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The Lasik Experience (in Panavision!)

As I live and breathe, I’m writing this post with my newly fashioned eyes! Lots of my friends have asked me to give my account of what my experience with LASIK has been, so here goes. I think it makes sense to start from the beginning though, not just the procedure itself.

I’d been doing my research for the better part of two years on the different types of procedures for laser eye correction. It’s not just LASIK: there’s iLasik (what I had done), LASEK, PRK… there’s a lot of options. Your own prescription and eye circumstances will determine which is the best one for you. I had already know that iLasik would work for me because I’m intimately in-the-know about my eyes and their particular issues. Since there are so many variations of the eye correction procedures, the costs can vary accordingly.

Here’s a good site that tells you about what those options look like:
http://www.allaboutvision.com/visionsurgery/

After some looking around, I decided to get a free consultation at the Manhattan Lasik Center (110 East 55th Street, New York, NY). Since you know nothing in life is free, here’s the catch: they will give you a comprehensive eye exam and determine whether or not you are a candidate for the LASIK procedure. This examination is tantamount to a visit to your optometrist. If you are not eligible, they will not charge you anything and send you along on your merry. If you DO qualify though, they would charge $150 as a deposit toward a procedure. Again, depending on the facility you choose, the cost may be different, but I am pretty sure no business will do all that work without receiving some end benefit. You can use your vision insurance to cover the exam, if you have it, but if not, that is what the cost would be. So my suggestion is to know whether or not you want to do the procedure beforehand. Be prepared! I chose this particular center for a few reasons:

1) The doctor of the practice has been doing this kind of work for umpteen years and is a leader in his field.
2) This practice exclusively does LASIK (and similar types) of procedures. They do this ALL DAY LONG — they’ve gotta be doing something right.
3) They’ve been in business for a long time too, with really good results.
4) Testimonials: the proof is in the pudding — it was really helpful to hear from people their experience of the place.

For me, the cost of the procedure in total is $4000. Since I don’t have any vision insurance or any supplemental credit coverage for this, I’m paying it out of pocket. Manhattan Lasik is really flexible with payments and how to get that done, thankfully. The good thing about the cost is that pre-op and post-op visits are included in the cost for up to 1 year. This means, you’ve gotta buckle down with your budget. I pulled back on all my expenses to pay this guy cash — it IS possible to finance this thing without credit (I’m a stickler for that these days — NO CREDIT!!).

I had my consultation in January and was told at that time I would qualify for the iLasik procedure. They review the costs, the actual procedure and answer any of the questions you have. It is very thorough. I was originally scheduled to have the procedure in early March, but my funds didn’t want to agree with that plan, so I held off until the beginning of April instead to have the 50% upfront payment complete.

There’s a little prep involved here before the procedure:
— no makeup on the date of the procedure
— cannot wear contacts for 3 days prior to the procedure
— arrange for a pickup home (person or car service)… this was a fun little detail for me.

So now for the actual procedure process:

They asked if I could do the procedure on Thurs after work instead of on Friday morning, which I said was fine. This would prove to be a complication I didn’t foresee. I told my mom, who was going to pick me up on Friday originally, and said, its no problem, I’ll just take a cab home. Hmm… we’ll come back to that.

When I went back in, they did some more tests on the eyes to determine the calculations the laser machine will need in order to make the corrections. At this time, it determines if your prescription has changed (which it shouldn’t have) if it has been a while since the first round of tests. Thereafter, the doc met with me and reviewed my information, confirms that you are who you should be (this is good, because there were TWO Christines getting the procedure done at the same time!). He reviewed what would take place with me in detail. For the iLasik procedure, there are 2 different lasers that do the work. The 1st laser is where the flap is made in the first layer of the eye; the 2nd is the laser that actually performs the correction. (I’ll describe this one shortly.) After he answered my questions, he gave me a 1/2 tab of valium to calm my nerves — I better be nervous, they’re about to mess with my EYES! That hit me after about 15 minutes or so, and all I can say is “the power of valium”…. I understand why people get hooked.

ANYWAY, there’s paperwork you have to sign as well, stating that you understand the limitations of the procedure, that 20/20 vision is NOT guaranteed (and it isn’t), that complications may arise as a result of the procedure, as well as some other legalese. They have to state this stuff because people walk into these procedures thinking that it is a miracle cure, and in some instances it is. But like with any operation, things can happen.

They also review the post-op necessities in the form of drops. I have 2 bottles of drops to use. The first one comes in the lil kit they give you, a pink bottle which is a steroid to reduce inflammation — this has to be taken every 1/2 hr until your post-op appt the next day (after you’ve slept for at least 6 hrs). The 2nd one is by prescription, so my regular insurance covered this w/ a copay: this one is an antibiotic to be taken 4 times a day in each eye for the next 6 days. The pink one ends up on this schedule as well, but you cannot take both drops at the same time.

More post-op stuff:
— no working or weights out for 1 week (sweat in the eye is a no-no)
— no eye makeup for 1 week
— no head washing for a few days (no water in the eyes)
… and other stuff. I can live with that.

I was taken into the first room with the 1st laser. The room is ICE COLD, so they cover you with a blanket once you’re laid out on the reclined seat. The assistant gave me a little stuffed animal to hold onto — it’s so adorable. 🙂 She applied some numbing drops to both eyes, then the doc came in to do the 1st part. This involves placing a ring over the eye to expose it enough for the flap to be made. There is a bit of pressure against the eye socket while this happens; it doesn’t hurt though. Once the first flap is made, my eye is closed and covered. Then the same thing happens to the other eye. You’re basically doing a lot of “follow the light”, so you have to remain calm and focus. I just blanked my mind and focused on the light, block out everything. The action of this took approximately 1 minute (they say 30 seconds, but my blankout mechanism was to count). The 1st cover is removed and then your eyes are open and exposed. I had to move from one room to the next; the assistant guided me by hand to the next room. You really can’t see anything — not BLIND and total darkness, but everything is out of focus; it looked like a splash of paint on your eye basically, grainy looking. Once in the next room with the 2nd machine, I laid down again and one eye was covered again to protect it. More numbing drops were applied.

The doc held the eyelids open with tape and a hard placard and positioned me. Here is where it was important to stay still. The doctor has full control of the machine and could stop it at any time. Beforehand I told him I was sick and was sneezing earlier; he just told me to tell him “sneeze” and he would shut off the machine. This action also was about 1 minute long for the laser to do the correction. There’s a green light and a red light that you have to follow. This machine is really loud too, almost as loud as an MRI machine. This part of it you feel ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. The machine smells a bit though, a sharp smell that is just the machine working. Once done, he smooths over the flap on the eye and gives it a minute to relax before covering it again to do the other eye.

Amazingly enough, once done, you can sort of see. It’s all very very blurry and the eyes are very light sensitive. I opened my eyes in slivers for the most part to get around. They took me outside, gave me some Tylenol and I sat and waited for 15 minutes. And that’s the procedure in a nutshell!

The saga doesn’t end there though. So the office arranged for a car service to pick me up, but I asked them what kind of payment do they accept since I didn’t have time to stop by the ATM; they said they weren’t sure. So, when it came down to the time for the guy to get me, of course he didn’t accept cards, so I would have had to take a cab. However, there was a small problem in that I couldn’t SEE. The lights of the cars in the evening nearly drove me insane — it was simply too bright. So I ended up calling my mom to come pick me up. I didn’t even trust myself to cross the street, it was simply so sensitive. Even with sunglasses to kill the glare, the light was very powerful. So, moral of that issue: have someone actually GET you. Don’t rely on a cab to help out.

I made it to my mom’s house (it was the safest option for me), took some Theraflu and konked out for 8 hours. I have to wear protective shields over my eyes for the next week so that I don’t scratch my eyes in any way shape or form. The next morning, I woke up and could basically see! I needed my sunglasses (and will need them to protect my eyes from the light rays for the foreseeable future), but I could SEE.

The post-op visit later that morning worked out well. Got in, they saw me, talked to some people… they were surprised I was healing so well and that I was seeing as well as I was. I think I turned out to be the ideal result of this procedure! We will see as time goes on how well my eyes clear up — even today I still have some occasional blurriness, but the fact that I’m up and about, writing, reading a bit… means its good! I’m not going to test my eyes on movies just yet — in fact, I tried to play Final Fantasy XIII today and found that I couldn’t. The motion was a little too much for me to handle, so I’m going to hold off on that for a little bit. But overall, I have nothing but wonderful things to say about this procedure.

It has literally changed everything.