Two weeks ago, I underwent a corrective laser eye surgical procedure known as Zyoptix PRK. The procedure was to reduce my dependence on wearing glasses, which I’ve worn since second grade. I’ve been holding out on writing about my experience because I wanted to have some good news to write about. Oh, and because I haven’t been able to see the keyboard or screen well enough until now. Click here to read about my decision to have laser eye surgery.
What I can see since the surgery is quite a miracle. Colors, textures and anything with really large font, like the Exit sign that I could see immediately after surgery. And that’s amazing, considering my uncorrected vision was so poor. It’s what I can’t see that’s been scaring me. The surgery was in the neighborhood of $4,000, not covered by health insurance. For that price, I want to be able to see without glasses until my age dictates I’ll need reading glasses – which my surgeon suggested would be in a few years.
When I first started writing this article, a few sentences at a time, I had the zoom blown up to 500%. It was obnoxiously large, but its what I could see at the time. Now, 200% zoom at close distance, with reading glasses, is just fine. If this is as good as it gets, I’ll be disappointed for sure. But my doctor has assured me, repeatedly, that everything I’m experiencing is normal and that my vision will get better. Not overnight, but it will get better.
The procedure itself was painless and I barely experienced any discomfort. I was more uncomfortable when my doctor was explaining the steps of the procedure to me just before I went into surgery. OK, so there may have been a little incident where I almost passed out and the surgery had to be delayed for about 20 minutes while I recovered from the cold sweats, nausea, and nearly blacking out. But as soon as the feeling passed, I was ready to go! (This isn’t my first near-fainting experience when it comes to medical procedures. The mere act of having blood drawn has been known to cause this reaction. Needless to say, I’m not a frequent supporter of blood drives – I’m just too high maintenance of a donor for that).
When my vision allows me to resume writing regularly again, I’m planning to write a more detailed account of the experience. I’ve found it helpful to read other patients accounts of their experience and healing process and I’d like to do the same for others.
My left eye is trailing behind my right eye in visual acuity and healing. This can be maddening at times because the left eye is so blurry and much more uncomfortable – scratchy, a little red, itchy and generally just a bit more “hyper”. It took eight or nine days for my right eye to feel comfortable. If I focus too long, I get headaches above my eyes and in my forehead. I’m able to use my laptop for a short duration with very large font at very close range. Strong lighting is a must. I went out and bought several pairs of reading glasses with various magnification powers and I’ve been using +2.0 to sharpen my vision and to be able to read a bit. I started to be able to read for enjoyment for 10 or 15 minutes at a time around day 12 and that feels like more trouble than it’s worth. This has perhaps been the toughest part about recovering from this surgery because I’m an avid reader. By the end of the day, I can’t wait to close my eyes and sleep because of fatigue, eye pressure and pain. By morning, I’m seeing my best and have a few hours before things start to go downhill again.
It took me 12 days post-surgery to feel comfortable enough to drive again. I kept thinking that I’d get out and make a test run, but I kept putting it off because I didn’t have to drive and I didn’t feel I was ready. My friends and family have been incredibly helpful and supporting: bringing meals to my family (soup has been very popular), driving me to doctor appointments and taking me grocery shopping, lest I spend more than 3 or 4 days without a visit to Wegmans.
I’ll return to work on Monday after a 2-½ week absence. I only expected to be out a week, but my visual acuity and discomfort have dictated otherwise. I’m working up to being able to focus for more than short periods of time since my job requires using a PC almost 100% of the time.
Every day gets a little better: a little less uncomfortable, a little less pain, and just a little bit more visual clarity. With PRK, the recovery time is significantly greater than Lasik. It can take several months before the vision is completely stable and I can expect fluctuations during healing. I can’t drive at night and may need glasses for night driving, but it’s too early to be fitted for glasses because my vision is changing so rapidly. Needing a correction is not out of the question, but it’s not even an option for 2 to 3 months. It takes about 6 months for follow-up care to be complete.
Many times over the last two weeks I’ve questioned my decision to have this surgery. I miss the clear, sharp vision that my glasses provided and the quality of life I had before. Just last night, I had a breakthrough and some of the pain and discomfort subsided in the left eye and the clarity is a little better today. I’m holding off on casting final judgment until I’ve fully healed and until my vision stops changing. Wish me luck and don’t hesitate to send a prayer, blessing or positive thought my way. 🙂 And I’ll be sure to ket you know how my first visit to the spa is without glasses when I finally get there.