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PRK Eyeball Surgery Update: From Sobbing at the Pharmacy to New and Improved Vision

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

I've dreamt of getting LASIK eye surgery ever since I can remember. My dad had it done and was literally golfing the next day - so I expected this miracle experience where I would wake up with perfect vision the next day.

I've worn glasses since I was in the 2nd grade (ish?) and have grown into increasingly worse vision as I got older. Whenever I brought up LASIK to my optometrist, they would tell me my vision had to be stable for two years before I could even think about it, and that I had to wait till I was a little older anyway. Not once did they tell me there was a chance I wouldn't be a candidate for LASIK based on how bad my prescription was getting.

So this year, when it finally came time to make the LASIK consultation appointment, you can imagine how crushed I was when the doctor plainly told me, "You're not a candidate for LASIK. Your vision is too bad, and your cornea is too thin." I almost started crying right there in the office (in fact, I think I did). After asking if there were any other options, I was told to check out Durrie Vision in Overland Park. If anyone was going to have an answer for me, it was them.

I went straight home, booked the consult, and was in OP the following Tuesday for my exam. Getting to the good part - they told me PRK (Photorefractive Keratectomy) was the best option for me. I've heard that this is the surgery they do on Navy pilots and I'm pretty sure I saw one of the Chiefs players going in as I came out of my surgery - so that, plus a lot of internet research on my end, made me confident I was in good hands.

For those of you wondering about the financial breakdown - I financed my surgery through one of their partners for 0% APR over 24 months. I do believe the cost is different depending on your prescription, but my surgery came out to be just under $5k - I also got in while they had a deal going, so there was a discount per eye. Considering I paid $800 every 6 months for contacts, this felt like a worthwhile investment for SO many reasons.

Pre-surgery, I prepped by taking out my contacts about a week prior to let my eyes get back to their most neutral zone. I didn't wear makeup or use face lotions the days leading up as to not have any foreign stuff around my eyes for the surgery. And I loaded up on vitamins like fish and krill oil, some special Ocular Defense just for my eyes, and started a regimen of prescription eye drops two days before surgery.

Day 0 - Surgery Day - Friday

I was a nervous wreck. Jesse drove me into Overland Park and we got to our hotel a little bit early - to which the downtime did not serve me well. He kept me distracted before we headed into the office. I had done as much research as I could without fully freaking myself out, I had all the stuff they told me to get, I had my emotional support teddy bear, and I was as ready as could be.

We got to the office, and a woman named Cyrstal took another round of photos of my cornea (25 pix of each eye...a full photoshoot!) to make sure nothing had changed, she went over the consent forms with me, asked me if I wanted the valium for nerves (yes plz), and took my payment.

Then it was time to go back to the pre/post-op room. I took Jesse back there with me also for emotional support and an extra pair of ears for the instructions in case my anxiety brain didn't want to register anything. Tammy was my pre/post-op eye-nurse and she was super cool. She administered a series of drops that were a combination of numbing, antibiotics, and some other stuff I don't remember, but she definitely told me. Another doc came in to do the official pre-op prescription with the Anakin-Skywalker-goggle-things and took another photo of the surface of my eye. And finally, the surgeon came in to explain the whole process to me. It was all like clockwork.

As soon as he was done explaining the surgery process, Tammy came in for another round of drops and said, "you ready?" and I was like.....okay..!

(skip this part if you don't want the details of the surgery, but I don't think they're really that bad)

Literally, it will probably take me longer to type this than it actually took them to perform the surgery.

The Surgery

I went down the hall to a room where I laid down on a table under the big rig. From what I remember (again, it all went so fast..!) They taped my left eye shut and then they taped my eyelashes up on the right eye while they put the speculum on - which was the hardest part probably. The speculum is to keep my eye open - google it if you want nightmares.

Then they did what seemed like… a little cylinder sitting on top of my eye and dropped medicine in to sit on top of my cornea for 30 seconds, then used a little tiny brush to brush off my top eyeball layer cells. That was also v weird but I couldn’t feel it because of the numbing drops. The doc talked me through each step and was like “ok this is gonna take 30 seconds. Ok, this is going to be 8 seconds. Ok, now here we go” And then it was time...

I stared at this green dot, which was a pretty big spot of dots, and I could tell it came down and got closer, *pulse pulse pulse* Smelled a lil' funny. And then when it moved away from my face - it was clear. But then they put some medicine on that eye again, rinsed it fully, and then put the bandaid contact on it so fast and taped it up. And then they did the left eye.

The left eye was a little tougher but I still did a good job. Then Tammy was like “ok we’re moving the bed back, you can sit up” and I was like “oh my god I can see you. Can I cry!???” And she said, "yes that won’t hurt anything and probably means we did our job correctly," and I was like cool 🥹😭

✨the end✨

We did a post-op consult, I cried some more out of happiness, and Jesse and I headed back to the hotel where I promptly fell asleep until it was time for dinner.

Day 1 Post-Op - Saturday

We went back to Durrie Vision for the first post-op appointment to make sure I was healing alright. It was a super quick appointment where they checked to make sure the bandaid contact was still in place, and actually said they could see the epithelium (eyeball skin cells) starting to grow back already. I measured at 20/40 vision which is legal driving distance. And my eyes were pretty dry - artificial tears at the ready, and super sensitive to light.

But they warned me that the pain would likely be the worst on this day and that I had a stronger prescription waiting for me at my pharmacy.

Jesse drove me back to Wichita and again, I slept for a while that afternoon. When I woke up, I was in pretty bad pain. If you are a contact wearer, it was like when you put in your contact inside-out, or it's super dirty - but like... you can't do anything about it and also x10. It didn't take me long to decide I needed to go get the Vicodin so Jesse drove me to the pharmacy where a whole other layer of chaos ensued.

We had called to see if it was ready, and they said no, your insurance doesn't cover it. I said that's fine, I still want it. We called back in 30 minutes, and they said, oh we don't have the full dose, only the half dose. I said that's fine, I still want it. They said they can't give me the half dose without a call from my doctor. I called the doctor, doctor called them, turns out they couldn't accept a call and needed a fax. At this point, we were at the pharmacy and had been doing this tango for 2.5 hours. I was sobbing in the walmart pharmacy waiting area from the pain and the pharmacist's hands being tied.

We finally got the Vicodin, I took it in the car on the way home, and again, fell right asleep and was out of pain pretty much for the rest of the process. If we hadn't had the pharmacy snafu and I was able to get my prescription in an appropriate time frame, the pain would not be a significant issue in the storyline and this should not be a normal patient's experience. Yes, painful. No, shouldn't have affected me that long if I had the medicine at the proper time.

I expected this day to be the worst from what I'd read online, but as soon as I had the meds, I really slept the entire night and day other than getting up to pee, do my eye drops, and eat.

Day 2 Post-Op - Sunday

I slept. The entire day. It was wonderful and I slept so hard and had really cool dreams. Also when you sleep/nap, they give you these goofy eye-shields to tape on to keep your eyes from getting bonked or you scratching them in your sleep. I used those, but I also have an eye mask from my days of having eyelash extensions that I endearingly call "bra-ggles" because it looks like a little bra on your face. So I wore that to keep everything in place and safe while I was snoozing.

Day 3 Post-Op - Monday

I was still waking up to some more puffy eyes and significant light sensitivity. I was told I was allowed to look at screens, so I alternated between shows and podcasts but still kept my eyes closed most of the day. My vision was starting to be more blurry, but not near my original prescription. I kept my blinds fully drawn, and it still felt too bright, so I was waddling around my place with sunglasses on and squinting through tasks to try to let as little light in as possible. Still using medicated drops and artificial drops.

Day 4 Post-Op - Tuesday

This was the day we went back to Durrie Vision to get that contact removed. Eyes were still sensitive to light and dry - normal from what I'd read.

Having the doctor take the contact out was weird but he was so smooth - almost like he does this for a living :P And they added a new step into my eye-care routine - a little goop that I was to put on the inside of my eyelids at night to help shield them while I'm sleeping and keep them moist. I guess eyes get extra dry at night and this is a little guard for that.

They just said to taper off the drops, gave me a full chart to help keep track of my drop schedule and how to taper each of them off over the course of the next month, and then sent me home! I'll come back for a final post-op check-in at the end of February.

I ended up speaking on a panel that night in Wichita where I still couldn't really wear makeup and was very sensitive to light - so I pulled out a boujee outfit and leaned on Jesse and my friend, Andy, for rides and took my time getting up the steps to the stage, but other than that - felt normal.

By the end of this day, the double vision set in and got pretty bad.

Day 5 Post-Op - Wednesday

I woke up to significant double vision and was pretty bummed. I had to remind myself several times throughout this process - it hasn't even been a week since I had full-on EYE SURGERY and here I am being impatient with a little double vision.

Here's my theory - as the epithelium grows back from the outside, it comes and meets at the middle and forms a "ridge" (that I can't see). Then they take that bandaid contact off and it's now my eyelid's job to polish the ridge down and buff up this new layer of skin. But that ridge is right in the way of my focal point... so I THINK my focus is trying to see around the ridge and causing monocular double vision in both my eyes. Still not fun.

Wednesday, I had NOTHING to do and was sick of just sitting. I started to go a little stir crazy and wanted to get back to work.

Day 6 Post-Op - Thursday

I started to integrate back into my computer screens - squinted through some emails and popped on a few zooms. Keeping up my drops, still double visioned, trying to be patient.

Day 7 Post-Op - Friday

All the same as the day before - dry, double vision. I did drive today for the first time. Definitely not comfortable driving at night, and my eyes were very fatigued from all the light intake.

this is about how I USED to see

Continuing on...

I'm finishing up this blog a whopping 10 days from surgery and I technically can see my screen. I'm a few inches from it, leaning in and squinting because the double vision is still very significant and causes some strain.

It's Monday, and I really have to get back into the groove for all of my work endeavors which all include reading emails, copy, digital design, and supporting clients on the computer.

I am confident that the double vision will go away, and continue to remind myself that it's a long healing process and everyone's journey is different.

I was very aware going into this surgery that there was going to be a long road ahead of going forward and backward with vision before I got to that 20/20 spot without correction - and I'm still looking forward to it.

Everyone who's told me they had their surgery said it was the best decision of their life. I believe I'll be able to say that once I can see ONE of everything and not TWO.

But that's the whole process and experience so far! Other than my pharmacy event, the pain and discomfort have not been bad at all, and although I was sensitive to light for about a week, it's not horrible anymore. In some ways, I think I progressed a lot quicker than I expected, and then the double vision throws me for a loop and keeps me on my toes.

From here on out - continuing my drops, taking my vitamins, wearing my granny sunglasses outdoors, and crossing my fingers that one of these mornings, I'll wake up with that miracle moment and finally be able to see.

EDIT** 3/31/2023

I'm adding this edit a bit late... Truthfully my eyes have been great for a while now and I've stopped thinking about them so I forgot to add my progress.

I had double vision for what felt like forever, and then it just sort of...stopped. It faded away without much of a fuss. I was doing the eye drops a ton every day (more lubricated is better) and not wearing makeup almost at all because I didn't want to rub my eyes at night, and then I finally had an event on a weekend (February 18th, to be exact - almost exactly 1 month after surgery) that I had to have a full face of makeup all day, and ideally not mess that up with eye drops.

I still used my drops here and there but found that I really didn't crave them as much as I thought. I think that was the turning point for me.

It's only gone up from there. I have a little bottle of eye drops I keep in my purse for the days when the air is super dry. I still wear my big boujee sunglasses outside always. And every so often, I stop and look and think WOW... I can SEE. It's pretty incredible.

PS. I'm always happy to chat about the experience with you! Send me a DM on Instagram if you've stumbled across my blog and want to talk to a real human more about what it's like.


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