Laser Eye Surgery – The Ups and The Downs

by Christine on May 8th, 2010

filed under Christine's Life Updates, General Information

Well, yesterday was my big day: I got Lasik eye surgery. I went to the TLC Laser Eye Center, which is a national “chain,” so you may have heard of it.  My experience has been both good and bad.  The good part is that, about a day later, I’ve got 20-20 vision, am healing great, have ZERO discomfort….everything is super-fantastic!  The bad part is that I pretty much had a meltdown during the actual procedure. It hurt WAY more than they said it would; the doctor had abysmal bedside manner; and I spent about an hour following the surgery just sobbing. So here’s a little more info:

I first went to the TLC Center about a month ago to inquire whether I would be a candidate for the surgery. This appointment was free of charge. They ran several tests: mostly reading letters on a chart, having bright lights scan my eyes, etc.  They did not dilate my eyes; I had no puff of air in my eyes (glaucoma test).  It was fast, easy, pain-free. I was told that I would basically qualify for all the types of surgery they offer, so I just needed to decide what I wanted to do. I didn’t want someone coming at my eye with a real knife, and I was told that the laser was pain-free and had a super-fast healing time, so I decided to sign up for that.  The lasik is more expensive, though. The procedure cost $2,000 per eye ($4,000 total).

I went in with less than a week to go to go through the same round of tests as the first time. I believe they just wanted to double-check all my vision stats.  They then dilated my eyes. I had never had that done. It’s done just by a series of three eye drops: the first is to numb you, and the other two do the dilating.  After your pupils are dilated, he runs bright-light tests which are uncomfortable but pretty much painless. He said, “Yup, you’re still in good shape to have the surgery on Friday!”

The day of surgery I went into the center. I had to watch this informational video a while ago that said that before the surgery they would give you some Valium to relax. I KNEW I would be uptight, so on my prior appointment I asked for a prescription. I was told that they would give me a pill at the Center, the morning of surgery. Okay great. So when the morning came, the first thing I did was ask for a Valium. They said “in a minute.”  Then they called me back to an office where I paid for the surgery, was given my follow-up care instructions, etc. I asked for the Valium again; this time I was told, “Well, I suppose I could give it to you, but it won’t do any good. It takes about 20 minutes to kick in, and you’re next in line to get it done, so you’ll be done in 5-10 minutes. So no, sorry…no valium for you.”

Well, fuck!  I went from there into the surgery room.  As I walked there I was told that during the procedure that the doctor will be giving me instructions. I was to listen to the instructions and at no point was I to talk to the doctor. I was not allowed to say anything, at any time. They had me lay down on this operating table bed. I was SHOCKED that they did not strap your head down to stay in place. All they did to keep your head in place is to kind of like tighten a pillow to either side of your head. (Have you ever been on an airplane that offers those head-rests that fold in towards your head? It’s like that.)  The nurse told me once again to listen to the doctor and not say a word. They adjusted me to the right position. They inserted these metal things that keep your eye open, which was uncomfortable but did not hurt.  The covered one eye and kept one eye exposed to the light. They put some drops of liquid into my eye. They wheeled me under a bright light.  Here’s kind of how it went. The italicized portions are what I was thinking: the regular text were the doctor’s instructions.

Focus on the white light. Okay.
Focus on the white light. Okay.
Stop moving. The light is going to appear blurry. Okay.

(At this point they put this suction cup on my eye. They pressed down. Then I felt a kind of pop.) OMG OMG FUCK THAT FUCKING HURT OW!!!
I need you to stop moving. It’s normal for the light to look blury. Keep looking at the light. OMG OMG OMG!
Stop moving please. What? I’m not moving?
STOP MOVING. I’m not moving!!! Why does he keep saying that?!
Keep looking at the light. Stop moving. Jesus, am I moving that much? Shit, if I keep moving this laser is going to cut my brain into two pieces! SHIT!
(At this point I started to positively TREMBLE. I tried to stop trembling, and that made me tremble more. Two nurses came in and held my arms down.)
(They used a brush to smooth down my eyeball and it’s really weird. I think I was whimpering, even though this didn’t hurt at this point.)
Okay you’re all done in this eye. Now we’re going to do this in the next eye. You’re almost done. Holy fuck they’re going to do that awful suction cup thing again?
I’m going to adjust your head. Let me adjust your head. Okay. No, wait. Can I tell you that this hurts? Wait, stop a second…
(The use the suction-cup thing again) OMG THAT FUCKING HURTS LIKE HELL!!!!!  (This time I actually cried out loud. “WHIMPER OWWWMMMMEEEEE!!!”)
Nurse: Don’t talk. Don’t say anything.   But but but…it hurts….omg….
The light is going to appear blurry. Look at the light.
Look at the light please.
Look at the light. I need you to look at the light.
(Insert more trembling. I was holding a stress ball and at this point I was squeezing it so hard I could feel my nails digging into my palm THROUGH the ball.)

Well, you get the point. That’s pretty much how it went.

The whole thing — both eyes — probably took 5-7 minutes. It went super fast. Then they sat me up, gave me some dark sunglasses, and took me into a dark room where they were playing soothing music. I sat in a lounge chair, took a stuffed animal and started bawling. Absolutely freaking bawling. Big, hiccuping, can’t-breathe-to-save-my-soul sobs. I was worried that all those tears would move the flap they just created in my eye, so I got nervous about that. The more I tried to stop crying, the more I cried.  I curled up into a ball and cried.

They kept me sitting there for 20-30 minutes. I was still trembling, but I had stopped crying for the most part. My eyes didn’t hurt, but I just felt…I don’t know…traumatized.

They got me, walked me to the waiting room. Aaron was there waiting for me. He took my hand and as we were walking out the door he looked at me with concern and said, “Are you okay?” That question opened the floodgates, and I started bawling again. I cried the whole way home. Poor Aaron thought they had lazered my head or something. When I calmed down I assured him that I didn’t hurt at all anymore, but the procedure hurt like a bitch and I was just high strung.

I think the valium would have helped enormously. Why didn’t they give it to me?

When I got home I took my eyedrops, took a sleeping pill, and fell asleep. Aaron woke me up every hour for more eyedrops.  I finally woke up for good at 6 p.m. (About 7 hours of sleep.)  We watched a movie. I had my sunglasses on, and although the bright lights bothered me a little bit, I was fine. No pain, only mild blurriness. I could see fine! For dinner, I couldn’t decide what I wanted. I didn’t have much to eat that day (almonds before surgery, about half a can of tomato soup around noonish). I knew I couldn’t do pizza and Aaron was ordering out, so I decided to try to some bbq chicken wings. I do not normally eat these things, but I figured meat instead of dough would be better. WRONG. I had one small chicken leg, and it immediately got stuck in my band and I puked it up.

This morning I had a check-up back at the TLC laser eye center. He said that everything looks great, and that my vision is pretty much at 20-20 now. I’m to continue with my eyedrops for the next two weeks, and return in a week for another checkup.

I tried having another chicken wing at noon (after all, now I’ve got a container of leftovers…again!) but it once again got stuck in my gastric band, and I puked it up.  Sigh. I went shopping (I fit in Size 8 clothes! OMG!!! I needed new pants — all of mine are falling off of me.) Driving was fine, but I got strange looks for wearing those ugly-asses sunglasses in the store. I bought new sunglasses at Kohls though — my first pair of sunglasses I’ve owned since I was maybe a kid! So exciting! I hope they don’t look dumb.  On the way home I got some ice cream. Bad, I know, but I was hungry and wanted to reward myself for my week of big moments!

This evening I notice that I’m less sensitive to lights, and I’m getting almost no blurriness at all.

I had some leftovers (baked fish, rice pilaf, veggies) but they aren’t staying down. I’ve puked them up, too. I wonder if any kind of stress causes the gastric band to get tighter, for food to not want to stay down? I’m not sure, but it’s quite annoying. Maybe I’ll try to scrounge up some soup later. I need to eat something.

But in one of the best moments of the last two days (short of being able to see without glasses!)….The scale rang in at 149.8!  The last time I saw the 140’s, I was about fifteen years old! I took a picture for posterity!

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  • suzanne

    Wow that was really traumatic! They definitely should have let you take the valium. I’m sure it would have helped you to relax.
    Hopefully your stomach will settle soon and you’ll be able to eat again!!
    Take care of yourself and have a good weekend :)

  • Laurie

    I had LASIK a few years ago as a present to myself for getting a divorce. For me, I only panicked when I was next in line. When I was in there, I was fine.. they gave me a stuffed animal to hold on to and just told me to relax… I am so sorry that you had such a traumatic time! :(

    I’m 3 1/2 years out and my vision is still great!!!

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  • eye care doctor

    You would figure with all the money the ‘Apple’ heads have thrown at him
    he could afford hair transplants and lazer eye surgery!