Going Under the Laser with Lauren Keith
By: Lauren Keith
Cape Girardeau, MO - I've worn contacts for the past 15 years. I chose to get Lasik done because I personally don't like the hassle, nor the inconvenience, of glasses or contacts. My regular eye doctor even suggested it, because my vision hadn't changed at all over the last five years. So, I went in for a consultation, and learned I was the perfect candidate. If you're wondering about the procedure, there have been changes over the last decade it's been around. Here's what goes on when you "go under the laser."
Surgery day for me started bright and early at 7:15. By the way, you can't wear any makeup, hair spray or perfumed deodarant during this surgery. Doctors think it could interfere with the laser beam. Believe me, if I could have worn it, I would---it's not exactly fun being on TV without it. Before the surgey, I ask Dr. Shawn Parker of EYE CARE Specialists some last-minute questions. He says he was the first surgeon to bring lasik to the region--- that said--- I'll admit--- I was still pretty nervous at this point.
"Any type of surgery contains a risk of complication. That's true with lasik, but it's an extremely small risk and it's extremely safe, if you follow instructions," said Dr. Parker.
If you don't follow post-surgery instructions, there is chance of less than one percent, you could lose your vision. So, I listen intently, despite that minute chance. EYE CARE Secialists staff also offer you a valium pill to relax your nerves, before the surgery. Then, the nurse places a series of betadyne and iodine drops into your eyes. This makes the eyes, and the area around it, turn an amber color. The drops also completely numb the eye---which is key during the surgery.
Once inside the surgery room, I lie down and a pillow puffs up around my head; that makes it air-tight, so your head doesn't move. Dr. Parker then places a sticky drape, that looks like tape, onto my eyelids, so they don't move, as well as a lid separator. He also marks two spots where he'll eventually place my cornea back into place. Keep in mind, I'm awake during this whole process, but again, I really can't feel anything going on near my eyes.
Dr. parker tells me to stare intently at an orange light, during the whole surgery. He also explains each step of the process, so I know what's going to happen. Even though you can see what he's doing, all I see at this point is blurriness. Consider this--- perfect vision is 20/20. My vision before lasik was 20/400, which is poor.
Next, a vaccuum is placed on my eye. Dr. Parker tells me to alert him when I can't see that orange light. He explains my vision will go competely dark for about two seconds, which again, is supposed to happen. Then, the suction from the vacuum started. I did feel some pressure. It didn't hurt though. If you don't believe me, look at this wider angle of that same step. You'll notice I don't even flinch.
Next, I hear a grinding noise. It's a bit unnerving, but again---no pain. That sound comes from the microkeratome machine as it creates a thin hinge on the cornea. that hinge allows the cronea to seal without any sutures, or stitches, when it's placed back. Using the laser now, Dr. Parker makes a flap on the cornea. This lasik procedure is different than others used in the past because doctors don't treat the surface of the cornea--they go under it. Dr. Parker says that means faster recovery time and less haze. He uses this brush to smooth the corneal flap back into position and seal my new eyes back into place.
Believe it or not, this whole process took only 20 minutes, and I'm on my way to perfect vision---something I haven't had for 15 years1 When I sit up, I do feel a bit dizzy, but I can see---and I mean "see" on my own. Next, some safety goggles go on to keep anything like dust from getting into my new eyes. Dr. Parker and his staff now escort me to another room for some down time.
For the next twenty minutes, the lights go out and my eyes rest for a bit. Meantime, check this out. These 16 bags will go to the other patients also getting lasik done the same day I am. They contain eye drops and the safety goggles. Dr. Parker performs lasik every two weeks and says it's gaining popularity, partly because he says the price has stabilized a bit. That's also one of the reasons why I waited so long to have lasik done---money does talk.
"There's been some price fluctuations through the years. it started out pretty expensive, like any new technology. then, more people started doing it and the discount people came in. those places have now gone out of business, so now, it's come back up and finally stabilized at at a pretty uniform price now," said Dr. Parker.
You can expect to pay anywhere between $2500 to $4000 total for lasik. after 20 minutes pass, Dr. Parker inspects my eyes and asks me my impression of the whole proceess.
"I was a little nervous, the pressure was weird, I felt it every once in awhile, but it went away quickly. I couldn't believe though that just as soon as I stook up I could see. I was walking and I could read a poster all the way across the room. I was blown away by that!" I told him.
Dr. Parker also points out while my new vision is now 20/20, there still may be a chance I'll have to wear reading glasses, later in my golden years.
" We can fix your distance vision, whether your're nearsighted, farsighted or have astigmatism, but natural aging of the eye, we can't help, so you may need reading glasses. A lot of people don't understand that. We try to explain that---they'll probably need reading glasses down the road, if they need them now," he says.
After some post-surgery insructions, I'm ready to walk out the door. I'll have to wear the safety goggles for the rest of the day. After that, I only have to wear them to bed. I also will put in a series of eye drops about four times daily for a week, and can't wear any eye makeup during that time either. I'm still amazed at how well I'm already seeing right after the lasik, something Dr. Parker says he, too, sees with each patient.
"There are some occupations---firefighters, police officers---where it really benefits. Any line of work where you don't want to worry about glasses. I have a lot of mothers with young children tell me they're tired of waking up in the night, fumbling for their glasses and can't get to their children. Hunters come in and say it's great--it helps them not to have to carry contact lens cases and solution out in the woods. It just brings a whole new world and a whole new freedom to most people."
As for me, that new freedom allowed me to do something I've wanted to do for a long time: dump my old eyeglasses into the charity box at the door of Dr. Parker's office! Finally, I want to point out I'm not trying to sell anyone on getting Lasik, I just wanted to show you firsthand what the experience is like. I'm personally very impressed wth the surgery and have had minimal side effects. I had minor headaches about two days after the surgery and my eyes got a little dry at night. However, I have a problem with dry eyes beforehand, so that was alleviated with some artificial tear drops.
If you're waiting for insurance to pick up the tab of lasik, Dr. Parker shares his opinion on that. He believes that won't ever happen, becuase attempts have failed in the past and lasik is not something you have to do--most insurance companies consider the procedure as "cosmetic."