ALL THE THINGS about Lasik
I got Lasik yesterday. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s one of those things that is expensive and it’s not medically necessary, so I would always think, “maybe next year.” I finally did it, though!
Since I’m a research-aholic, I wanted to write a post detailing every step of my process in case it helps someone else in the future.
To know if you’re a candidate for Lasik, you have to get approval from your eye doctor and the doctor at the surgeon’s office. At this appointment they check your prescription (has to be stable for at least a year) and dilate your eyes to get a clear view of the back. Dilation is inconvenient to a nearsighted person like myself because when I’m dilated I can’t see close up OR far away very well. I was playing on my phone in the waiting area waiting for the drops to work and had to start holding it further and further away from my face (like my parents do with restaurant menus).
Once I got the ok from my eye doctor, I set up evaluation appointments at 2 different surgery centers in Atlanta – TLC and Woolfson. With something as important as your eyes, it’s a good plan to get more than one quote and to know what you’re paying for. Both TLC and Woolfson had multiple offices, high ratings, and offered a lifetime guarantee on their surgeries – something the places that advertise on the radio at $250/eye don’t offer.
The worst part about the evaluations was having to be out of my contacts for 3-5 days prior to the appointment. Since contacts affect the shape of your cornea, they want to get the measurements as close as they’ll be on the day of surgery (where you’ll have been out of contacts for 2+ weeks).
My first appointment was at Woolfson, and they did the tests to measure your corneal thickness (what determines if you get Lasik or another procedure called PRK) which mainly involved me looking into machines that flashed lights at me. I probably saw 4 different techs or eye doctors before I finished up in a lady named Ann’s office to talk prices and scheduling.
Something I wish I would have known ahead of time: Surgeons only work in that location on certain days, usually up to once a week. I had in my head that I would try to get surgery on a specific day (or week if I had to be flexible), and neither of those were an option, making my possible surgery date almost 2 weeks later than I wanted. It was disappointing, but since I had another evaluation in a couple of days, I didn’t let it get me down. I might not even go with Woolfson!
My evaluation with TLC was 2 days later and was the complete opposite. The first thing we did was discuss scheduling and pricing. They only do procedures every 2 weeks, and I wouldn’t be able to get in until April. This was really disappointing but then became moot when they wouldn’t match Woolfson’s price. The lady actually originally said they would match it and then later came back with a quote $500 higher saying it was the lowest they could go. At this point, going through with the evaluation seemed like a waste of time, but I did it anyway to be extra cautious and because I probably would have just sat in traffic with the extra time anyway. The doctor was super nice and asked me about running, so it was fine.
Later that day I called Woolfson to confirm my surgery date and managed to get an additional 2.5% off as well. I was pumped! And since my surgery was so far out, I got to go back into contacts for another week.
Leading up to surgery
My least favorite part about getting Lasik has been other people’s comments about it.
Oh I could never do that.
Aren’t you worried?
I heard you have to watch a video of the procedure before they let you do it.
You can smell your eyeball burning when the laser cuts it.
etc, etc, etc. These people are the worst and usually uninformed.
My second least favorite part about getting Lasik was wearing glasses for 2 weeks. I’ve always hated wearing glasses which is why I got contact at age 10 – the youngest my eye doctor would allow. I remember spending hours at the doctor’s office when I got them because you have to be able to take them out and put them back in twice before they let you leave.
Since I spend all of my insurance money on contacts each year, I have some cheap glasses from ZeniOptical that don’t fit quite right. They constantly slide down my nose, so I push them up ever 5 seconds. Thankfully I found these babies on Amazon for $4! They were game changers for wearing glasses while running.
The morning of surgery I was anxiously excited. They give you a multi-page consent form to sign that talks about the possibility of going blind numerous times, so that has the ability to put a damper on your excitement. Then there’s lots of waiting.
They measure your prescription and corneal thickness again before you go to the pre-op waiting room. They also mark your eyes. When they told me this, I assumed they would write “right” and “left on my eyelids or below my eyebrows or something. Nope! After giving you numbing drops, they take a pen and literally make two dots on each eye. I giggled and messed up the doctor as she was trying to mark my first eye because it’s so unnerving to have someone come at your eye with a pen.
These marks somehow help the doctor. I was unclear about all of that, but they let me keep the pen, so that was cool!
The pre-op waiting room is essentially an assembly line of eyeballs. The chairs closest to the door are going in next and they snake around the room. I was the first person from the second group of the day, so I went to the end of the line.
David was in charge of the pre-op room and he was both hilarious and a little scary. He was an older British gentleman who kept things like with both kind and unkind jokes. He knew how to read the room, though, and noticeably softened when a younger girl came in for PRK later and was visibly nervous.
This is the room where we got our hair nets, booties, and forehead stickers. David would give instructions every few minutes, so each person got to hear them multiple times. He told us how when the suction applied to our eye, the pupil would contract, so we would lose vision for 10-15 seconds and not to scream because it’s normal. Then we had lots of post-op instructions as well – mainly to not touch our eyes – and a goodybag with a stuffed wolf, our eye shields, and written instructions.
I realized early on that my wolf only had 1 eye. At first I panicked thinking it was a bad sign for eye surgery, but then I found the humor in the situation. It didn’t last long, though, because David found out about my one-eyed wolf and said, “That won’t do!” and switched my bag. I then said the most millennial thing I’ve ever said, “But I already put him on Instagram!”
After the first group finished up, Dr. Woolfson came into our waiting room to address us together. It was fun to learn more about him as he conversed with other patients – grew up all over the place including South Africa and Zimbabwe, speaks 5 languages, etc. Then he went over our charts with us individually, and the surgery assembly line started up again! I was second, so I had a short wait before it was my turn.
A nurse gives you your first set of numbing drops before you walk in, and then you get another set as you lay on the table. They have a nice prop to go under your knees, so laying on your back isn’t so bad. They had me confirm my birthday and social security number, and then they slide you back to where you’re under the machine. There were 4 sets of white lights that were SO BRIGHT and then a single green light. I knew getting my eye held open was up next, but I was having trouble even opening my eye on my own with the brightness. He turned it down a little for me, and then put the lid opener on the top lid followed by the bottom lid. I would say that 10 seconds was the worst of the entire surgery. The feeling of pressure on your lower lid with that thing sticking in it bordered on the edge between uncomfortable and pain. He told me I had small eyes, so it was a tight fit. Then came the suction thing.
I don’t know what the suction thing is, but it does take away your vision for 10-15 second and it relieves some of the lid holder pressure, so it wasn’t too bad at that point. Then the actual surgery is very brief. Sometimes you can see the green light above you, and sometimes everything looks like this:
I thought to myself that I wanted to try to re-create what I saw in MS Paint. It was harder than I thought! I tried to concentrate on blinking my covered eye since David told us that would help our held-open eye relax, and I just counted. Having something to focus on helps me when I’m nervous, and I like counting.
The laser makes a rumbling noise, and there is a smell from the gases it uses (not from burning your eyeball), but it doesn’t smell like burning hair like David told us. Then he has to smooth down the flap he made on your cornea, so you can actually see him wiping your eye with what looks like a tiny squeegee. I thought this was funny but not enough to laugh. When he wipes closer to your lid or eye lashes (which aren’t numbed), it’s quite the interesting sensation. Your eye gets some more drops, more wiping, and then everything comes off. Getting the lid opener out of my right eye was almost as painful as him putting it in.
I would highly recommend getting both eyes done at the same time, but I definitely had a heart rate spike in between the two. Even though the first eye took about 3 minutes, knowing that I had to do it all over again made me feel panicked. I started breaking in through my nose and out through my mouth and counting to 10 and starting over. Thanks, Kimmy Schmidt!
Dr. Woolfson gave me more numbing drops for my left eye because he knew the lid holder was so bad for me. Didn’t feel a thing on that side! Then the suction thing to make your vision disappear for a bit, then the back and forth of trying to focus on the green dot or everything being red and splotchy, then the smoothing of the flap, then I was done!
They slide me out from under the machine, and a tech came and helped me sit up and put a pair of sunglasses on me. Then the obligatory social media photo (Woolfson is big on social media) before David led me to the recovery chairs. While I’m glad to have been somewhere that takes your photo after surgery (and lets your spouse watch if they want!), I didn’t appreciate that David asked me if I was interested in going on Facebook Live at that moment. Even though the surgery went great (according to Dr. Woolfson and me by not being blind), I was visibly shaking and felt that was a bit too aggressive of an ask. But he didn’t ask again – just the once.
I would describe my vision at this point as – better than it was without glasses but still blurry. I also had a ton of drops in my eyes. I managed to text Josh and was able to see a few things on my phone but mainly just closed my eyes.
Another doctor took me to an exam room and gave me more drops. Then another doctor looked at my eyes with the microscope, then more drops, then I was all done! I was at the office for a little over 2.5 hours and was in surgery for under 10 minutes. Crazy!
The best thing you can do after Lasik is to sleep for 3-4 hours, and they give you some sleeping aids, so I was excited about my prescription nap. They need to be taken with food, though, so I started making mac and cheese when I got home. Even though making mac and cheese takes about 10 minutes, I felt like I was going to pass out. I spent a lot of time leaning on the counter closing my eyes while the noodles were cooking, and my right cheekbone felt like someone punched me from the lid holder. After I got a bowl in my stomach with my sleeping pills, I went to bed.
I have some eye shields I need to wear today and tomorrow, so I taped them on my face with surgical tape and laid down/ I thought for sure I would pass out in minutes, but my anxious heart was still beating wayyy too fast for that. I eventually felt the pills kick in because I started caring a lot less and felt closer to drifting away.
I slept for about 2.5 hours before waking up the first time. I wasn’t able to sleep anymore, but I was committed to 4 hours with my eyes closed, so I put on a podcast and laid back down.
The rest of the day I was up and moving but pretty lethargic. My vision was still improving to the point that I almost felt like I had contacts in. I can remember thinking “I need to take my contacts out” multiple times as I was getting ready for bed. Then on with the eye shields again and more sleep.
One Day Post Surgery
I woke up with one eye shield in my hair and the other down the side of my face, so there’s that. I don’t seem to have touched my eyes in my sleep, though, because I can see really well this morning! My vision has actually reversed some – I’m having a bit of farsightedness right now. I went to my day after appointment this morning, and the doctor told me that is normal and likely due to some swelling.
Things are going swimmingly, though! I try to keep up with what time it is, so I can do all of my drops (there are so many drops), and I keep my new sunglasses on, and I haven’t experienced any pain or discomfort. As of right now, 10/10 would recommend.