Eye Spy: A laser eye surgery diary 4. The operation

2011-04-28T16:04:38+00:00 April 28th, 2011|Categories: Opinion|Tags: , , , , , , |

After a week of sleepless nights, it was time.
I presented myself at Optilase at 4pm last Thursday, quaking. Within a few minutes I was waiting alongside another very nervous patient, having my eye area prepped (cotton wool and alcohol, while seated on a couch), and getting my surgical garb on. This consisted of some blue plastic booties for over my shoes, and a blue plastic hat for my head. Nothing very scary. Oh, and a Valium. I wanted another one, but one was all I was getting.
We watched, awestruck, as a girl left the operating room. There were no screams, and, she said to her friend wonderingly, “It’s weird. I can see.”
A very pleasant nurse walked me (without my glasses – virtually blind) to the area outside the Operating Room, where I watched, through a myopic haze, another guy leave. He was holding on to a nurse, but he could see enough not to trip over my foot. That was encouraging.
And in I went. The same nurse said to me (joking, I thought) that she would be there to hold my hand. “Haha,” said I. I wasn’t laughing a few minutes later.
It’s not a nice procedure. A bit like getting a filling or having a tooth removed, modern medicine means you don’t feel the laser at all, but the experience is intensely uncomfortable.
Once you get into the surgery, you lie down on a chair resembling that of a dentist (bad omen, I thought, although it is black leather instead of the usual surgical white). Anaesthetic drops are put into your eyes, so from there on you can’t feel anything in your eyes. The uncomfortable part is having your eye kept open by a speculum, which feels very awkward, and having your head clamped into place. Suction is applied to your eyeball to hold it in place, which means you feel an intense pressure, but no pain. Having the flap created means that for a period, you can’t see, and this part is terrifying, if painless.
True to her word, the nurse was there to hold my hand. Thanks, nurse, if you’re reading this. I’m sorry about your fingers – I hope the bruises are healing.
Once the flap is created, the laser machine is turned on. This makes a noise that, again, rather reminded me of the dentist’s drill, which really isn’t a comforting sound! Only the surgeon’s direction to look at the orange flashing focus light – which you must stare straight at for the duration – and the verbal countdown of how long it was taking, told me the laser was at work. There is rather an unpleasant smell during this, which most patients report, but I was told this is not your eye burning but rather skin cells (the source of most dust) floating in the laser beam.
As I was having both eyes done, the procedure was repeated. In total, I think I was in the operating room for about 25 minutes. It’s hard to tell, but between arriving at Optilase for pre-op, waiting time, the procedure and a post-op chat, and being collected, I was there for about 90 minutes.
That’s not a long time to change your life forever.
As a friend said to me afterwards, it’s like childbirth – the results are so good you forget the bad part. I haven’t quite forgotten it, but I’m getting there.
I could see straight away. A little blurry, yes, but I could see.
Afterwards, you are not allowed to watch TV, read or use a computer for 24 hours. With so little to distract me, bed was the only option, so off I went. For that first 24 hours, you must insert drops every hour, plus antibiotic and anti-inflammatory drops three and four times a day.
I had my first check-up on Friday at lunchtime. My previous prescription had been worse than I thought initially, at -4.27 in the right eye and -7.62 in the left.
With my glasses, before the op, I was missing one letter out of the chart in the right eye, and two in the left. That was with my glasses.
Less than 24 hours after the operation I could read the whole chart. Better, apparently, than 20:20 vision. I didn’t even know that existed.
For the rest of the week I have to continue with the drops and wear an eye guard at night. Check in next week to see how that goes.
For now, though, things look bright. And very detailed!

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