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Saturday, November 3, 2007

Road to... new eyes! (The Surgery)

Once I made the decision to go through with the LASIK eye surgery, I scheduled the surgery for as early a date as possible. That turned out to be Tuesday, October 30 at 2:40 p.m.

This was all quite the whirlwind experience, considering I had my consultation on October 17, and scheduled my surgery for less than two weeks later. On Wednesday, October 24, I received a call from Strong Vision asking me if I could come in and see Dr. MacRae before the surgery. They said he wanted to meet all of the patients that Dr. Hindman was going to be performing surgery on, to make sure they didn't have any other questions or concerns regarding the fellowship program. I went, and really, all it was was a final check from Dr. Hindman. My contacts were REALLY irritating me that day, so Dr. Hindman showed a bit of concern about that. She asked me to stop wearing my contacts over the weekend before my surgery, instead of the typical 24 hours, because she didn't want my eyes to be irritated before surgery. She double-checked my prescription by performing another mini eye exam, and then Dr. MacRae came in briefly to check out my eyes. He said they had reviewed my case and that I was a good candidate for the surgery. So back to work I went.

I'm not going to get REALLY graphic, since I didn't even really see what they were doing to me, but if you get queasy or squeamish at all hearing about things like this, you might not want to read the rest of this post (there is your warning!).

On the day of the surgery, I left work a few hours early. Michael had dropped me off at work in the morning so I didn't have to worry about leaving my car and having to go back to get it later. For obvious reasons, the doctors don't want you to drive yourself to and from your eye surgery. My boss offered to take me from work to Strong Vision. Michael wasn't able to get off work until 3:00 p.m., and since he works really close to the surgery center, it would have been out of his way to come and get me. So he met me over there when he got off work.

When I first got there, I had to finalize everything with my financing. Then I changed my clothes (comfy clothes are a MUST!) and was immediately taken back to get prepped for the surgery. The technician, Fran, came in and explained everything that was going to happen, sights and sounds in the surgery room, etc. She also began with the many, many, many eye drops I would have put in my eyes during my two-hour visit there. She began with numbing drops and I think an antibiotic drop, and wiped my eyes with iodine. Fran also put me in my lovely blue surgical cap. Michael showed up at this point, so they brought him back into the prep room to wait with me. A few minutes later, Drs. MacRae and Hindman came in to talk to me and check out my eyes. They also "marked" my eyeballs with a marker or pen (which was REALLY weird--but my eyes were numb). Then they asked the beautiful question, "did you want to take a valium?" Ummmm.... YES! Didn't even need to think about it. My stomach was already doing flips and I wasn't in the surgery room.

A few minutes later, they did move me into the surgery room, and the doctors spent a while plugging my info into the software for the laser, and calibrating the laser and so forth. At this point, I was kind of freaking out inside (just a little). My leg was shaking up and down uncontrollably. However, I found that soon, that stopped--must've been the valium kicking in. A technician sat with me and tried to distract and calm me by asking me questions about my wedding (she saw the ring). Michael wasn't allowed in the surgery room, but he was allowed to sit and look through the observation window, which he chose to do. I was surprised, because I thought the whole idea of watching the procedure might gross him out, but he wanted to watch.

Next thing I know, they had me up on the table. The taped little gauze pads to the sides of my face to catch the excess drops and saline they were going to be putting into my eyes. Then, they had me hold my eyes open as wide as I could while they taped my eyelashes away from my eyes. They said they had problems because my eyelashes are so long! It was painless, but felt weird. Then, they put these things in my eyes to keep my eyelids open. That was uncomfortable and weird, but also not terrible. My eyes kinda stopped trying to blink after a minute or two. Well, I should say they only did one eye at a time. So I didn't have BOTH eyes held open at the same time. While they're working on one eye, they cover the other with a patch so it's easier for you to focus.

Once my eyes were held open and they had put enough drops in my eyes to fill a small pond, they began the surgery. The worst part, by far, was the microkeratome, which is used to cut the thin corneal flap. It kind of suctions your eye, and it creates a LOT of pressure around your eye (like on your brow bone) so it was uncomfortable to say the least. Dr. Hindman didn't get the microkeratome positioned on my right eye correctly the first time, so she had to do it twice. As a result, I have broken blood vessels in my right eye (the white of my eye is red) that I don't have in my left. But whatever, she took the time to do it right so I'm not going to complain about some broken blood vessels.

When she cut the flap, although I could feel all that pressure, I couldn't feel anything on my actual eye. I was just concentrating on the blinking red light. My vision went dark as it cut the flap, but it came back in a few moments. Then, basically, all I was doing was looking at a light show. They kept using tons and tons of drops in my eyes, so I could tell when they were doing that, and then I could see little instruments appear in front of my eye every so often. But I was seeing bursts of green and red lights, and that was basically it. They told me when they were going to do the laser, and I could hear it, but couldn't really see or feel anything differently. I could SMELL though. That was kind of weird... it smells like burnt hair. Then they smooth the flap back into place very carefully. It was all relatively quick. Then they covered that eye, and went on to do the same thing on the left.

This is a graphic that shows basically how the LASIK surgery works:

For more details about the surgery, you can visit the Strong Vision website.

For whatever reason, the pressure/pain from the microkeratome was much more intense on my left eye. They just kept telling me to breathe, breathe, concentrate on the light, etc. and it was over in a few seconds, thankfully. Then the actual surgery for that eye wasn't bad at all, either. And it was over. I sat up, and immediately knew I couldn't really see anything. I had been expecting an immediate miracle, but they told me it was normal for everything to be really, really cloudy looking. My eyes were soooo uncomfortable, all I wanted to do was close them. They put me in front of the eye exam machine, and Drs. Hindman and MacRae took a look to make sure everything looked good. Then they took me out to a little recovery/sitting area, and a technician went over the eye drops with Michael and me. They were steroid drops to help with the swelling, and I was supposed to use them every hour while awake after my surgery. She also gave me my really stylish goggles and sent us on our way.

Michael told me he watched the whole surgery (they put a close-up of your eye on closed-circuit television) and he thought it was really interesting and amazing. He led me out to the car and we went home... I kept my eyes closed the whole time. Once home, I went immediately and got into bed. They tell you to keep your eyes closed to rest them for the remainder of the day. I couldn't see much and it was uncomfortable to have my eyes open anyway, so it wasn't difficult to keep them closed. Michael went and picked up subs for us for dinner, so I got out of bed to sit at the dining room table long enough to do that, and then immediately went back. It was so funny, though. My eyes were REALLY sensitive to light, so I wouldn't let Michael turn any lights on while we ate. We ate with what LITTLE daylight there was left, so we were practically in the dark. I mostly ate with my eyes closed. It was interesting and unusual to say the least.

My eyes just felt as if I had something in them. Like my contact had an eyelash in it, or it wasn't in place correctly. I felt this more in my right eye than I did my left. Also, the steroid drops stung like a bitch after the first couple of hours. Probably because the numbing drops were wearing off. It stung more in my right eye than my left--I'm guessing it was because of my broken blood vessels in my right, but who knows. They had me take both acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil) for pain. I had to take Tylenol, then two hours later take Advil, then two hours later take Tylenol again, and so on. As the night went on, when I DID open my eyes, I could tell they were getting better. I started to be able to see things at a distance (like the clock, or TV), but it was still just really, really cloudy.

At 11:00 p.m., I finally konked out for a good night's sleep.

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