January 19, 2014

Laser eye surgery

Seeing things clearly.

In 2006 I went to Central America with my best friend Emily. During this time we had the amazing opportunity to go snorkelling off the coast of Caye Caulker, Belize. Beautiful fish were everywhere and even sharks, then I saw something in the distance… Now i’m a bit obsessed with octopi, squids and jellyfish, I think they’re amazing creatures, so when I saw something that was clear but had thin outlines I assumed it was a large jellyfish and the chase began! For about 20min I followed this thing around without getting too close, when I came with in ear shot of Emily, I called her over to see my amazing find. At which point she turned to me and said, “Judy, that’s a plastic bag!”

The decision was made, that I would get laser eye surgery before ever going snorkelling again.

This year I have booked tickets for 17 days in Thailand, leaving in exactly one week on January 26th! The idea had been on my mind for a while and over the last few years I had talked to various friends about their experiences, some good, some not so good, but overall the good outweighed the bad and no one had gone blind! Then the decision of which clinic to go with had to be made: Private hospital or clinic, groupon or full price, lasek or lasik, wavefront or not? So many questions and everyone had their opinion. At the end of the day, I decided to go with Optical Express, simply because it was covered by my health insurance (25% off the total surgery with Aviva).

I figured I had plenty of time (2 months) before Thailand to get the procedure and recover. On December 10th, I went in for my first consultation and it was decided that LASIK Wavefront would be the best option for me, as it was the latest technology and had the quickest recovery time. However, they said I had dry eyes (which I had been told in the past) and this would have to be taken care of before I could have surgery. Fixing this could take anywhere from a week to a month but also I would need at least 4 weeks after the surgery before I could go swimming (aka no snorkelling!) So this all required fast action! However, with christmas looming all of their appointments were booked until January 7th which would not give me enough time to recover before Thailand. They gave me hope that either a cancellation would occur or they’d ‘fit me in’ but this was equally dependant on my dry eyes being sorted out.

I started on a course of drops, taking them everyday for a week, every half hour! This was nearly impossible, but I used them as often as I could. After a week had passed I went in back in for a check-up, hooray! my eyes had lubricated enough for the surgery! But… there were no cancellations, but… they  put on an extra half day as there were several other people eager to get it done before the new year. My appointment was now booked for 10am on Saturday, December 21st!

The morning of the appointment Myself and Mick caught the bus into town to the clinic and waited patiently. Mick had insisted on coming with me even though I assured him I only needed him to pick me up and he would most likely be bored waiting for me (as the process, not the procedure, takes about 2 hours). Throughout the first hour I was called into various rooms by an optical technician  where my eyes were tested again to make sure all calculations were correct. Then I was called up to the surgery area (which had a very nice waiting room) where I met with the surgeon for the first time. He explained the procedure fully to me, then back to the waiting room again and wait to be called.

After a short wait a nurse called my name and into the surgery room I went. The procedure went like this:

  1. There were 4 people in the room, 2 nurses the surgeon and me. I remember one of the nurses very vividly because she had a fantastic scottish accent and kept referring to everything as ‘wee’, “I’m going to put some ‘wee’ drops in your eyes”, “just sit there for a wee second”.
  2. She then put the anaesthetic drops in my eyes.
  3. Then a ‘collar’ was put around my eye that stopped me from blinking
  4. I was moved under the first machine that cut a ‘flap’ around my eye, this didn’t hurt, but there was  a bit of pressure and a strange sensation.
  5. I was then moved over to the surgeon where he lifted the flap (remain calm, he repeated, remain calm…) if there was ever a time in my life not to remain calm this was it, all you see is a had coming at your eye, feel a strange sensation again and then everything goes blurry, however I could still see a dark spot in my eye (perhaps my iris?) and what appeared to be all the veins – very strange being able to see all this. Every ounce of my body knew this was not natural. However the surgeon continued to calmly say exactly what he was doing which was good to focus on.
  6. Then I was moved under the laser, told to stare at a red dot and then I heard the laser begin to work, a series of clicks and one of the nurses counting down. My right eye was done first and needed 10 seconds of lasering.
  7. When the ticking stopped I was moved back to the surgeon where he closed the flap and removed the air-bubbles that were trapped beneith. Another strange sensation as best I can described it, it was like he had a little brush that he was running over my eye and smoothing out the bubbles.
  8. At this point I could see out of that eye, but it was all very blurry.
  9. Then we repeated the whole procedure again with the left eye, this one needed 14 seconds. I remember asking them the longest time that the laser was needed for and they said that someone earlier that morning needed 75 seconds in one eye.

At the end of the procedure I was taken into a dark room where Mick was waiting for me, I was VERY thankful he had insisted on coming for the whole day as he helped me feel more comfortable and at this point I was a bit shaken. I think perhaps my body was in a little bit of shock, after all any surgery is still surgery. Here the original technician met with me again, asked about the procedure and how I felt and then described all the aftercare to me (or probably more to Mick).

Later that day after the surgery. Looked like I'd been in a fight.

Later that day after the surgery. Looked like I’d been in a fight.

these were so I didn't scratch my eyes out while I slept.

these were so I didn’t scratch my eyes out while I slept.

I was home by 1 that day. There were drops and more drops. My favourites (sarcasm) were the one’s that are basically elmer’s glue, since there are no stitches, the flaps basically needed to be glued back to my eyes, these drops also tasted like elmer’s glue which i would taste running down the back of my throat every time I used them. I managed to sleep for about 4 hours, when I woke up everything was still blurry. Had a bit of dinner, did some laundry and listened to a lot of podcasts. Not much else I was allowed to do as my eyes needed the rest and recovery. I napped off and on, but woke up at about 8 with a horrible stinging sensation. They had warned me that in a few hours I would feel as though i had just cut a bag of onions and that’s exactly what it felt like. I popped a few ibuprofen and back to sleep.

The next morning I woke up, looked out the window and could see. Wow, I could see everything, the street sign across the street, the registration plates on the cars across the road and the one’s down the street! It was amazing and still is.

I went in for my 1-month check-up today and have better than 20/20 vision. I still have dry eyes but considering I did before the surgery it’s not that surprising. I have to continue taking drops in the morning before getting up and at night before bed. Night time driving is no more difficult that it was before but there are halo’s around bright lights. But these things seem a very little price to pay to be able to go outside and see the world clearly.

I am absolutely ecstatic about my upcoming trip to the Land of Smiles with my ‘new eyes’ and  hopefully the only plastic bag I’ll see is the one that my wet swimsuit is in.


  1. Mick

    Love the photo of Judy with the goggles she had to use for sleeping.

    The night after the surgery was done, I think Judy was have a nightmare or something and her breathing was strange (think.. Darth Vader!) anyway i forgot she had the goggles on and I turned around in the bed to check she was okay and was suddenly staring right into the face of the scariest big black eyeballs you can imagine. Being quite sure It was an evil alien – I screamed.

  2. Jonathan

    Congrats Judy,

    I had my eyes done in 2001 and I am very happy with the results. I do have dry eyes though and am constantly lubricating them. It is especially worse when I do things that dehydrate me – drinking, smoking or being in a smokey room, exercise, etc.. I am constantly putting drops into my eyes and like a crazy person that I am the only ones that I really like are the Allergan Refresh Tears which I can’t find here in Ireland so I get a few boxes whenever I am in the States.

    There is nothing better though than opening your eyes in the morning and being able to see. No glasses or contacts. Just see. The only thing that kind of sucks is that as you get older your eyesight will continue to get worse. What was once better than 20/20 for me is not as good anymore. I either have another operation in my future or a pair of glasses.

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