Around 100,000 people have laser eye surgery each year. Since this number is growing, and I haven't personally heard any horror stories, I have to guess that it's highly successful for most. I also have to guess that I am one of the unlucky few for whom it just doesn't stick.
Let me start at the beginning.
I have worn corrective lenses (eyeglasses and contact lenses) since I was in the 7th grade. Back in 2010 I decided to go in and get the free screening done at Lasik MD in North York. I went through all the various eye exams and was told that due to my age and level of eye health, I was the 'perfect candidate' for laser eye surgery. I'm relatively sure that somewhere between 95-99% of the people who come in for the free screening are told the same thing.
During the last exam, which is the one we're all familiar with and consists of reading letters off of a chart, I informed the tech that my prescription changes with each visit to the optometrist. He told me that was "impossible" - his exact words. He went on to elaborate that factors such as eye strain, tiredness, headaches and any number of normal day-to-day things could be the cause of my apparent prescription fluctuations. I still wasn't convinced, mostly because I was petrified something would go wrong and I'd go blind after surgery, but my husband thought it was something I should do, so I guess that was settled.
So we went in, signed the papers and paid $4000 for Zyoptics, Lasik's upgraded surgery (at the time) with lifetime enhancement. The whole 'lifetime enhancement' should have raised a red flag, but I guess hindsight is 20/20.
My first surgery went well. Dr. Bashour assuaged my fears about blindness and the procedure was over quickly. I walked into the office with 20/100 vision and walked out with 20/10. It was a fantastic feeling to see so well. I couldn't even remember the last time I was able to see so clearly without my glasses or contacts. In hindsight, I wish that I knew then that even the possibility that this vision would fade in just a few short years because that would definitely have had an impact on my decision of whether to undergo the surgery or not.
After my eyes healed and the time dedicated to medicated drops and weekly eye exams was over, I started to notice issues with my eyes that I did not have before. The worst I think is my sensitivity to light. I've always been a little sensitive, I've read it has something to do with light eyes, they let in more light than dark, but the last four years have been particularly terrible. I cannot go outside without sunglasses. If I do forget them I can barely open my eyes when its sunny. For the first year after my 2010 surgery I actually had to wear sunglasses when I drove at night. Yes, you read that correctly. At night, the brightness of headlights of oncoming traffic could blind me. I am not exaggerating. I was actually temporarily blinded. Since I left my house at 4:45am to drive an hour to work in the dark, you can imagine I spent a whole lot of that trip using the force. I was also temporarily blinded by the glare of streetlights on wet pavement. Although it has subsided (I no longer have to wear the sunglasses) it is still blinding and seems to be something I'm going to have to get used to for the remainder of my life.
My eyes are dry, itchy, irritated and feel like they have sand or an eyelash in them about 75% of the time. It feels like that right now. Eyedrops help for about 5 seconds after I put them in. Then its back to rubbing, squinting, closing and excessive blinking. Until you have to deal with this every day of your life, you don't realize how painful and downright irritating it can be to have the feeling that something sharp is scratching your eyes almost all of the time. I have floaties and eye boogies on a regular basis. I know those are highly technical medical terms, but that's just how I roll. I'm sure this has something to do with the near-constant irritation. It's really embarrassing sometimes when you're having a conversation with someone and you can see the floatie cross your vision. Do they see it too? You just have to deal with it because you can't start rubbing your eye in the middle of a conversation - and it doesn't help anyway. You can't seem to get rid of them until they randomly decide to go away on their own. As for the eye boogies, it's always awesome when you look at yourself in the mirror after an important meeting or job interview and there they are - making it look like you couldn't be bothered to wash your face that morning.
So maybe you're reading this and still thinking, okay, small price to pay for 20/10 vision. Well, here's the kicker: it didn't last. Not for me, at least. Within a year my vision was already worsening and at the two year mark I was already way overdue for corrective lenses. Thanks to the constant dryness, contact lenses are no longer an option. If I can even get them into my eyes (sometimes it felt like I was putting shards of glass in, even if it was a fresh lense straight out of the package), I could only wear them for about an hour or two. No matter how much solution I squirted into my eyes, the dryness and pain was too much and I had to remove them. I couldn't even think about wearing them two days in a row. The pain was intense, no matter how well I cleaned & sanitized them or how long I soaked them.
So in 2012 I went in for a second enhancement. Since the flap that they cut never heals, all they do is peel it back, laser off a little more from the surface of your eye, slide the flap back and Bob's your uncle. After a few follow up exams I was told that I had 0.03mm of scar tissue (cell growth), but that was minimal and nothing to worry about. I had 20/10 vision again.
Fast forward to 2014 and my vision is blurry again. I go in for my eye exam (which cost me $200 now that it has been five years since my original surgery has passed - not sure how that math works) and they inform me that since I'm 40 now getting another enhancement could trigger near-sightedness. That highly technical term pretty much means that I could be trading regular glasses for reading glasses, which I do not currently require. Their solution was to enhance only my right, dominant eye, and force my left to work harder to compensate. They gave me contacts (which were useless thanks to the discomfort and pain) and set my surgery for a month hence.
The day of my third surgery I decided not to get the sedative, which was a bad mistake. Although I had already done this twice before and knew what to expect, when its actually happening and you're fully aware, well let me tell you that your blood pressure skyrockets. So my advice - take the sedative.
After waiting for about two hours, I was brought into the surgery. Up until this point I had been told by every single person I came in contact with at Lasik MD that scar tissue was nothing to be concerned about. I sit down for Dr. Bashour to have a last look at my eye before he lasers it and he proceeds to scare the living shit out of me. My husband's theory is that he did this so that I'd think twice before I came back for more 'free' surgery. Anyhow, he looks at me and starts to tell me how dangerous any cell regrowth is and that with each subsequent enhancement the chances of me getting more goes up and it becomes more serious. He tells me that some people have to come back and have it scraped off multiple times or have their flap sewn shut to prevent future growth.
After looking at my eyes, he tells me that mine is minimal and I have good genes. As soon as I lay on the table I regretted not taking the sedative. I think that my anxiety was worse because I knew what was going to happen and was fully aware of him pulling back the flap, feeling the heat of the laser and the smell of burning flesh. I don't really know what burning flesh smells like, but there was a very distinct, unpleasant odor that I can only assume that was what burning eyeball smells like. I am thankful that it was over in mere minutes.
I remained there, getting my eyedrops put in and getting checked on for the next 45 minutes. I was a little surprised when they called me about an hour after I left to see how I was doing, considering they hadn't done that before. The receptionist who called told me that with each subsequent enhancement the pain is worse, so that's why the doctor wanted her to call to check in with me. She wasn't lying about the pain, either. By the time she called, I was sitting outside the Shopper's Drug Mart as they made me wait a half hour for four bottles of eyedrops, and my right eye was on fire. That pain lasted for a few days, but I didn't get the migraines that lasted for a week, which I did get with my first two surgeries. I only had one really bad one - when I tried to go to work two days after enhancement. After a few days there was no more pain and no more migraines.
The day after my surgery, I went to my post-op checkup and was told yet again what a minor issue scar tissue was and that it was nothing to be concerned about. Interesting.
The next three post-ops I asked about the scar tissue. I had some new cell growth (she did not tell me how much) and each time reminded me how it was definitely nothing to worry about.
In the time since, my vision has improved (20/20 when using both to look at the chart) and my eyes don't burn, but since they only did the one eye, I do have some issues with focus. I think it's my left eye wanting to do what it always does and my right taunting it to give up and get with the program.
Hindsight is 20/20 (pun intended) and had I known then that all of this was a possibility, I would not have undergone the enhancement. Yes, I can see without glasses or contacts, although I do have a brand spankin' new prescription for glasses so that I can see well enough to drive at night. With everything that I have gone through, with everything I will have to deal with for the rest of my life and knowing that I'll most likely be wearing glasses again in four years, it just doesn't seem like a fair trade-off.
Why did I write this post?
It wasn't to deter people from having their own vision enhanced by way of laser surgery. I wanted to get my own story out, so that you can know what I didn't when I was making my decision. When someone has more facts, it's never a bad thing.
I also wanted to let you know that sometimes, not everyone is the 'perfect candidate'.
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