My experience with LASIK Surgery

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I have recently undergone the LASIK “bladeless” eye surgery to correct myopia in a pretty good clinic in Prague, an operation I was keen to take when my gradation became stable. I found out that the worst parts of this operation are the details that I didn’t know in advance. Therefore, I would like to share my experience with whoever wants to read it, as it may help those who want to take the surgery to be ready for all the aspects of it (or scare the shit out of them, it depends). It is rather long, by the way. Just three statements to summarize the experience: it does not hurt, it is very stressful, and the result is fantastic. Ready? Here we go.

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My eyes after LASIK. Yes, that lighter circle in the iris is due to the operation

“The day awakes grey and eerie after a wonderful weekend of sun and beer gardens. In theory, those are the best conditions regardless of your internal fears, first because of good endorphins the day before, second because of hypersensitivity to light after the operation. I arrive perfectly on time, and at the reception area a very pleasant assistant asks me to wait by the reception desk. One and a half minutes after, an office worker calls me to fulfill the last paperwork and yes, pay. Just in case you cannot do it after the operation, I guess. They promise me to call Jana whenever the process starts, but that happens straight away. It has been already two weeks and Jana is still waiting for that call.

Anyway, the assistant drives me into the operation floor upstairs. The “reception” of that floor is absolutely dark and another two people sit wearing sunglasses and a very cheerful smile. It is clear for me that they are just done with the operation and they are happy with the result. With a rather poor English, the assistant tells me to put all my belongings into a cabinet, and indicates me where I should seat wearing already all the blue plastics around my hair and feet, together with a large bib with sleeves. You know, just in case some fluids drop there. I have never been sitting more comfortably than on that waiting chair, truth be told.

A serious looking nurse arrives and starts pouring some undetermined eye drops, with approximately ten minutes between doses. It is understood that they prepare the eye for the slaughter. After the third liquid washes my eyes, the surgeon arrives and introduces herself in a perfectly professional English. Then she explains step-by-step what to expect during the operation and what will be my role. It’s a piece of cake: about twenty minutes, first the cut, then the dioptric correction, all the time following some green light, and we are done. She stresses that we need to cooperate all the time and that she will be commenting every action. It is especially important to keep the eye steady during the cut. Oh, and there will be a moment when I will not see anything at all, just for five seconds, it is normal. What about blinking? Not a problem, they use a special instrument that prevents me from doing that.

The nurse leads me then to the operation room, which is about forty square meters with the control equipment on one side, and a rotating table/bed between two large machines that hang from the ceiling. I correctly identify them as the “slicer” and the “burner”. When I sit on the table the nurse gives me a big teddy bear so that you can cuddle it and release some stress. I liked it, and I felt sad to leave it behind after the operation, but I understood it has other patients to take care of. They turn the bed under the slicer and fun begins.

It is at this point when I finally meet the famous green light, which I see out of focus and without knowing whether that is normal or what. The light is surrounded by a ring of very intense white light, and whatever the eye drops were, it is clear that they made me hypersensitive to light. The nurse puts an eye patch on the left eye and indicates that all the actions like blinking or fully opening must be carried out with both eyes. During the whole process they need to correct the head position, up and slightly turned to the side of the patched eye. The surgeon reveals the mysterious object for keeping the eye open, a modern version of those clamps used to torture Alex watching stuff in A Clockwork Orange. It is uncomfortable, but it does not hurt. To compensate for the blinking, the nurse uses some spray on the eye ball. The feeling is very similar to that of staying inside the vehicle in a car wash tunnel. You even feel the vibrations of the splashes, but not really the contact, because one of those eye drops was probably anesthesia.

That green light continues to be out of focus while I see the machine approaching my head. Just when I think it is not possible to get closer, the lens touches and presses the entire surface of the eye. At least now I see the light perfectly sharp and I can (have to) concentrate on staring at it. It is clear that they are just about to cut the corneal flap, because the surgeon repeats like five times to not move. Pressure continues to increase on the eye, and I see a white-blue flash growing slowly from the bottom of my field of view. I was told that I would see deeply black during that moment, not a lazy flash spreading throughout the eye like milk on water. When the pressure becomes unbearable, the surgeon announces the successful cut and the hellish machine finally separates from my eye. She asks me if I am alright, and I whisper some sort of confirmation in spite of having my lungs full of air. Luckily the cuddling bear is not able to scream while I choke it with both hands. The nurse finally removes the diabolical clamps and tells me that I can now breathe for few seconds, as they prepare the other eye. Good that she said it, I completely forgot about breathing. Well, at least I know the process, and the second eye should be easier. Not really.

After the second cut, they put the patch again and they turn the bed ninety degrees under the second machine where the familiar green light awaits, this time sharply since the beginning. According to the surgeon, this second part of the operation is shorter. I feel the clamps and the shower of anesthesia again and the nurse puts two curved patches that seem to leave a very narrow window for the laser. The surgeon prepares the corneal flap and manipulates it separating it from the eye. The world then becomes blurry, like when you open your eyes under the swimming pool, but much darker and more out of focus. The light I must look at now is red and the surgeon announces that I must not worry about the small eye movements because the laser follows it, not like during the cut. There is some sort of beautiful sharpness in the general fuzziness of that red light, like when you look distracted through the windscreen at the traffic lights during a rainy day with the smoothest bokeh ever in the background.

Yellow lights start dancing around the red spot while they reshape the cornea. I was told that it smells like pork, so I try to verify that but I am unfortunately unsuccessful. My lungs are again full already, there is no room for more air, and my nose is anyway completely blocked. I guess it is a side effect of crying, except I cannot say if I am crying or not because there are no tears. After a few seconds, the lights stop dancing and the surgeon places the corneal flap back to the pupil. She seems to be somehow anchoring it in four corners with some curved stick similar to those used for shaping eye lashes, but like five times smaller. It takes longer than I thought, but during that time she asks me a couple of questions to keep me calm (or breathing, I can’t say). I tell her that it is a bit stressful, to which she answers “I know, for me too”. I laugh at that comment, mainly because I can’t cry with those monstrous clamps. Finally she uses a small brush to finish sticking the corneal flap, up and down, up and down, like there’s a dog licking it. Then she releases the eye and asks me to blink very gently, close, open, close, open… close… open… done. One more eye to go. The process repeats, and this time it really is easier.

Once outside they give me the medication that I will need to use after the surgery, which consists of antibiotics with corticoids, artificial tears and a strong pain killer in case it becomes unbearable. They advise that the first five hours are the worst ones, so they recommend to have the eyes closed and to try to sleep if possible. Also, they stress the importance of keeping the area of the eyes untouched for few days. Good that I took shower and shaved just that morning. Thanks to the lack of sun, I could have just gone alone without any problem using public transport, but Jana insisted in going with me. I do not hesitate and take the pain killer as soon as we arrive home. Mornings are difficult for few days, the feeling is very similar to forget and sleep with contact lenses, dry and scratchy. In my case, cold weather and wind were very painful during the first week, so I needed to wear protective glasses, also for sleeping to avoid touching the area of my eyes. The next day I was already able to go to work after the check up, and after one week I practically do not have any consequence other than seeing perfectly.”

The below is the less disgusting video I could find in Youtube about the operation. In spite of that, it is a hard watch, but you will then understand visually many of the points I comment in the report. Play it under your own responsibility: