Friday, May 6, 2011

The 4-1-1 on 20/15: My Lasik experience

If you would’ve asked my yesterday afternoon at 2:30 whether or not I was glad I had Lasik surgery, I wouldn’t have answered you—because I was CRYING from the pain (and I’m not a crier, honestly.). If I had been able to speak and the tears weren’t enough for you, the answer would’ve been “unless you want to punish your eyes by unleashing the fury of a thousand fiery suns on them, NEVER do this to yourself.” However, ask me again today and my answer is “Do. IT!”

So, here is the low-down on Lasik. WARNING: What follows is a long, detailed account of my experience. I tried to make it somewhat entertaining, but it’s still a blog about surgery, so it is what it is. I mainly wrote it for anyone considering having this done or just morbidly curious about the process …

A few things pre surgery
I had to wear my glasses for seven full days before the operation to give my eyes the chance to go back to their natural, contact-free shapes. I don’t know all the science behind it, but I wanted to end up with as clear of vision as possible, so wearing my glasses for a week before the operation seemed easy enough.

I don’t particularly enjoy wearing glasses, though, for the record. I like to think I have the “cute librarian” thing going on, but let’s be honest: I don’t. To me, wearing glasses is just a pain. (If I didn’t think so, I wouldn’t have had Lasik). They slide down my face when I’m working out, they prohibit me from wearing my sunglasses and they’re just not a great look for me in general. Oh well. I toughed it out and wore them.

Also, I had to start taking eye drops three days before surgery. Two different kinds, every four hours. This should by far be the easiest part of the process, right? Technically speaking, yes—as long as the CVS pharmacy has the drops in stock. Unfortunately, they were out of one of my drops, and since as we all know, I’m a wait-til-the-last-minute kinda girl, this was a problem. I was supposed to start the drops Monday, but because of the shortage (was there a run on steroid eye drops in North Carolina this week? Weird.), I only started one of them. I began the second Tuesday afternoon.

I pride myself on my ability to wear a watch and keep track of time (a little trick my Kindergarten teacher taught me), so this part was easy as pie. The worst thing was that the drops taste nasty. My dad thought it was weird that I could taste the eye drops (since I was putting them in my eyes, not my mouth), and he said that’s never happened to him. So maybe I have anomalous eye-irrigation canals that dump into my throat. Either way, the taste was impossible to get out of my mouth. No amount of tooth-brushing helped. Chewing gum brought a slight respite though. Again, this really wasn’t a big deal, and I toughed it out like a champ.

Note to anyone considering Lasik: Get your prescriptions a week ahead of time, that way if there are any shortages at the pharmacy, you don’t have reason to panic.

Note to any procrastinators like me: I told the eye doctor I had been careless in my eye drop responsibilities and he said, “That’s ok. We tell patients to start three days ahead for people just like you. Even if you hadn’t started until yesterday, you’d be fine.”

Sneaky doctor!!

The day of surgery
I started my day as usual, except that because my surgery was at 2 p.m. and I wanted to work up until that time, I had to go to work ‘au natural;’ i.e., no make-up. That wasn’t so bad, except that I look all of 12 without make-up on. Oh well; I persevered.

I ran home right before surgery to eat a small meal (per my doctor’s recommendation). I had Annie’s organic whole grain macaroni and white cheddar cheese with a sliced tomato on the side, in case you were wondering. I’ve even included a photo here. It was delicious.

My sweet little brother had Carly-duty for the day, because my parents were at the beach for a getaway. We headed out plenty early and arrived at the surgery center at 1:45 (go us!). Pete was armed with mp3 player and a book, so he was all set.

They called me back to sign some paperwork (I don’t know what it said—is it bad that I trusted them enough that I didn’t make sure I wasn’t signing over my firstborn or something?), and then the doctor came in to take measurements and determine which lasers he was going to use on me to achieve better-than-perfect vision.

Let’s just stop here for a moment of appreciation that my doctor looks like he could star in General Hospital or ER. Dr. Karl Stonecipher, ladies and gentlemen.

Before he did the exam, he gave me a Xanax, which was supposed to help calm me before the surgery, and then combined with the Lunesta he gave me afterward, it was to help me sleep all afternoon. Then he said something that made my palms start to sweat: “How far away do you live from the office?” I answered that I lived about 20 minutes from there. “Ok good. That’ll be just enough time for the Lunesta to start working so you’ll fall asleep before the Tabasco gets to your eyes.” Me: “I’m sorry. I know it’s Cinco de Mayo and I have salsa and hot peppers on my brain. But did you just say ‘tabasco in my eyes?’”

There’s a possibility I was being naïve, but I honestly thought there wasn’t going to be pain involved in the process. Discomfort, yes. A sand-papery feeling in my eyes. Sure. But when Dr. Stonecipher mentioned Tabasco in my eyes, I was surprised. Yet I told myself that was probably just what some people experienced, so by law he had to mention it to me. I tried to forget about that as I was wheeled away toward the lasers and perfect eyesight that awaited in the adjoining room.

The procedure itself was fairly quick. If I had to guess, I’d say it lasted all of 15 minutes (you’d think Pete would have been able to tell me this part, but his first question when I came out after asking how I felt was “how long did that take?” Kids these days …) It was weird having my eyes forced open, but the worst part was the burning smell the lasers made and trying to focus on a flashing light when all I wanted to do was squint against it.

Words you never want to hear from your doctor: “I just gave your eye a hickey. Don’t worry about it, though; it’s just from the suction cups.” Again, pardon the naiveté, but I didn’t realized eyes could get hickeys. What do I know about these things, though? But hey--I suppose if your doctor is going to give you eye hickeys, at least he's cute! (Kidding of course...)

When the surgery ended, they covered my eyes with these thick, plastic guards, gave me a Lunesta and sent me on my way. Pete was the perfect nurse, and he walked me to the car with his arm around me, opening all the doors. He even had the courtesy to not play his music too loud on the drive home, or ask me too many questions.

Then the pain kicked in. Have I already mentioned it felt like the fury of a thousand suns was unleashed upon my eyeballs? It was hell under my eyelids, with no escape. I couldn’t stop crying, and all I wanted was my mom. But I tried to be brave and I didn’t say that. By the time we got home, I was seriously regretting my decision to put myself through that. Who needs perfect vision anyway?? I never thought I’d be able to get to sleep. I was laying there thinking about Bella Swan and her transformation to a vampire (If you haven’t read the Twilight books, oops. I just ruined the last one for you. Sorry.) and how she had to feel that burning all over her body. So really, I was lucky it was only my eyes. But then I realized that comparing myself to a fictional character wasn’t helping me feel any better, so I started thinking about how Lasik is just like childbirth. It hurts like mad for a little while, and then you have a sweet little baby to hold. Or, in my case, you have perfect eyesight with which to view God’s creation.

Hi, Maks.

So I pressed onward. And, eventually, blessedly, the Lunesta kicked in. Before I knew it, it was 7:30 and I woke up to a much lesser burning and a very hungry stomach. Pete ordered us some pizza, and we turned on the American Idol episode we’d missed the previous night (if I were blind, that’d be the show to “watch!”) and I tried to allow the soothing melodies take me to a place that was free of pain.

Then, to my surprise, my mom and dad came home. I didn’t want to sound like a baby and ask for them, but I was so very relieved they were there. Apparently I wasn’t as much of a champ as I thought I was being, because Pete told them what a rough time I was having right after the surgery, so they came home a day early.

Can I just say here that I have the best family ever? Pete checked on me every 15 minutes apparently while I was sleeping, my parents rushed home when they realized I wasn’t doing so great, and I’ve been waited on hand and foot ever since.

Exhibit A:

The day after surgery
I had to go back to Dr. McBeamy (get it? Like McDreamy from Grey's Anatomy but with a laser??) this morning, and he said “you did great yesterday! And just in case you were wondering, I did perfectly too.” Gotta love a little arrogance in a doctor who knows he’s good. He apologized for the eye hickeys and said they’d go away in a couple weeks (a couple WEEKS?!??), gave me a whole bunch of directives (including that I can’t wear make-up for a week), talked about his adventures in Europe, warned me to be careful (the cute doctor was concerned for my safety!) and sent me on my way. Oh, and he informed me that my vision is already 20/20, but will keep improving over the next few days and weeks. I’m going to have 20/15 vision, people!!! Now that’s what I’m talking about.

I came home, fired up my computer and did a little work with lots of rests in between. And, of course, my faithful four-legged companion by my side.

At this point in the whole process, I am 100 percent happy I took the plunge and had my eyes lasered. And if you’re considering it, I totally recommend it. I’ve talked to several people who had much less pain than I did, and even if you’re like me and have hickeys and jalapeno sauce in your eyeballs, it only lasts a little while. As far as I can see (get it? Pun intended), it’s totally worth it.

One last note to family members and loved ones of Lasik patients: No matter how funny or well-intentioned you think you are, shouting “my daughter looks like a MONSTER!” when you see your loved one’s post-operational eyes is neither encouraging nor funny.

Ok, actually, when my dad said that, I thought it was funny. But not everyone is as good-natured as I, so maybe lay off those types of jokes for say … ever.

Here is a picture of my eyes. It looks like someone aimed ten thousand beebees at each eyeball, so if you get grossed out easily or have children in the room, cover their eyes. I also look high. For the record, I’m not.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tomorrow, I'm doing something I've wanted to do for years. No, I'm not starring in a movie opposite Ryan Reynolds (yet). But I AM about to join the ranks of those free of contact lenses, expensive solutions and red, irritated eyes. Tomorrow, I'm getting Lasik!

I'm nervous—mainly about having my eyes taped open by my eyelashes: First of all, that just seems like a good way to torture someone. Second, will the tape rip out my lashes?? If so, I'll have to get fake ones because people who don't have eyelashes always look a little odd—even frightening—to me. Gluing on fake eyelashes every day would be incredibly inconvenient and add precious minutes to my already too-long morning get-ready routine. Plus, it can’t be healthy to paste things to an area that was recently surgically invaded. So, let’s all cross our fingers, say a little prayer and hope I’m not left eyelash-less after tomorrow, because the whole purpose behind this surgery is convenience. Well, convenience and the fact that I look consistently hung-over because my eyes are so red from my contacts.

Anyway, other than having my eyes taped open and the potential for the loss of my lashes, I’m really excited about tomorrow! I’ll do a post-surgery blog (once it doesn’t hurt to look at the computer screen) with a more detailed analysis (i.e. pros/cons list) of laser eye surgery.

Here is a picture of my eyes pre-surgery (note the morning-after-a-drinking-binge look). Look out, Old Blue Eyes. You’re about to have yourself a little competition!