For those of you who wanted to know how my LASIK experience went, I will summarize it here.
To get the process started, I visited my normal eye doctor. In the past, my vision had changed regularly and rapidly and I knew I wasn’t a candidate while that was going on. So I went for my annual check up to see if my vision was stable and it was – I waited until it had been stable with no changes for 4 consecutive years because of my history, but that might not be the case for you :) Just to give you a rough idea of where I was, I couldn’t see the bedside clock unless it was about 6 inches from my nose. Without contacts, I couldn’t read a book or make out faces across the room.
With the all-clear from my eye doctor, I made an appointment with Dr. Valazquez in Birmingham. He had operated on my dad’s eyes with a similar procedure and he was very careful to work with my dad until it was perfect. That was a huge deciding factor for me. If I am gonna have something like this done, I want a perfectionist to do it and Dr. V is just that!
I had been talking this over with my family and my dad was really excited for me to go to his Doctor. He couldn’t say enough nice things about the whole experience. As an added bonus, my sister was ready for LASIK, too, so we headed into the process together. :) April 27th, we went for our initial consultation. My eye doctor had cautioned that one of my eyes was at the limit of eligibility – meaning that some doctors might not be willing to do LASIK on me because I was cutting it so close. I went into my initial consultation SO nervous that Dr. V would turn me away.
For the first appt, they do all the normal vision screening tests: you read an eye chart, they shine this bright black and white patterned thing in your eye to get a topographical map of your cornea, they numb your eyes and measure your corneal pressure (fun stuff) – but they do NOT puff the air in your eye so that was a bonus :) (I always hate that step even though it is absolutely no big deal!!) So, after all the tests are run, the doctor comes in to talk about your results. This was the moment I was most nervous about, but he said I was an EXCELLENT candidate and that there was a lot they could do to improve my terrible vision. I almost cried, but I composed myself :) After they confirm all this, they made sure I had a current eyeglass prescription, they made our appt for the procedure and sent us on our way with various prescriptions. Fun little side note: after all the testing I didn’t have my contacts or glasses handy so I had no idea what Dr. V even looked like haha!
After we were done, Kim and I compared notes. We talked about how we couldn’t feel our eyelids due to the numbing drops. I laughed and asked, “What did you think about having your eye poked?” She said they didn’t do that to her… I said “I’m pretty sure they did, why else would they have numbed you?” She informed me that they only numbed her eye to measure her cornea… Which, by the way, they measure your cornea by gently pressing it to see how much pressure is there. You honestly don’t even feel it!! So the big joke was that you can poke Kim in the eye and she won’t know it ;) (love you, Kim!)
Two weeks before the procedure, I was told to stop wearing my contacts and wear my glasses exclusively. I had had such trouble with contacts drying out and becoming painful that I opted to switch to glasses a few days earlier than prescribed. I made it through the Ice Cream Olympics and Mother’s Day before switching over to glasses on May 14th. My sister chose to wear hers a full 3 weeks instead of two.
Two days before the procedure, I had to stop wearing eye make up and had to wash around my eyes with Ivory soap. (You can also use baby shampoo or OcuSoft wipes) I also opted to skip face make up because, honestly, if I’m not wearing mascara why bother. As it turns out, no one even said anything about it so I might not wear make up for a while ;)
The day before the surgery (May 31st) it was time to start using my first prescription: Vigamox eye drops. They kill the bacteria in the eyes so the first time, they burn a little, but with each use it stings less and less. My dad and sister came to pick me up. My dad was our designated driver for this whole process while my mom pitched in and kept Wesley. We headed for our pre-op appt where we really got to see the awesome staff in action. I have to mention one thing, too, my dad had to have several procedures done with this group. Nothing went “wrong” they were just being cautious with his vision and took their time getting it right. (Remember, I said Dr. V is a perfectionist) As such, they really got to know my dad so every time we called they all just raved about Mr. Phillips and couldn’t wait to meet his daughters (yes, they actually said that!) So, when we arrive with Daddy, it’s like he’s a little celebrity there! They took us back to a hallway where he could relax on a couch while they swapped between Kim and I for each step of the pre-op checklist.
First, we had another topographical map of our cornea by staring at the black and white disco lights. The sweet girl who operated that machine said, “Ok, now I’m gonna take you to Wonderland.” And that’s what it was like :) Then, I relaxed on the couch with Daddy while Kim was in another room. When she came out of that room, it was determined that her pupils were too small for that test (much teasing ensued!) I went into a dark room where I sat with my eyes closed until my pupils got big – much bigger than Kim’s the tech excitedly told me :D (now I had more ammo to tease her with) While she worked, Jen just went on about how sweet it was that Kim and I were doing this together. She said she was probably gonna smile about that for the rest of the day. I reminded her that it is surgery we’re talking about doing together here and not a trip to the beach. In that room, I had to stare at a little red blinking light and was told to “daydream beyond the light.” All the while, Jen, the sweet tech in the dark room, told me what a great job I was doing. I never knew I was so good at staring at a red light ;) After that, I came out to rest on the couch again – Kim was off having her pupils dilated… or at least they were TRYING to make her tiny pupils dilate ;) Meanwhile, Denise came and chatted with us to see if I had any questions. She was a lot of fun, too, and confessed that I was born the year she graduated! Since I didn’t have any questions, I was ushered to another room.
As I walked into this new room, I spotted an ornate cross on the wall. I asked, “Is someone on this staff a Christian or is that just a pretty decoration.” The girl who was with me looked at it and replied, “I think we all are here.” That got two thumbs up from me. This sweet girl (my dad knows them all by name, but without my glasses on, I couldn’t read any name tags… I *think* her name is Rachel) put in some numbing drops (BRIGHT YELLOW DROPS) and measured my corneal pressure. When she was done I asked, “Did you just touch my eye?” She very coyly said, “Maybe.” Haha Needless to say, I had to go out and ask Kim if she was aware that she got poked in the eye again! This time, she did know it had happened ;) After that step, they dilated my eye with drops and left me sitting in the dark while that took place. It was kinda nice and I probably could have gone to sleep… A few minutes later, another sweet tech came to check my progress and was pleasantly surprised. My pupils were so big she couldn’t see any of my iris and joked that she had no idea what color my eyes might be! I was told again that my pupils were much bigger than my sister’s… I started to wonder if I should be proud :) So, she measured and looked around and then we waited for Dr. Valazquez to come look around. I *think* he looked at my retina… He was using a little scope with a bright light reflected off a small mirror. I actually grimaced a little because it was so bright. He apologized and turned it down for me (sweet, right?)
There are two types of LASIK procedures: Conventional and Custom. He declared I was a candidate for Custom LASIK. It’s a little more expensive, but given my terrible vision and some other factors, this would be the best way to go. He also said for me (not necessarily for everyone) that going custom would cut down on my chance of seeing flares or halos when driving at night. When Kim came out, she was all set for Conventional LASIK because her vision was way better than mine to start with (lucky her, but at least I don’t have freakishly tiny pupils hehe) The joke became that I have Special Eyes and that’s why I would be getting the Custom treatment ;)
After all the poking, prodding and dilating, our eyes were a little sore and worn out. We had dinner, did a little shopping and then went to the hotel to rest or at least to TRY to rest. I’ll just be honest, I didn’t get much sleep Thursday night.
Friday morning, I woke up at 2… and at 4… and by 5 was just laying there waiting for time to pass. Finally at 5:30 I couldn’t stand it a moment longer so I got up and got ready. I wasn’t alone in this. Kim had already gotten up and washed her face and laid out her clothes, too. Speaking of clothes, when discussing what we would wear for the big day (because obviously this is something sisters would plan together) Kim had planned to wear yoga pants. I thought that was a good idea, but I don’t own any so I had plain comfy shorts all laid out. Well, my sweet sister brought an extra pair of yoga pants for me to wear. Isn’t that the nicest thing ever? So we matched as we headed down for the hotel breakfast :) I thought I’d be too nervous to eat much, but that was just stilly- It is ME we're talking about here. I ate 2 bagels with a cup of coffee :) Then, we brushed our teeth really well out of consideration for all the lovely people who would be up close and personal with us all morning haha
On the way there, I was getting nervous but I focused on the fact that EVERYONE I’ve talked to said it was the best decision they ever made and that it didn’t hurt. I kept taking deep, calming breaths. My stomach was in knots while we signed in and waited. We were so excited we got there like 30 minutes early! All along, my phone was chiming with friends sending prayers and encouragement and posting on my facebook to cheer me on and to lift Kim and me up to God. At about 7:45, it was time for us to whip out the 2nd prescription: Valium. They give you a prescription for this and you take it 30 minutes before your procedure to keep you calm.
As each doctor and tech arrived they all greeted us cheerfully and asked if we were excited! I think we were the first appts of the day so we weren’t waiting long. They called us both back and almost immediately my nerves started to fade away. The entire staff is just so sweet and fun to be around that I couldn’t stay nervous! (I'm not even kidding) They even let us all 3 (me, Kim and Dad) be in the same room together. The staff photographer came in and asked if we would sign a release so she could photograph us together and during the procedure because they all just loved the story of how all 3 of us are seeing Dr. V and how 2 sisters were doing the procedure together. *sniff sniff* kinda makes us sound all sweet or something. She said we might even be featured on their website – stay tuned for that link ;)
Without further ado, it was time to get the ball rolling. I opted (demanded) to go first because I’m too much of a sissy to sit through Kim’s procedure knowing I’m next. So, first Jen (from the dark room) smeared betadine all over my eyelids and eyebrow area. If you’ve had children, you’re familiar with this lovely yellow-brown stuff. My eyes looked like Oompa Loompa skin! She let that sit there for a minute, then she wiped it off with something else. Then, she put on my very attractive hair net and placed napkins over my ears to keep all the drops from running down into my ears. Then it was time!
I walked into the room with a handful of helpers. Kim’s valium had already kicked in and made her a little unsteady on her feet, but I was not “feeling it” as much. At first I was nervous thinking I didn’t take enough Valium, but then I stopped and thought about it and realized I was just calm – that could be attributed to the one Valium I did take or to all the prayers that my friends and family were sending up! I laid on the table and sent up my own prayers thanking God for the opportunity, asking for a good result and for a smooth procedure.
Since my sister and I were in the same room up to this point and our charts had been together all through the morning, the staff in the LASIK room verified my name and birthday several times. Then, they handed me two cute little stuffed bunnies to hold onto so I could squeeze them and not my eyes ;) During my dad’s surgeries, he had been given two stuffed puppies which he had named Seymour and Clearly. I decided I needed to name the bunnies, but my brain was so scattered I couldn’t think of anything good. Then it was time for the drops. A steady stream of various drops were put in and the first one was to numb everything. Rachel, from Thursday, apologized that they weren't using the bright yellow drops because she knows I like those. (sweet) The numbing drops are like magic, too, because you really cannot feel a thing once those are in place! From this point on I’ll tell you what I *think* was going on since I couldn’t see or feel for sure :D
First, they got me all in position and tilted my head to the right or left. Dr. V had me look down and wiped the top of my eye with some sort of numbing swab, then I looked up and he wiped the bottom of my eye. It was so crazy because in my head I knew it should bother me to have someone touching and manipulating my EYE but it was not a problem in the least because I couldn't feel a thing. Then, they swiveled the table to the left and lined me up under a machine. The doctor put in two plastic rings to hold my eyes open. THIS was the part I had dreaded the absolute most: cutting the corneal flaps. I had been afraid that I would panic having my eyes held open against my will, but the plastic rings didn’t bother me in the least. In fact, with my vision blurred and my eyes numbed, I couldn’t tell if my eyes were open or closed most of the time. It was a little surreal. As they cut the flap, there was uncomfortable pressure on my eye sockets because they apply suction to keep your eyes from moving. I won’t sugar coat it, that part was NOT my favorite. I dug my thumb nails into my poor little bunnies and tensed up. But it was over in less than a minute on each eye and immediately I felt every muscle in my body relax again. At this point, my vision was more blurry than before.
Next, they put a patch over my left eye and focused on my right eye. I heard the doctor tell someone to recalibrate the laser. (I was later told that they could not do the custom procedure on one of my eyes because there wasn’t enough cornea after they cut the flap.) Then, several numbers were called out, “588 584 582…” and then they were ready. The doctor put his hands on top of my head and the machine was brought in over my eye. He told me to stare at the blinking red light and there was a bright white circle around it. Again, because my vision was SO blurry and my eyes were so numb I really couldn’t tell if my eyes were open or closed and half the time I felt like my eye was looking all over the place rather than straight ahead! I thought, “Come on Steph, get it together and stare at the red light!” The laser made a small popping noise several times, but I couldn’t feel anything whatsoever. The bunnies were just lose in my hands and I didn’t even tense up in the least. I could hear the photographer snapping pictures and thought I ought to smile to convey that I wasn’t scared, but I felt like I should be perfectly still. The whole time, Dr. V was sending out encouragement saying things like, “Ok, give me 60 seconds. Good. Great. Perfect, perfect, perfect. 30 seconds… 10 seconds. You’re done. Perfect!” He then put my flap back in place with a little tool and things came into better focus. There were, surprise, more eye drops and then I was told to slowly close and then open my eye. It looked good so they put an eye patch over the right eye and moved on to the left.
When Dr. V started to manipulate the flap on the left eye, I quickly let him know that I could feel it! He got me some more numbing drops and we were back in business. He lined me up under the machine and more numbers were called out, but these weren’t in the 500’s. Then, it was time for the laser to go again. This time he said it would be something like 30 seconds. It was much shorter and, again, completely painless. When it was over, he put my flap back into place and peeled off the tape that had held my eyelashes back (possibly the most painful part of the process) He said everything was done and was perfect. The bunnies did a victory dance and I meekly said, “Wooohooo!”
They asked if I was ready to go back to my dad and sister. Jen and another woman helped me up. I guess by then the Valium had kicked in because I could tell I was walking funny! I went back to the exam room and cheered Kim on as she was lead out to LASIK. I tried to tell her it wasn’t scary and didn’t hurt but I really can’t remember if I said anything out loud! Jen put more drops in my eyes and told me to keep them closed until Dr. V came to see me. That was fine because I was suddenly exhausted and wanted nothing more than to keep my eyes closed. Meanwhile, Daddy informed me that he had filmed the whole first eye on his iPhone. (I politely declined the chance to watch the video pointing out that Jen had told me to keep my eyes closed) He said my first eye had taken about 14 minutes from start to finish and my second had only taken about 6. I swear it felt like I was only back there in the room for 5 minutes total! In no time flat, Kim was brought back and given her eye drops. Then, Dr. V was looking over our eyes with the light and mirror device and sending us on our way. We both were seeing everything fairly clearly but with a white haze. We were told that the haze would fade away. Kim, right after surgery, had 20/25 vision. I had 20/40. I asked how long it would be before I caught up to her (because suddenly this is a race?) and the dr told me I should be at 20/20 by Sunday! I couldn’t even imagine that concept!
Kim and I groggily compared notes while Daddy drove us back to the hotel. This time she DID know they had poked her in the eye and I had to confess that only ONE of my eyes was special, not both ;) Kim said she heard them call out several numbers, too, but hers were all in the 200’s. I blamed this on her tiny pupils.
We got back to the hotel and I couldn’t resist looking at my eyes to see if they looked any different. I discovered a couple blood spots in each eye which sort of grossed me out so I stopped looking. (I’m told those will last a few weeks.) Then, it was time for our 3rd prescription: Ambien. We slept from 10 til about 12:45 in our Oh-So-Attractive Sleep Goggles. I had to turn off my phone because it kept chiming with all my friends and loved ones sending well wishes! Thank you, all for that! I could have slept more, but it was time for our hotel check out. If I offer up any tips, I will say this: Opt for 2 nights in the hotel so you can sleep longer :)
After packing up we used our 4th prescription: Pred Forte eye drops. We headed out and had IHOP for lunch (Stuffed French Toast!) Then, we went to the mall for a new watch band for my dad. I was feeling a little nauseated but it could be the Valium and Ambien plus the fact that I ate scrambled eggs with lunch… those make me a little queasy on a good day. So I wandered around like I was getting over sea legs. At 3:30, it was time for our follow up appt with Dr. V. He looked us over and gave us the all clear. He said we were both free to drive Saturday, but couldn’t drive on Friday due to the Valium. We bid fond farewells to all our news friends, snapped a few group photos and then headed home.
After a friend’s suggestion, we each took a 2nd Valium to avoid nausea on the ride home and it worked.
All of Friday, I had hazy vision and Kim had haze most of Friday. She was so ecstatic over how clearly she could see, but she kept her enthusiasm in check because my vision wasn’t quite as clear as hers yet. (Sweet, right?) I got home and excitedly told Brad everything I could before I died of hunger. By this point, it was about 8 pm. Oh, and my vision was still too blurry to do much, but I didn’t want to fall behind on my Daily Bible Reading… My sweet husband read to me while I ate my dinner (because he's an absolute keeper). Then, we relaxed on the couch – me with my eyes closed. I took my 2nd Ambien and put on my goggles before passing out at 10.
Saturday morning, I woke up and the first thing I wanted to do was look at the bedside clock. It sounds silly, I know, but it was the first thing I did! I could read it!! I stared at the 7 am for a minute before sitting up in bed and looking around the room. It was still hazy, but I could see everything! I read my own Bible Reading over breakfast and now, here I am typing this a little over 24 hours post-op. I still have haze, but it’s a lot better than yesterday. I have a slight headache but that’s nothing too terrible and I am looking forward to waking up on Sunday just to see what I can see by then!
As far as pain or discomfort, there isn't any. If I had to explain the way my eyes feel and what my vision is like I'd say this: When I would wear my 2-week disposable contacts for months past their expiration date they would dry out. So late at night I could feel them and my vision wasn't as crisp as it should be. That's about what it's like now.
I hope this helps let you know what to expect if you are considering LASIK. I cannot emphasize enough how highly I recommend Dr. Valazquez and his office. The staff there is so exceedingly amazing that I *know* they’re the reason I was not more stressed or afraid. I honestly feel like they love what they do and look forward to helping each patient see the best they can see. As Jen described it to Kim, she loves “LASIK Friday because it’s like a miracle and [she] gets to be a part of that.” I have to agree. It is like a miracle!