they told me that my eyes had rejected the lenses. I had overused them and my eyes weren’t having it anymore. I was given some temporary lenses to get me through the last few days of the trip but when I got home I had to go back to wearing glasses full time. After a few years I was able to wear lenses on the odd occasion but I found them so irritating that I’d have to take them out within a few hours.

I was in my mid twenties by this point and it was the first time I’d discussed Lasik surgery with anyone. My optometrist told me I was a great candidate, and that I was also at a good age to have it done. That being because in our forties is generally when our sight starts to deteriorate and I would be looking at getting some sort of reading glasses by then. So having it done in my mid twenties pretty much meant I’d be looking at 10-15 years glasses free. At the time I was really scared at the thought of the surgery and the cost seemed so expensive. After all I could still see with glasses so I dismissed the idea.

Fast forward to nearly two years ago when I was 35 and went in for my annual eye check, I asked the optometrist about lasik just out of curiosity. The optometrist had had it done herself and only had good things to say. She wrote me a referral to go to Adelaide Eye & Laser Centre, where I went in for some standard pre testing to see if I would be eligible. They did all the normal types of checks that you would have at your annual check up with your optometrist. It was completely painless and they were super friendly and answered all one hundred questions I had.

It basically came down to two options. (Now I am in no way a medical professional of any sort so I will be explaining this to you in a very non medical way). One of the two options were plain old lasik. This is where a flap is made with a laser to gain access to your cornea so that another laser can correct the shape of your eye thus making it so you can see clearly. Once this is done the the flap is manually popped back over the cornea by the surgeon and you’re good to go. The second option was one called PRK. I’m not sure what it stands for but basically this one was where ‘the flap’ (yeah it’s super gross to say) is removed manually by the surgeon and then has to grow back after surgery. From what I’ve been told and researched this method took longer to recover from. 4-5 days versus 3-4 hours as it was with lasik. After my research I decided that I would only go ahead with the procedure if I could have the lasik done.

That afternoon I received a phone call to say that the surgeon had looked over my initial test results and confirmed that I was a perfect candidate for lasik, so we went ahead and booked the procedure in for a few weeks later!! EEK!!

A week or so before the procedure I was booked in to meet with the surgeon who I would see on the day. This was wonderful as it gave me a chance to ask any extra questions I had thought of. It was also nice to meet the person who I was essentially trusting with my eyes! His name was Dr Peter Ingham and he was so nice & professional. He explained the entire procedure to me step by step and didn’t treat me in anyway like it was the ten millionth time he’s had to explain it. You can tell he loves his job. This really put my mind at ease.

THE DAY!!! – I was booked in for late afternoon. I organised for my children to be picked up from school and my husband accompanied me to the laser centre. That is a must! You cannot under any circumstances drive yourself home from this procedure. I’ll be honest I was extremely nervous and ended up giving myself a migraine because I was so tense. This made me more anxious as I was expecting to have a fair bit of discomfort after the procedure and I was worried about managing a migraine on top of that.

The first thing I needed to do was is take a tablet called Lyrica one hour before I was booked in for admission. From what I understand this was to calm the nerves a bit. Upon arrival when checking in you need to pay the amount in full. The cost was $6000. $3000 per eye. You are also told to bring along a pair of non prescription sunglasses as you will need to wear them home as your eyes will be sensitive to the light afterwards.

While in the waiting room a nurse came over to check on me and I explained that I was feeling a bit unwell because I had a migraine. I was able to take some nurofen while I was waiting and thankfully it took the edge off. Shortly after I was taken through to the next waiting room. This room led to the actual room where other people were getting the procedure done. The best part about being in this waiting room was that you got to see the look on peoples faces as they came out of having the procedure done. The look of shock and awe on their faces as they looked around the room in disbelief THAT THEY COULD ACTUALLY SEE was mind blowing. This gave me a lot more confidence to go through those doors. One lady came out and told me she found the procedure relaxing!!

So while in this waiting room you are taken into a tiny side room by a lovely nurse who goes through all of your after care information with you. You are given eye shields to wear at night & a variety of different eye drops to use. It’s all clearly marked what to use when on the information sheet. This is also the time when you are asked if you’d like a temazepam. Um yes please!!! The nurse also pops a few numbing drops in your eyes so they go numb, obviously. You don’t know that they are numb, I didn’t try touching my eyeball or anything but I could still blink and they felt normal.

Then you get taken in to ‘The Room’. There’s a bed in the middle of the room that you lay down on. There was two nurses and the surgeon. They all made me feel welcome and as comfortable as I could be with what was about to happen. The first thing I remember them asking me to do was look at the clock on the wall. Which was nothing but a circle shaped blur to me. I could not even see the numbers.

Once you are laying down the surgeon sits on a stool at the top of the bed and pretty much takes control of your head. Not in a rough way but in a comforting way. He talks you through every little thing as it’s happening. A nurse stood at each of his shoulders and it seemed that there only reason for being there was to administer numbing drops to keep my eyes numb. A pretty darn important job I thought!!

Your eye is propped open with a device which you absolutely cannot feel. I was concerned I would freak out if I could’t blink but you honestly don’t know that you’re not. If you get the urge to blink you think you have but you actually haven’t if that makes sense. Anyway my point is don’t worry about needing to blink. You won’t.

They do one eye at a time. Firstly the ‘flap maker’ laser makes it was over to you. You don’t feel any of this. All you have to do is lay there and wait. The surgeon is telling you exactly what is happening. He even counts for you. I think this machine took about 10 seconds to be done. Everything went a dark grey colour for that 10 seconds which I was expecting because I’d been told that’s what would happen. Once the flap was made that laser moves away and another one comes over. This was the one that was going to correct the shape of my cornea. This one lasted no more than 30 seconds. I can’t remember exactly as it was a few years ago but I could see little red or green dots which was the laser beams. Again I felt nothing. Once this part was done the surgeon popped the flap back over, counted to ten so it could settle then removed the device that was holding my eye open. Then we moved on to the next eye. In total I would have only been in the theatre room for 10-15 minutes, and the lady who went in before me was right, it was actually relaxing. Not sure if that had something to do with being a mum and being able to lay down in the middle of the day without someone needing you for something. Or it could have been the temazepam?! Either way I actually enjoyed the experience. Now get this! When I sat up the first thing they asked me to do was is look at the clock. I nearly cried!! There was a haze to the outside of the clock but I could SEE THE NUMBERS!!!

Then it’s time to sit in the waiting room for about half an hour. You are taken care of by the nurses. By taken care of I mean you get to sit in a recliner chair and given a cup of tea and chocolate. All while looking around at every sign and picture on the wall in complete disbelief that you can now see it all. I also took it upon myself to make friends with all the other patients sitting in there waiting for their turn. Assuring them that it was easy peasy and also comparing what they could see versus what I could see, and how ten minutes ago I couldn’t see anything like them either. After about 20 minutes my husband was bought through to sit with me and I introduced him to all of my new friends and showed him all that I could now see.

Before leaving the surgeon does a quick check of your eyes. He also told me that the numbing drops would soon wear off and I would start to feel a little uncomfortable. I didn’t care. I gave him the biggest hug, not sure if I was meant to but hey, he helped me to see and I was feeling super grateful. In total from walking in the door to walking back out again took around 2 hours. I was sent home with my take home pack and some pain killers and sleeping tablets to take when I got home. The best thing to do is sleep for the first 4 to 6 hours. I wore my non prescription sunglasses home. It did feel more comfortable to keep my eyes shut while we drove home but I kept opening them because I was so blown away by being able to read the street signs. My husband said I kept freaking him out because everything would be quiet while I had my eyes shut then I would open my eyes and yell out the name of a random street sign I could see.

My husband dropped me at home and I took the tablets straight away, popped the shields on and climbed in to bed. He then went to pick up the children and kept them out until bed time so that I could stay asleep. Bless him.

I woke up at about 11pm and got out of bed for maybe 20 minutes. I had no pain. Only a slight gritty feeling in a few spots in each eye. It really wasn’t that bad. I went back to bed and in the morning the gritty feeling was gone.

Now get this, I was able to drive my kids to school the next morning and then drive myself to my follow up appointment. WITHOUT GLASSES. Driving to school I was in complete shock at how blue the sky was and how green the leaves on the trees were. I had no idea how many shades of green there actually was. My glasses and lenses had never allowed me to see colour like this.

My follow up appointment the next morning went really well. The surgeon said it was text book perfect. He actually didn’t believe me when I told him I had no discomfort whatsoever. I am so super grateful for this. You have to be careful not to rub your eyes (hence wearing shields to bed) as apparently you can move the flap if you rub too hard. This can be fixed though it’s just obviously not ideal. I made sure to wear sunglasses every time I stepped outside to help reduce the chances of any dust blowing in to my eyes and making me need to rub them. I think the shields only need to be worn for the first five nights but I wore them for just over a week.

When I went back for my six week check up I had my vision tested and my eye sight was better than 20/20! Even a few months ago which was well over a year since my procedure I still have perfect vision. I am so grateful for the experience I had. I know that lasik surgery is quite costly but now that I have the gift of perfect sight I realised that $6000 was a bargain. If you are considering this procedure, check with your health fund as some do cover some of the costs.

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