PRK: My experiences so far


Dammit!! I was almost through with surgery day and my computer re-started (stupid updates). Here we go again...

Thursday (Day of surgery):
My appointment was not until 1:20, so I worked that morning. I did not allow myself much downtime that day, so I did not have much time to dwell on what was in store for me this day. I arrived at the surgery suite a little early (of course), but they took me back to get prepped right away. They did not even give me time to sweat it out in the waiting room before they got started!
The nurse took my vitals, gave me a chewable Valium, and went through all the post-op instructions. She had me put on the beautiful blue surgical "shower cap" as well as the blue booties. She then swabbed my eyes with Betadine. And then I had to go back out to the waiting room, blue cap, blue booties, and yellow circles around my eyes!! It wasn't so bad, as it was the waiting room for the surgical suite, so everyone there looked just like me. Can you imagine a room full of blue shower cap, blue bootie wearing, yellow raccoon-eyed people? I can't. One of the first things the nurse did was take my glasses away, so I was blind for the whole waiting experience.
It was little weird, giving up my glasses. It was sort of like giving a part of myself away. A part that annoys the heck out of me and that I couldn't wait to get rid of, but a part of me nonetheless.
So, there I am, in the waiting room, worrying that the Valium would not kick in. I don't know how much time passed, but I know that when they called my name, I had spent so much time worrying about the Valium that I didn't even get around to getting scared about the surgery itself. But I guess the Valium was working, because instead of running screaming from the room, I allowed them to lead me back to the surgical suite.
The room was COLD, so they gave me a heated blanket. That was the best part of the whole experience. They had me lie down in the "dentist's chair," covered me with the blanket, handed me a stress squeezy ball, and swung the chair around underneath the laser contraption. It all happened that quickly!! (They also confirmed my date of birth--thank you Joint Commission National Patient Safety Goals). They patched my left eye, taped my right eyelashes to my face, and inserted the Clockwork-Orange-type contraption that would hold my eyes open during the procedure. That thing wasn't NEARLY as bad as I was expecting. I couldn't really distinguish what happened next, but from my research I knew that they were dissolving and scraping away the top layer of my cornea. That was pretty awful. Seriously. That was the WORST part of the whole experience. Truly truly awful. By the time the laser started, I was relieved because I knew it was almost over. But. Then. It was time for the left eye. Not fun at all. However, it did go quickly. My mom said I was in the surgical suite for about 15 minutes. That includes the time it took to lead me back there, get me situated on the chair, patch, tape, and insert the keep-the-eye-open contraption, dissolve cells, and laser each eye. My guess is that it took less than 5 minutes, start to finish, for each eye.
I came home, took a Tylenol 3, and went to bed. However, I couldn't really sleep--not the way I wanted to. I wanted to just pass out for three or four hours, but I just sorta cat-napped the afternoon away. Before I left the doctor's office, they taped clear, hard plastic shields over my eyes, and I was instructed to wear them until the next morning, and every night for the next five nights. I hated the shields. Probably, more specifically, I hated the industrial strength surgical tape used to hold the shields on. Anyway, I could tell that my vision was much improved, but I couldn't really judge how much because the eye shields distorted everything.

My first post-op appointment was this morning. At my pre-op on Wednesday, as well as at the procedure appointment, they warned me that I would feel okay Thursday and today, but Saturday would be the worst day as far as pain and light sensitivity, and that I would want to stay in bed in a dark room all day. The relevance of that statement will be clear shortly.
While in the waiting room my mom pointed out a lady who had her procedure just after me. She was flipping through a magazine. She must have had LASIK. At that point, I must admit I was little jealous of her, as my vision was still pretty poor (but better than before!!!).
The doctor was an hour late. During this time, I was growing increasingly t.i.r.e.d. and light sensitive. I was wearing my sunglasses indoors. The post-op exam went well, albeit late. I think my vision tested at about 20/60. I could squint and make out the 20/60 line on the eye chart, but functionally, I couldn't have read a darn thing on the eye chart. But still, before the surgery, I couldn't have made out the "E" on the top line, no matter how much I squinted and tried.
The light sensitivity continued to worsen, but I attributed it to becoming fatigued. Oh. No. Was I wrong. As we left the appointment, I got into the car and reclined my seat back so I could sleep on the way home. The sun hit me full in the face. My eyes watered. They HURT. I sat up and looked around for something to shield my face. All I could find was a black canvas bag from Wal-Mart. I draped it over my face, and rode home with a bag on my head. Dear mother was very supportive, though. Every time she looked over at me to check on me, she laughed at her dear daughter wearing a bag on her head!
I was in denial, as everyone said my bad day would be on Saturday. However, it soon became clear to me that I was in Hell. And my hell had started about 12 hours early. It was pretty bad. My eyes were dry, scratchy, burning, and stinging. The light sensitivity was so bad that my mom had to close all the blinds and curtains, AND put blankets over the curtains. I laid in bed with my sunglasses on and a light-colored shirt over my face, but the light coming in through the light-colored fabric was still too much. Mom finally got one of her navy blue t-shirts that I could put over my face, and that helped tremendously. I started taking the Tylenol 3 every two hours. It would take about 20 minutes to kick in, and would be in effect for about 40 minutes. Then I had a whole hour to wait before I could take another one. I kept telling myself that this was temporary, and hoped that because it all started a half day early, that it would end a half day early. I knew that if it was going to last no longer than a day and a half, that I could handle it.
Friday night I was up every two hours, putting lubricating drops in and taking more Tylenol 3. My eyes watered constantly the whole night, which was okay because the moisture helped ease the pain somewhat.

The Hell ended Saturday morning. I felt blessed, as I expected it to last much of the day. I was so relieved! Saturday was still uncomfortable, and I still needed the sunglasses indoors and blankets over the windows. My poor mom must have felt like she was living in a cave all weekend. I slept most of the day Saturday, and don't really remember too much about it. My vision is clearer, but not all that functional. And I've had a cloudy, milky haze since the procedure.

It's a whole new day!! No pain, some discomfort, but no pain. I didn't have to wear sunglasses indoors. I could have a light on. I even wrote down some notes for this blog entry. I watched about an hour of television, which consisted of looking at the screen for two minutes, and looking way for five minutes, and so on for about an hour. I took a shower this morning, first one since Thursday morning. I was so thrilled about being able to shower and wash my hair that I didn't even notice until I was almost done that I could SEE IN THE SHOWER! First time I can remember being able to see in the shower. Things are going so well today, that I'm a little anxious about having the bandage contacts removed tomorrow. From my research, vision tends to decline and some discomfort returns after the bandage contacts are removed.

My second post-op appointment, and the doctor is an hour late, AGAIN. Mom said now that they got all my money, they aren't as worried about customer service. :) My vision tested at about 20/30, and my doc said I could now get the corrective lens restriction removed from my driver's license. That was a little scary. Although I could squint and squint and focus and focus and make out some of the letters on the 20/30 line, my vision is still not even close to being good enough to drive. Mom and I ran a few errands, and I could be in the direct sunlight with sunglasses on without any problems. It felt good to be out in the world again.

I worked from home this morning, and was able to spend about three hours in front of the computer screen. Mom went back to work today. I was forbidden to drive anywhere, was stuck in the house for the fifth straight day, and was going absolutely out of my mind!! However, Lori came later that afternoon to rescue me, and took me to TJ Maxx and Target. I did sneak out and drive around the neighborhood for about an hour. My distance vision was blurry, but I did feel comfortable driving.

I returned to the office today. My vision today was worse than yesterday, and I actually felt less comfortable driving. I only stayed for a couple of hours before getting tired, and drove home around 11:00. I have to say at this point that I have been sleeping A LOT. Two to three hours at a time. But the body recovers and heals while it sleeps, so I'm cool with that.

Back to the office. I lasted until about 3:00 today, but definitely overdid things. Although the fiscal year is over, I was trying to get some billing entered before the final final deadline, and I think I pushed it too much. My vision has been relatively stable, but I did notice some ghosting on street lights and business signs. I hung out with Lori this evening and had a couple glasses of wine. I was nervous about driving home, as that was the first time I had tried to drive at night. But it went really well! The street lights and stop lights were fine--no ghosting, starbursts, or halos. At least no more so than with glasses or contacts.

Today is my last day of four sets of drops four times per day!! I have one steroid drop, two antibiotic drops, and the lubricating drop. I have to wait five minutes between each drop, so it takes me about half an hour, four times per day, to administer all the drops. Today is my last day of antibiotic drops, so after that I will have just the steroid drop, four times per day, and the lubricating drops as needed. I am also able to sleep through the night, waking up about once per night to put in lubricating drops.

Saturday and Sunday:
Everything is going well. I have small improvements day-to-day with my vision, but the improvements have slowed significantly from the drastic day to day improvements I had earlier in the week. I can read for very short periods of time, but I'm still sticking to the audiobooks for now. My distance vision is still not great, but I have faith that it will continue to improve. It has been quite the process, and the more traumatic parts are fading from my memory, even now. Getting my wisdom teeth out still tops the list of traumatic life events. I think I'm still in shock about being able to see without glasses or contacts. I think it will start to hit me as I'm able to resume normal activities. For example, this Thursday I get to wear eye makeup again, AND go to the pool.

If I had it to do over again, would I decide to get PRK? Absolutely. I never, for one minute, wished I hadn't done it. Not even during the hell day. I am blessed to be healing quicker than average, to have fewer than average "artifacts" (ghosting, starbursts, etc), and to have a positive experience overall. Getting vision correction surgery is a personal decision, and not one I would recommend across the board. However, if it is something that makes sense given your lifestyle and unique circumstances, I would definitely say "Find out what you are getting into, and then go for it!"


Gina Marie Wake said...

Oh Vern! This sounds terrible!!! I think I am just fine living with contacts and glasses. Ugh! I am glad it is mostly over for you though!!!

Veronica said...

Katie is spam, and I am currently trying to figure out how to delete her comment.

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