Today marks the fifth anniversary of having the outer layers of my eyes melted away, then zapped by lasers, only to heal again over the next three months into near perfect vision. Five years ago, I had PRK surgery and blogged about my experience.
It’s funny how you forget about all the little things you had to worry about before the surgery. The daily rituals of inserting and removing and cleaning contacts, the additional pain and effort involved when having a foreign object in your eye next to your contact, the way you couldn’t read the alarm clock at night without squinting or moving extra close, the way you were screwed if you lost a contact while skiing or after getting punched in the face at the boxing gym; I haven’t had to think about those things in years.
I haven’t been to the eye doctor since those last routine checkups in the months following the PRK surgery. At the time, my left eye was 20⁄20 and my right eye was slightly worse. This still holds true today, though if I really think about it and compare, it does seem like the right eye is worse now than it was back then. I haven’t done a vision test and I don’t plan on it; it just feels a little fuzzy and sometimes, only rarely, does it creep into my consciousness.
I have never had any problems with dry eyes. The halos slowly diminished over the months after the surgery. While I don’t think those halos are completely gone, they are very minimal and non-intrusive. I can look up at the stars at night without being bothered by, or even thinking about halos. That was one of the things that scared me most in the first year after my surgery - in the months following the operation, the night sky was a smudgy mess and the individual pinpricks of light were now splattered across my field of view, as if I was looking through a smudgy and wet windshield. No amount of blinking would make the stars clearer, but over time, the halos and smudginess diminished to the point of forgetfulness, and I could once again appreciate the night sky without being burdened by the thought that it might be forever skewed.
When I opted for PRK instead of LASIK, it was because I was in kickboxing and MMA and I dreaded the idea of getting the corneal flap left by LASIK torn off during a bout. It’s funny though - during my healing time, I happened to read a book called The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks and realized that I was probably lucky not to have suffered any long term mental problems from getting routinely pummeled in the head during training and fights, and I should probably quit while I was ahead. That book discussed extreme cases of a variety of brain problems - not necessarily impact related - but it made me a lot more conscious about my own gray matter, and I realized I should probably try to save what I have left. Thus, I closed the chapter on my fighting life. Now I’m just a lover.
I’m very happy that I had the surgery. While I think my right eye may have degraded in visual acuity somewhat, it isn’t something that’s noticeable until I focus on it. And even then, perhaps it hasn’t even changed. I love being able to wake up with full sight, to see underwater, and to not be encumbered by glasses or contacts. I know the experience hasn’t been great for everyone, as evidenced by the large numbers of comments on this blog. It worked for me.
If I were to ever recommend PRK, I’d make sure to highlight a few things:
- Do your research. Learn about the procedure, the risks and complications, and the healing process. There are plenty of blogs like mine which describe the experience of different people. I was a patient for whom everything turned out just right. There are also a number of horror stories. Know your risks.
- Go to a few clinics and compare the doctors. Review them online. Make sure you trust them with one of your most important senses.
- Be persistent with your doctor. Have them explain the healing time and possible complications in detail. If they wave off complications or try to bully you into doing the procedure even though you’re not a perfect candidate, run.
- Be prepared for at least a month of barely being able to read text directly in front of your face, and for at least a three month time of very bad vision
- Try not to despair. It’s a long healing process and you’ll likely spend the first week of it incapacitated and blind, and in a good amount of pain. The next few months can be agonizing, but if all goes well, you’ll hopefully be in love with your new eyesight and in retrospect, you’ll realize it was all worth it.
In reading a lot of the comments posted here, it seems like there are a good number of fast-food style surgeons who care more about the number of people herded through the zappy laser machine than they care about them as individuals with a life to maintain. Perhaps it’s just a sample bias, in that those are the types of people more likely to complain. Regardless, be on the lookout for any McSurgeons who try to casually dismiss the healing process or the dangers inherent in so delicate a procedure.
I can’t stress that enough. If the surgeon downplays the healing time or the risks, or if they don’t dissuade you from the surgery after telling you you’re not an ideal candidate, avoid it at all costs. There are a lot of people out there for whom this procedure will work fine, but there are a number of people who can be permanently devastated by either a botched surgery, a botched recovery time, or because they were a more “risky” candidate. If you have consistently dry eyes or thin corneas, you don’t make a good candidate and it’s just something you’re going to have to accept, because the alternative of having screwed up eyesight permanently is much more depressing than having to put in contacts or wear glasses everyday.
In all, do your research and know the risks.
I’ve been extremely happy with my results, and I wish the same to anyone looking to improve their quality of life in this aspect. Good luck on your journey, and thanks for stopping by.