I Once Was Blind…

I got LASIK on my right eye Friday morning, and my results are fantastic! Some people are curious about the LASIK process, so here’s my story.

As I shared in a previous post, I’ve been dogged by recurring pink eye in my right eye for the last year. My left eye is 20/15, but my right eye is badly nearsighted, so I’d worn a single contact on the right side for about 20 years. It bothered me on occasion – minor irritation and dryness, getting lost in my eye, even falling out a few times – but the recurring pink eye finally persuaded me to get this thing fixed for good.

Why Dr. Tylock?

I called Gary Tylock’s office about 10 days ago to set up a LASIK appointment. Lots of surgeons do LASIK, including my previous ophthalmologist and various doctors who advertise on the radio. I chose Dr. Tylock for a few reasons:

  • He’s extremely experienced, having done over 80,000 procedures and been in practice for over 20 years. He has won numerous awards and taught eye surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
  • He uses the latest LASIK technology (unlike my previous ophthalmologist), helped develop the LASIK technology and procedures, and was among the first surgeons in the world to perform IntraLASIK, which uses a laser to create the corneal flap rather than a metal blade.
  • He offers a 20/20 money-back guarantee. I don’t know whether anyone else in the area matches that offer.
  • At least two of my coworkers recommended him. One of them already had very dry eyes before the surgery, and Tylock’s staff refused to approve him for LASIK until they could get his eyes moisturized sufficiently with various drops and gels. That process took a few weeks until he was finally ready. Apparently, LASIK doesn’t work well if one’s eyes are already too dry. I was impressed that they were unwilling to take large amounts of money from him when the outcome was questionable. That told me that Tylock values his patients’ sight more than their money.
  • His office is near my parents and grandparents, which came in handy on surgery day.

Pre-Op Exam

I called on a Friday and set an appointment for the following Wednesday. It was nice to get in so quickly. At the pre-op appointment, every single person I talked to was very nice and helpful. Tylock’s staff performed a variety of tests to ensure my eye was a good candidate for LASIK. The tests included a traditional vision test with dilation and a battery of “One or two? Three or four?” exercises, eye pressure check, and a computerized eye mapping that would show Dr. Tylock exactly how to set up the laser so that it would reshape my cornea perfectly. Everything looked good, so we scheduled surgery for Friday morning – two days later. If only all medical appointments could be so easy to schedule! As with most plans, my medical insurance didn’t cover LASIK, so I had to pay out of pocket. Before I came in, they said the cost for both eyes was anywhere from $2900-3600. My cost was $1500 since I only had one eye. Being a freak pays off sometimes!

Surgery

On Friday morning, Jenny dropped me off at the office and took the boys to hang out at my mom’s house with my niece and nephew. I would receive mild sedation and somewhat disrupted vision, so they require all LASIK patients to have someone drive them home.

One reason I’d hesitated for years regarding LASIK was fear. I enjoy watching surgery videos due to my interest in medicine and the body, but eye surgery always made me squeamish. However, since LASIK had become such a common procedure with almost universally good results, and it only affected the outer layers of the eye, and I still had a good eye left if something went wrong, I decided the result was worth the small risk involved. That morning, I felt much more excited than nervous, contently watching the Olympic women’s gold medal tennis match in the waiting room.

When my turn came, I went to another waiting room and received some instructions regarding what to expect and how to care for my eye post-op. A tech administered some eye drops and offered us all a sedative, which I gladly accepted for two reasons: 1) to help me not freak out on the table, and 2) to help me sleep afterward as they recommended. Then they had me lie down in a comfortable recliner outside the operation room and gave me disposable booties for my shoes and a hairnet. (really? um, have you seen my head?)

Finally, I entered the OR. A flood of various types of drops – numbing, antibiotic, irrigation, and who knows what else. The room was cold, so the assistant covered me with a blanket. At this point I finally got to meet Dr. Tylock, who was very nice, comforting, and confident that the procedure would go well. Once my eye was ready, I lay down on the laser table, and they moved the first laser over my eye.

Two different lasers are involved in IntraLASIK. The first creates a flap in the cornea. Thinking about what was about to happen, I was a bit nervous. My biggest fear was that I would panic while one of the lasers was firing and permanently jack up my eye. Supposedly, the laser can detect any movement and adjust or shut down if needed, but…you know. They positioned the machine over my eye and told me to expect some pressure and temporary loss of sight in the eye. My job was to focus on the center of some greenish rings. They inserted some eyelid retractors, which were much less uncomfortable than I’d expected, and got to work.

I tried my hardest not to move my eye, which was a bit of a challenge once my vision went dark since I no longer had anything to focus on. The pressure was firm but not painful, and the whole flap creation only took 10-15 seconds, I think. I saw some different lights and weird stuff. No big deal, really. Then the bed slowly moved me across the room a bit and under the second laser, which does the actual reshaping of the cornea.

My assignment now was to focus on a fuzzy green light inside the device. I saw more flashing lights and weird stuff while the laser did its work. I remember Dr. Tylock telling an assistant that it would fire for 14 seconds. Suddenly, I noticed that the fuzzy green light was now a green pinpoint. It had worked! After that came the strangest part when Dr. Tylock used an instrument to fold my corneal flap back down and slide it back into its proper location. The numbing drops kept it from hurting, but it was still a bizarre sight to see. The flap quickly adheres into place without stitches. Dr. Tylock said it went beautifully. They sat me up, checked out my eye with one of the standard eye exam devices, and then sent me to recovery. Although I was dying to test out my new eye, instead I followed my instructions and sat in a recliner with my eyes closed to let the flap set.

Post-Op, Day 1

I was supposed to go home and straight to bed, but instead I had lunch with my family first. My vision was hazy all that day, almost like peering through a fog that drifted in and out, but through the haze the image was sharp. This wasn’t hocus-pocus or a marketing gimmick. LASIK really did work, and work very well. I had a blast reading things across the room that were previously a blurry mess without my contact. Minus the haze, my right eye seemed comparable to my left. I later learned that the haze resulted from slight swelling in the cornea caused by the surgery. I was prescribed anti-inflammatory steroid drops to combat the swelling and moisturizing drops to keep the eye wet. While it healed, the flap was also sensitive to impact and rubbing, so I wore safety goggles during the day near the boys and a different pair while I slept. I slept all afternoon, watched some Olympics, and then slept several hours that night. Sometimes I felt minor discomfort in the eye, but some drops usually returned it nearly to normal.

Post-Op, Day 2

Day 2 was pretty similar to Day 1, only with a bit less haze. I pounded the drops as directed. At my post-op appointment, the optometrist said my eye looked great. I could read 4 of the 6 letters on the 20/15 line and probably would’ve had the other 2 if not for the haze. We went to a baseball game that night, and I kept amazing myself by reading the advertising signs across the field with my formerly bum eye.

Post-Op, Day 3-4

The haze is mostly gone. My eyes are nearly identical in focusing ability. I know it’s technically not a miracle because LASIK is a medical procedure made possible by medical technology, skill, physics, and other human factors, but it really feels like a miracle. I once was practically blind in my right eye without my contact, but now I could see almost perfectly. It’s amazing.

The main problem I have is dryness, so I’m still using lots of eye drops. The dryness is especially bad when I wake up. This is a common problem that should improve over time.

One quirk may be specific to my situation. When I test my eyes separately, each one seems to focus at a slightly different depth. So when I switch from one to the other, the image starts out mostly sharp but takes a moment for the image to reach full sharpness. I believe my left eye was always dominant, and my eyes are adjusting to the new reality. It’s a good problem to have.

That’s all I have for now. I am very pleased and wish I could’ve done it a long time ago. That seems to be a common sentiment among LASIK patients, and now I know why.

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