Sticking Up My Eyeball

I haven’t blogged in a while. That’s because, on Jan. 11th, I had touch-up laser eye surgery on my right eye—the distance eye. The eye that didn’t “take” when I originally had laser surgery on both eyes over a year ago. Today I had my third post-op follow-up appointment, however, so it’s time for a report. And then, unless I have something newsworthy to announce, I will take a break from blogging until my right eye can withstand the bright, 21-inch desktop screen. Right now I’m wearing my Panama hat to help shield the brightness. As I’m editing BORROWING ALEX for re-issue, I’m finding it much easier on my eye to work on my netbook and check email, etc. on my iPad.

Back to the surgery…

I went in January 11th expecting to have the SBK procedure, which is what I had last year. However, the optometrist had warned me that if my “flap” (created by LASIK and SBK) was resistant to lifting, I might have to have PRK (I’d link to articles explaining the differences in the surgeries, but I don’t want to spend more time here than necessary, and if you Google PRK versus SBK, or PRK versus LASIK, you’ll find them). (P.S. when my son had PRK, the cost for the LASIK and PRK were the same; when I had SBK, it was quite a bit more expensive. The idea is the benefits of achieving best vision quickly make up for the cost. However, when you experience a regression, like I did, in retrospect the extra money would have been better spent elsewhere).

The flap was resistant to lifting. This is something they don’t discover until you’re flat on the table with your head squished in a pliable pillow thingy, your eyeball frozen, a bit of drugs flowing through your veins, and the surgeon attempts to lift the flap with an “instrument.” I didn’t get a look at this “instrument,” and I didn’t want to. If it had looked anything like a scalpel, or even a crochet hook, I would have been all that much more nervous.

Despite the Atavan, and despite that I had experienced surgery in both eyes before, I was nervous. I like to think the surgeons have everything under control, but of course I never believe that until it’s over.

So my surgeon is digging around in my eye with the “instrument,” trying to lift my flap. I felt him try four places. I thought maybe the flap was lifting and he just needed to pry all four places loose. So I just held my breath and tried to remain calm. Then I heard him utter, “Damn it.” That was during the fourth flap-lifting attempt. He inhaled, sat back and said, “I’m sorry, Cindy. This isn’t going to work.”

I thought, Crap, they’re going to send me home. Because that’s what a technician had mentioned—that if the flap couldn’t be lifted, they would send me home and “try PRK another time.” PRK is when, instead of lifting your flap, they “melt” (my word for it) the top layer of your eyeball off. Well, they don’t really melt it off. They use a little brush type of thing to sweep it off. My son had PRK two years ago, and I watched his surgery on the TV screen in the waiting room. I thought the sweeping off of the epithelium (after it had been doused with a VERY cold solution) would feel horrid. But, actually, now that I’ve experienced SBK and PRK, I far prefer the PRK. The surgeon stepped away from my head after telling me that my eye had already been traumatized and so they wouldn’t send me home. They would proceed to the PRK. They then needed to switch things around a bit, so I just laid there.

Once we got going again, they added more freezing agent to my eye, then, as far as I can remember, swamped it with the ice-cold solution, then brushed off the epithelium, which was nowhere near as horrendous as I expected. If I had to do it again (and I don’t think I can ever do it again—if this time doesn’t work, I’m out of luck), if I had to do it for the first time, I’d choose PRK. Now, you might think I’m saying this because the SBK didn’t work. And that’s partly it. Why not give the PRK a try? But I somehow also thought the PRK would be a worse experience; however, I discovered I prefer the sweeping away of my epithelium to a suction cup clamping my eye while a laser makes an incision in the epithelium.

Once the SBK or PRK preparation has occurred, the procedure is the same from there. You focus on these little red lights that make zapping sounds (and you smell your hair burning, but it’s not really your hair, it’s the lasering of your eye). Because this was a touch-up, I didn’t see as many red lights or smell as much burning or hear as many zapping sounds as I had last year. The nice thing about laser eye surgery is it’s over very fast.

Then a technician helped me up, and I spotted a teddy bear by one machine. “What’s the teddy bear for?” I asked.

“If someone’s very scared, we’ll give them the bear to hold.”

“I was very scared!!”

I guess I wasn’t as scared as I’d thought.

Recovering from SBK, for me, was horrific the first day as the eyes unthawed. And my eyes were super dry for months afterward. This year, with PRK, I knew from my son’s and others’ experiences that the third or fourth day is generally the worst, and this stood true for me. I didn’t have that much discomfort on days 1 and 2 (however, I had only had a touch-up, not a full-on eye-frying), but day 3 was a nasty little witch. This year, I was prepared. I had purchased eye drops up the whazoo of the brands and types that I had experimented with over the last twelve months when it became apparent that the regular old eye drops they supply you with weren’t going to work.

The day after surgery, I returned for my first post-op. With SBK, I was seeing at 20/20 minus one on day one (which means I missed one letter on the 20/20 chart). However, my astigmatism did not go away from the treatment and by the time I reached 3 months post-surgery my eye was reading 20/30 (what a normal person could see at 30 feet, I could see at 20 feet). Last summer and this fall, my vision had regressed even more, to 20/50 (what a normal person can see at 50 feet, I could see at 20 feet…you can understand how that might have annoyed me).

Well, today, ten days post-surgery, I am back to 20/30, which is good for PRK recovery at this time. Unlike SBK or LASIK, with PRK you can’t expect to be back at work or driving after 72 hours. Luckily, my left eye, my reading eye, didn’t require a revision treatment, so I found that I could read and use the iPad within two or three days…as long as I kept my right eye plenty saturated with eye drops.

As well as my eye not being as dry from the revision, my eye isn’t as light-sensitive as it was last year. It’s sensitive, just not as much. I go back again a month post-surgery (about three weeks), and I look forward to reporting even more progress. The optometrist was very happy with my progress today. With PRK it takes about 6-8 weeks before you know where you really stand, and you see the clinic again at 3 months and 6 months. It can take up to six months to achieve your best vision.

Cross your fingers that the touch-up works! So far, I’m happy.

By the way, I do have some good news to report, but I must save it for another day. Time to get off the desktop and douse my eye in drops!

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