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