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April 13, 2011

I had PRK laser eye surgery on 04/01/11. I am now 5 days out.

Originally, I was screened and cleared for LASIK, but on the day of surgery the doctor was concerned about the size of my eyes (I have small eyes) and recommended PRK instead.

Like many, my doctor (though highly regarded, rated and recommended) completely downplayed the recovery period compared to LASIK.

The procedure itself was very quick. There was no pain at all, and the most irritating thing was having my eyes propped open for the laser part of the surgery. Basically, I was laid out on bed, given numbing drops in my eyes, and then assistants applied various topical salves to my eye area for sanitation and comfort. After this, they used something to prop my eyes open, and I could see a large, blinking light, which I was told to focus on. The doctor took what looked and sounded like an electric toothbrush to my eyes and began scrubbing gently. This probably sounds ghastly, but I felt nothing but a slight pressure. It was only a little unsettling.    After this, my doctor manually did some brushing by hand, and then it was time for the laser.

For the laser portion, I was instructed to continue to look directly at the blinking light. The laser engages and makes a clicking sound for varying amounts of time (depending on your needs). This was completely painless, though it was disconcerting smelling my own burnt flesh.

The doctor then inserted bandage lenses and I was on my way. I was given Pred Forte, Bromday, Zimaxid and Vicodin, plus artificial tears.
Immediately after the surgery, I felt little discomfort, like something was caught in my eye. Within about 10 minutes I closed my eyes, and kept them that way.

The ride home (about an hour) was pretty bad, mostly because the motion of the truck combined with having my eyes closed gave me some car sickness.

When I got home, things weren’t so bad. I had a bit of discomfort and light sensitivity, but nothing major. I rested for a while, and by the end of the night I was feeling great- I even managed to watch a bit of TV. During this whole time, I was applying all of the drops, as specified. When it came time to sleep, I tried taking 2 over the counter sleeping pills. The pain was totally manageable, but the sensation of the bandage lenses was driving me nuts and I knew I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep.

On the morning of Day 2, I woke up with crusty- glued together eyes. This is also when then extreme light sensitivity started. The light sensitivity was so bad that I had my wife block out all the windows, and she fashioned me a blindfold. Even with all the lights off, and the windows blocked, I still felt like someone was shining a thousand candlepower light in my eyes. It’s not a painful feeling, but it’s annoying in the extreme. And it’s something you have no control over. Your eyes are forced shut. If you try to open them, they will roll into the back of your skull. During this time, my eyes and nose were running liberally. By stock in Kleenex.

For this entire day, I pretty much stayed in bed. Anything involving light was out of the question. I listened to podcasts. Even the most dim setting on my iPhone was too much light. I continued to take all of the drops as prescribed- but I stayed away from the Vicodin, because the pain was manageable. The artificial tears, in particular, soothed a lot of the problems I was having with the bandage lenses. I’ve never taken to contacts as I could always feel them on my eyes, and I couldn’t wait to get them out.

By the end of Day 2, I decided I was going to take the Vicodin to help me sleep. That worked like a charm.

Day 3 was pretty much a repeat of day 2. I had extreme light sensitivity, and I wasn’t really functional. during the brief glimpses I took over the course of those 2 days, it appeared my vision was improved even over my light prescription, but I couldn’t keep them open long enough to really do a scientific test.

It’s hard to describe the sensation of light sensitivity. I’m sure everyone’s experienced it at one point or another. This, however, was different. Imagine being in the deepest, warmest most comfortable place you can imagine. It’s your safe place. It’s the place where you operate from every day. It’s your center, and it’s filled with all of the things that make you feel like a human being and that the machinery of your existence is operating properly. Now just imagine that your safe place was suddenly invaded by sun-blinding light-sword wielding thugs whose sole purpose is to make your life miserable. Or, you can just imagine having gotten your night vision when someone shines a bright flashlight in your eye, but instead of looking away, you close your eyes and that makes it fractionally better. It’s annoying in the extreme.

Day 4 showed a lot of promise. I was excited about this day, because I was going for my follow up appointment and to have the bandage lenses removed.

The morning started like the others- eyes glued shut due to the contacts and extreme light sensitivity.

At my appointment, my doctor removed the lenses and I had an immediate sense of relief. It felt like a weight was being lifted- my eyes were just way more comfortable. She ran some quick vision tests and told me that my healing was extremely accelerated and that I could even drive. I was so excited, I drove us right to the mall afterwards and bought myself a proper pair of Ray-Ban Aviators to wear just about everywhere. I sprung extra for the polarized version, which seemed to relieve some stress on my eyes.

For the rest of the day, I wore my sunglasses and enjoyed a somewhat normal evening. I continued to take all my drops (stopped the Bromday) and even watched some TV at the end of the night, with very minimal discomfort.

The next day, I returned to work. Before surgery, I really only needed glasses to see things far away. I had a alight astigmatism (worse in my left eye) but I could see about 20/40 and was even legal to drive without them. After 5 days, however, my vision is still pretty limited.

Though I feel safe driving, signs are a problem at distance. What’s more, my up-close vision was affected as well. I work in IT, so like many I stare at computer screens all day long. I had to bring the brightness way down, and I’ve been taking frequent breaks to rest my exhausted eyes.
It’s still too early to tell if the surgery has had the intended effect, but I feel extremely confident. If anyone is considering having this type of surgery, I recommend closely researching the benefits and drawbacks of PRK, and pay special attention to recovery time and full corrected-equivalent timeframes.

This was totally worth it. I can now have the laser eyes and join the annals of super-villainy.

Update:  I’m now nearly 2 weeks out and there have been marked improvements.  I can look at the computer screen for much longer before my eyes get tired.  I can see better and better, though I still am not glasses-equivalent quite yet.  I’m still not loving having to constantly apply eye drops and having them affect everything I taste.  I’ve subconsciously reached for or thought about my glasses more times than I can count.  Can’t wait for my next eye exam.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 15, 2011 9:06 pm

    Just reading about having your eyes propped open made mine BURN. Ow. Good luck with your new laser eyes! PEWPEWPEW!!

    • April 20, 2011 2:15 pm

      Thanks! I am still awaiting my laser-eye super villain powers, but all I got was dry-eye.

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