Sunday, August 24, 2014

Lasik Surgery - What to expect

I have started this post, and will continue to update as I have more news.

I just had Lasik Surgery and I'm sharing a little about my experience for those of you who are considering it. If you are near Bellevue, WA, let me know and I can give you a referral. This will get you 20% off, and they will send me a referral check for $50.

I did a little research, and I kind of knew what to expect. I had looked into this about 15 years ago. I answered one of the ads for the $199 per eye at the Lasik Vision Institute, and discovered that only applies to a very limited number of folks. Basically, those who don't really need the surgery. You can expect to pay around $3,000 - $4,000, realistically. I went to the free consultation, and it was high pressure sales to commit to spending thousands of dollars right then and there. I left disgusted. This time around, I knew what to expect regarding that aspect. In hindsight, it was a good thing I actually waited because my prescription had not yet stabilized. Which is important so you don't have regression later on. I went to the same company, but a different office. I picked the Bellevue WA office. I had researched it and the doctor has a good reputation. I didn't answer an ad, but I had received a $1,000 "coupon" from a trade show I had recently attended. The sales person said I won 2nd prize in a drawing.

August 2, 2014
I arrived at my free consultation. My sister came with me. She is definitely a source of comfort when doing anything scary. They had me fill out paperwork and watch a video of what happens during the procedure. The office was very clean and very friendly. They gave me a couple different types of eye exams, and told me I was a candidate for both Lasik or PRK. I had researched both and found out that PRK can be painful for awhile, so no way was I picking that option if Lasik was going to be an option. I was quoted $3,000 with another $200 for the lifetime warranty. They did not seem to know about the "coupon" I had won. When I inquired, they asked me if I had attended a 5k race recently, I'm guessing they were doing a promotion at the race. I corrected them but they insisted the discount was already included. And assured me they would make sure this was reflected in my paperwork. Basically, they made sure the amount I was being billed was still going to be $3,000. Every person I spoke to in the waiting room was quoted the exact same price, so I know there is no sliding scale based on your prescription. One guy in the waiting room had answered a $299 per eye email he had gotten the very night before, and was still quoted the same amount. I had done my research and already knew this was the price I would be getting anywhere around here, so this game didn't annoy me near as much as it would have if I'd been unprepared. I'll probably still complain to the sales person who said I "won", but I don't anticipate it will change anything. You may be wondering at this point why I would still do business with a company with such deceptive marketing. Well, the office staff really made me feel comfortable, it was very low pressure, and I really got the impression they knew what they were doing. And what you want to keep in mind when considering this surgery is that you want to look for a competent doctor, the marketing department are not the ones performing the surgery. This doctor has done over 60K surgeries, and the team was really great.

The Bellevue clinic doesn't perform Lasik every day, but the doctor was there that day. They told me I could get in same day if I would like. I chose not to, because I really wanted just information and wanted to give it some thought. I made an appointment for a couple weeks later. I wish I had just done it all the same day however. All that did was give me a couple weeks to build up worse case scenarios in my mind. Most of the staff had already had the surgery done on themselves, and were able to answer questions. Surprisingly, the Office Manager was the person who was best at alleviating my fears. Obviously, everyone's biggest concern is coming out blind. That's impossible because your sight is about two inches back in your head, and the laser only goes about the depth that's just slightly bigger than a hair. I had to research this myself when I got home, and found out there has never been a reported case in the US of someone going blind from the surgery. They gave me a couple prescriptions to come back with. One was an anti-anxiety, which I knew I would definitely need.

August 22, 2014
Surgery Day
I arrived at my appointment that morning. I had chosen to not have my eyes dilated for an exam on my previous visit, because I wanted the information to be as up to date as possible on the day of the surgery. Also, what was the point of going through that if I decided to back out, and there was a good chance I would. This morning, however, I was determined to go through with it, but also a little freaked out. They did the exam, and assured me everything looked great and I could move forward. I had to wait a couple hours so that my eyes were no longer dilated. My sister and I went to lunch. Good Chinese food across the street, FYI.

They had me fill out some more paperwork. It was kind of a blur because there was so much information. But, I had remembered from my research a warning about the Lifetime Warranty, which was an extra $200. I asked questions only because I had read this warning ahead of time, but pointing this out or explaining what you are signing is not part of their regular routine. You must have your eye exams every single year, including being dilated, or the warranted is void forever. They will provide the exam in their office each year for $99. You are also allowed to go to your regular doctor as long as the results are sent to them in a timely manner. I asked what a timely manner meant, but the girl did not know and said she had never been asked that before.

After the paperwork I was allowed to take the anti-anxiety pill, as you cannot provide a signature if you had taken it first. They had me wait at least 15 minutes for it to kick in.

They gave us the option to have my sister in the room while the surgery was taking place. We decided it would be best if she waited outside in the waiting room directly outside the room they perform the procedures in. I would not be able to be in the room while someone else was doing this either. There was a guy ahead of me, he also had his friend there. I timed him, he was in/out in 12 minutes. His friend was an idiot. He wanted to spend the 12 minutes discussing the Final Destination movie and how someone had died in the middle of this procedure, and then wanted to talk about exactly what happens during the procedure. I kept changing the subject, ignoring his comments, and I tried only talking to my sister. He wasn't taking the hints so I finally just told him to shut up. He thankfully did.

The surgery was very quick. I was in and out of that room in less than 15 minutes. They had me sit in a regular chair and did an eye exam first. Then you lay down in the surgery chair. They do their prep work, do the Lasik, and you return to the first chair for another eye exam for them to check the work.  All in less than 15 minutes. My team consisted of the doctor, and two helpers. Every one of them knew their roles and you could tell they had done this quite often. Every one of them had very reassuring soft spoken confident voices, and that really helped. They asked me if I wanted a Teddy Bear. I did. I could feel myself panicking when they got started. I informed them of this, but I was able to keep my voice steady. My heart was really racing. At one point I demanded someone get over there and hold my hand, and one guy did it very quickly. It actually helped. He told me I could squeeze as hard as I needed to, just keep my head still. I had to be told to be still twice. They told me there would be a point where everything went black, and that could last a few seconds. It was not even one second on the first eye, and I didn't even notice on the second eye. The hardest part is not being able to get away from it. When I have to do something I'm uncomfortable with, but know I have to stay still, I can always close my eyes and go into my own little world. Like getting stitches or drawing blood. You have the option to concentrate on something else and just not watch. So, the hardest part of this was there was no getting away from it. But it is over quite quickly, so that really helped. You just concentrate on the orange light and then it's over. I don't know what I looked like, but when I came out of the room my sister immediately insisted I get the dark glasses on right away.

My vision was foggy. I wore the dark glasses all the way home. I went and took a short nap like I was told to. When I woke up I was still a little foggy, and could not read. I have to take different drops 4 X day. One is an antibiotic, which I only have to do for the first week, the other is to keep the swelling down, and I have to use that one for 3 weeks. I have had zero swelling that I can notice, so I guess it's working. I don't know which one it is, but after a couple of minutes I can taste it in my throat and it is horrible. I'm drinking a lot of water about a minute after I use the drops. In the paperwork they gave me, there was a notice to start using Systane Preservative Free Single Use drops, at least every hour for the first week. I wish they had stressed this to me before I left the clinic. Not only did I not pick them up, but I was really feeling like dry eyes and needed them. I could not drive, but my daughter went and picked them up for me. They cost $17 for 24 applications, I have already picked up another box and can anticipate I will need several more before the week is out. These need to be used constantly, every 30-60 minutes, as your eyes cannot keep themselves moist right now.

I realized later that night that I had not received one single copy of anything I had signed. I would need to remember to add this to the list of things for my follow up appointment.

Later that night I watched a TV program, without glasses, and was starting to notice I can see better. But I was pretty tired, so other than verifying I could see the TV I didn't really watch much. The clinic gave me a pair of goggles, which I am supposed to wear every single time I sleep for the next week. I thought they would bother me, but they don't at all, I sleep just fine. The goggles are to prevent you from trying to rub your eyes while you are asleep. I don't think I do that anyway, but I'm definitely wearing them to be safe.

August 23
1st Day Checkup
I woke up this morning and could see my alarm clock. From far away. It was the most amazing thing. I just started walking around looking at stuff. I called my sister and told her I could probably take myself the follow up appointment. She thought it would be best if she drove, since it was a very bright sunny day and she was concerned the brightness would bother me. It was the right call. I kept the dark glasses on every minute while outside and the brightness is a little annoying. But I can see the way I could with my glasses. Just as far, and just as sharp. I could see pine needles on trees, and the bird hiding in the branches behind other branches. All I can think is why didn't I do this years ago.

They gave me another vision test. Part of me was secretly hoping for bionic eyesight, but that didn't happen. I came out 20/15 and I hope I get to keep this. They said some folks will continue to get better and can get to 20/10. That would be awesome. The doctor came in and did his exam. He said that there is a chance over the next couple of weeks that there could be times over the next couple of weeks where my vision will not be as clear as it is today. Not to worry, that is normal and is part of the healing process. It will return to where it is supposed to be. I already have a dry spot on my left eye, and he stressed the important of continuing to use those Systane Preservative Free drops as often as possible. I did do the punctual plugs during surgery, which is supposed to help with dry eyes. He said if my eye starts feeling painful, then it means a problem. He also told me it could take a couple days before swelling to start, because the eye is now reacting very slowly. Basically, it takes a while for the eye to know it is supposed to start healing itself. Everything was looking good and I have to return for another check up in a week. I remembered to ask for copies of everything I had signed the day before, and they looked confused but they did provide them. I'm not thrilled that I had to ask.

August 30th
2nd Checkup
I am a few weeks late writing about my 1 week check up. I drove myself this time. The regular doctor was not available today, so they sent a temporary doctor in from another clinic. I did not leave feeling like I had been examined by somebody confident and capable. Not only was she very young, but she didn't explain anything to me very well. She said I had chronic dry eyes, and stated it as a fact as if I were aware of this. I have never been told that so I thought it was a little shocking. I thought I had been doing the drops regularly, but you bet for sure after this I have been a little obsessive about it. I also found out today that the steroids make your eyes dry out. Might have been helpful to know this a little sooner. They said I can start doing these drops only twice a day now, and I don't have to do the antibiotics anymore. I have now discovered these are the drops that give that horrible taste in the back of your throat. She did an eye exam, and my vision has regressed to 20/20, but mostly in my right eye. My left eye is still awesome. The doc also wanted to put some drops in my eyes, and said "so she could see more clearly". She left out the part about how they were numbing drops. It was for pressure testing. I could have handled it if she had told me, but was a little surprised to find out afterward. Then, I got in my car and added some of the systane lubricant eye drops, after all, I had just got done hearing that I have home safely. I will be rethinking driving myself next time just because of this. I don't go back again until the first week of November.

September 12th
Just a quick note to let you know how I'm doing. I completely stopped using the steroid drops, and now I only use the lubricant tears drops. I'm still doing this as often as I remember throughout the day. I wish I could say every hour, but I'm not quite that good at it. My vision is a little blurry just after I do the drops, but that's with any eye drop, nothing unusual. My sight is wonderful. I'm doing better than I was a few weeks ago. I can see better than I did with my glasses. I feel like everything is in HD because the color contrasts are so vivid. I did some research and I hear this does not bother you after a few months. It's fine during the day, but at night the contrast is very distinct. Luckily, it won't really be dark on my drives home for several more months. It's not a danger, or anything blurry, just more like a distraction. Anyway, my right eye is back to doing just as well as my left eye. The clinic had told me that the vision can fluctuate for a few months until it levels itself out. I was able to see a detail on the TV the other night that my daughter couldn't see, and I'm so used to it being the other way around that it kind of threw me. It is odd to see so far away without my glasses. I'm still trying to adjust to paying attention to things that I normally just used to tune out because I couldn't see it clearly anyway. That part is taking some adjusting to. Things are still great.