The LASIK experience

I don’t show it, but I am petrified. The papers I signed list “Death” as potential outcome, twice. The numerous other potential side effects listed are arguably more scary than death, at least to a young single man in his prime. What if I am that 0.1%? Is correcting -1.5 diopters worth the risk? What if the laser errors on me because, like all software, it probably has bugs? And what if…

“Common, dear, let’s get you in there, we’re ready,” I hear the nurse saying.

I recognize my doctor and 3 assistants I haven’t seen before. Everyone’s smiling. There’s a leather bed attached to a machine. I lay down, and anesthetic drops go into my eyes. The first ones feel like water and they make me want to blink. But the drops act fast; I can see the second round coming down, but I can’t feel them hitting my eye. Like rain over windshield – they land and wash away without seemingly touching me. Since I can’t feel them, I no longer want to blink as they hit. It’s a strange feeling that, in hindsight, makes sense.

My left eye lids are taped to my cheek and forehead next. Another drop comes down. The doctor brings the flap-creating laser above my eye and presses it down. I feel pressure around the eye socket; it’s uncomfortable, but nothing to write home about. “Try to focus on the dot, Alex, this only takes 14 seconds. Great. We have a lock. Here we go.” says an assistant. “10 seconds left. Your vision should start going out now, yes?” Says another assistant. I murmur “Yep”. “That’s normal. And… done. Now the doctor will lift the flap.”

The femtolaser is removed, and all I can see are blurry lights. I can tell the doctor is moving some small instrument over my eye to lift the flap, but I don’t feel it. Vision clears up a bit once the flap is lifted. “Try to focus on the green dot.” The bigger machine’s arm, the main laser, comes down, and I focus on the dot. “Just 4 seconds, Alex,” I hear someone saying. “We have a lock,” says another voice. I faintly hear the machine kick in, and a second later I smell burnt… something. But 4 seconds is over fast. “That’s it. We’re putting the flap back on.” More drops come down. “We’ll keep this eye open for a few more seconds, and then move on to the next one.” 10 seconds later the tapes on eye lids are removed, I can blink, and I’m asked to close my left eye and open the right one.

Another minute and the right eye is done. I’m asked to open both eyes and am helped off the bed. Expecting to be temporarily blind, I instead find myself being able to see better than I did before I walked in. “Don’t be so surprised,” says my coordinator who appeared just on time, “Your vision is fixed now; all that’s left is for the flap to heal.” Technology – isn’t it fucking amazing?

I’m given a Vicodin and a sleeping pill; the Vicodin will kick in right about the time the eye anesthetic drops start wearing out. Perfect. A friend drives me home, I take a 4-hour nap (I’m told the first 4-6 hours are most important to keep eyes closed). I get up for an hour to snack (noticing that I can see just fine), and go back to bed for a full night’s sleep.

The next morning I don’t even feel I had surgery, and my eyesight is nearly 20/20. My eye doctor says he can barely see where the flap was cut; it’s a faint line even under magnification. “It’s crazy what they do these days,” he murmurs.

In the next post I’ll share what I learned about the type of lasers you want to find for your own surgery and why it’s important to get 2nd and 3rd opinions, so stay posted!