Saturday, October 29, 2011

Lasik Eye Surgery

So, on the day after my Lasik eye surgery, I am so happily overwhelmed with my sight that I have decided to do a post on this; especially after many of my friends and acquaintances have now mentioned that they have wanted to do this for ages…’but’…
Just over 24hrs ago – at 2:04 precisely – I stood up off the operating table and was asked to tell the nurse what time the clock on the wall read: 2:04. Wow. I had just had laser beams aimed at my eyes for all of probably 2 minutes in total, both eyes, and I could now, already, see quite clearly, though as though looking through mist.

I have worn glasses since I was 5 years old, and that’s for 42 years. At 5, I was told my left eye was a bit lazy – and back in those days, they immediately prescribed glasses – apparently now they would advise various things to try to get that lazy eye to get off it’s butt and do some proper work – with the aim that it would heal itself. But not so in my case; so I went through the hassles of wearing glasses and being teased, breaking glasses and being quarrelled with, refusing to wear horrible horn-rim (cheap n strong) ones and then being given a hard-time later when I decided that ‘ok, I need and want glasses’. And from that point, wearing glasses from the moment I woke up, to the moment I went to sleep … except when out fete-ing in the teen n early 20s years, where I opted for the inconvenience of not quite being able to make out who it was across the dance floor over good sight n unattractive glasses… ah teenage angst! At least now glasses are generally considered cool.

But of course as you age, your eyesight gets worse and since I work with my eyes – close-up making jewellery and on the computer a lot – recent decreases in eyesight have proved difficult to fully correct even with the vari-focals that cost so much. This has meant that in some (important) instances, I just couldn’t see. So I’d squint and strain and end up with extra ‘laughter’ lines and neck ache and headaches…I’m sure some reading this will identify!

The optometrist here where I did my eyes, immediately identified my ‘laughter’ lines as a result – at least in part - of the natural instinct of people with high astigmatism or cylinder, to make their eyesight better by squinting  and so changing the shape of their eyeball…ahhh…that made sense! Course living in the sun and having sensitive light colour eyes…and a tendency to laugh heartily as often as I can…guess my laughter lines were destined one way or other!

So here Liz and I were on Beethovenstraat in south Amsterdam and there was the Optical Express eye clinic…….so we popped in to enquire: About 1hr later I’d had all my tests and consultation (free), found out I had a 4.75 astigmatism in the left (lazy) eye and 2.75 in the right – and no myopia – apparently high astigmatism making it a bit more difficult to treat. This meant I was advised to have Lasik (not Lasek) combined with what the clinic called Intralase and Wavefront technology (billed as approved by NASA:-) But the 4.75 would be on the edge of the limit for being correctable fully. A similar ‘number’ assigned to myopia, if I understand correctly, would be easier to fix fully.

We went home with lots materials to read and a quotation and looked them over, called back with a number of questions – all answered quickly and patiently…and decided to go for it. Here I am, a day after surgery – quite a way to go before full recovery, but just amazed at how comfortable I feel – eyes don’t hurt, don’t itch (just get dry regularly – and you get drops for that) and…I can see.

What the Lasik Surgery Involves

The day of the procedure, at this clinic anyway, you are checked once more for prescription and any other things the surgeon has asked for, meet the surgeon who may advise a different treatment or even decide you should not proceed (not an option that happens often I believe). In my case I was told there was a 15-20% chance my lazy eye would not be fully correctable in one procedure; disappointing, but 80-85% is still a good chance to get it in one shot, so I said ok, I understand, but lets go ahead.

Next step was to wait a bit, then be seen by the operating theatre nurse who dons plastic baggies over your shoes, a net over your hair and gauze(?) over your ears and goes through the medication and aftercare with you step by step and tells you basically what will happen inside the operating theatre. Then you go in, they check that you are who’s next on their list, check you and they are expecting the same procedure and then you lie down, one nurse explains what the surgeon will do, and your off! They talk you through each step, tell you you’re doing fine, countdown the seconds left and voila!

The actual procedure steps are; (as close as I can remember) anaesthetic drops, holder placed on eye, flap in cornea cut, eye cleansed, pressure cup placed on eye, eye tracking device enabled and checked, lasering etc. done,  cup removed and flap replaced (not sure which one comes first in that last bit) and – next eye. It is all quite quick and does not hurt – I smelt nothing; apparently some people smell the gas that the laser apparently gives off…amazing. The Lasik vaporises single cells of your cornea to allow a very precise flap – the other two allow very precise shaping of the surface. All you have to do is be calm, breathe calmly so you stay as still as possible (though the tracking does keep up if your eye moves) and wait.

You then wait 15 mins to half hour with eyes closed and then the surgeon checks you over, then you are free to go home – wearing sunglasses (get dark good coverage ones) and make sure someone is there to take you home; you’ll be weeping and bleary-eyed, but able to see. As the anaesthetic wears off, yes, your eyes are a bit painful making it difficult to sleep as advised, but you can just lay back with your eyes closed and dab your cheeks n blow your nose as you need :-) just don’t touch those eyes! Paracetamol for me, dealt fine with the minor pain and with the first set of drops you are already feeling less teary and more comfortable.

For me, 6hrs later – the last hour and a half of which I did sleep through (with my protective goggles on) I got up, put my shades on and sat in front of the TV with my dinner and read the Dutch subtitles with ease (and in excruciatingly horrible Dutch! Sorry Holland :-)

The following week will be filled with regular eye drops, sleeping with goggles on and gradually settling eyesight – keeping away from dust (so no ceramics next week sadly!) and not letting water or my fingers or anything get into my eyes – then I’ll be told if I am on good progress and be seen again a month on. Normally you’d be seen 3 months on also but unless anyone would like to sponsor me a ticket slu-holland-slu I’ll be skipping that one and just go see my optician in Saint Lucia – the clinic here says I can come back even if it’s over a year later and they’ll do any follow up that may be needed – now that’s a good guarantee.

One Day After

I went in for my ‘1 day checkup’ this morning and pleasant surprise; the worse eye does at this point, seem to have been corrected to the maximum possible – my previously good eye is dragging along a bit and the vision with that one is a little less good. It will be weeks at least, before the eyes settle into their real level of seeing– but I can see well enough  now 'to drive without glasses' and that’s the measure they use for basic success. I’ve been on the computer – sent bbms – can read my watch with ease…I can see clearly now – it is like closing your eyes one minute on soft focus vision and opening them a short while later with High Def.

So, if you’ve been yearning for it…my advice…go to a good clinic with a good history and reputation, have a consultation, ask lots of questions, take some time to research, and don’t be too nervous…I know all people react differently, but I am a difficult case (they told me today I no longer have my own name at the clinic, I am now referred to as ‘High Cyl’ – haha! Actually every one of the very friendly and courteous staff all commented ‘Finola – what a lovely name’ so I ain’t worrying with them:-) anyway, I also have notoriously easily irritated eyes, super sensitive to bright light…and get headaches way too easily, so I’d just say, it’s well worth taking a closer look if you are fed up with your bad eyesight!

Hi Def…It is good.