This is what you look like just before getting LASIK surgery. Hairnet to keep my nonexistent hair out of my eyes, masked up, paper towels over my ears to keep eyedrops from getting into them, two shiny stars on my forehead to indicate that both eyes are getting surgery, and if you look very closely on the outside of my irises you can see that the doctor has marked each of them with a pen for reasons that I was never especially clear on. By this point I’d already had a “small dose” of Valium to help me stay calm during the procedure. I was looking forward to the Valium and the sleeping pill more than any other aspect of the surgery, honestly, so I’m saddened to report that it didn’t hit me that hard.
Expectations are funny things. They’ll ask you twenty times if you have any questions leading up to the procedure, and most of the time I either didn’t or only needed something briefly clarified, but what they never said to me was please describe the environment in which you think this is going to take place. Which they should have, because my answers would have been hilarious. I was, for some reason, picturing some sort of giant James Bondian villain-lair of an operating theater, with a giant-ass laser apparatus taking up half the room, and at least one online description of the procedure had referred to the patient being “rotated” from one station to the other, because the laser that cuts your corneal flap is not the same laser that does the reshaping. So I was picturing something super crazy, with the surgeon in another room like they would be for an MRI or something.
Nah. The expansively-named “first laser suite” didn’t look any damn different from any other eye doctor’s examination room you’ve ever been in in your life, and frankly was smaller than most of them. The laser apparatus itself is maybe the size of a very large coffee cup. It’s bloody handheld, and they really ought to show it to you as part of the orientation procedure. They asked me to keep one eye shut (which was the most difficult part of the entire process) then fit what was basically a harness for the laser over half of my face, fit the laser into that, and then I stared at a green light for 30 seconds. I felt nothing. Nothing at all. Even the eyelid retractor, which I was weirdly worried about, was nothing. I mean, we’ve all seen that part of Clockwork Orange. Nah, this thing is the size of a pair of nose hair scissors and you won’t even notice them putting it in because your eyes have been so thoroughly numbed.
I did jump when they were putting the harness-thingy over my second eye, because for some reason it clicked really loudly as they were putting it on and the click startled me. The doctor said “That’s what it does when you push on it too hard” in a sort of please don’t do that again tone to the person who was affixing it in place, and then took her seat– immediately behind me, as if she was washing my hair– to put the laser in place and talk me through every second of what I’d be seeing and feeling.
At that point, after two thirty-second corneal cuttings, I got up and was moved to another room. I couldn’t see well, but it wasn’t any worse than my vision usually is without my glasses on, so while they had a nurse with me in case I had trouble with my balance or anything I didn’t have any trouble moving from one room to the other. The second laser is a bit more stationary and I had to lay on a table that, indeed, was mechanically lifted up and moved into place, but I got an actual eye cover for that one and didn’t have to try to keep one eye shut while the other was being held open and I couldn’t feel my eyes anyway.
“Stare at the green light, okay?” Sure.
The weird part about the reshaping laser is that you can actually smell what it’s doing to your eyes. There’s no harness for this one but the apparatus itself was maybe the size of a printer, and while my head wasn’t restrained there was a much more definite Put Your Head Here and then Make These Minute Adjustments to make sure you’re sitting in the right place. (For some reason, “move your right ear closer to your shoulder” is not an instruction I’m capable of understanding, by the way, and she ended up just grabbing my head and moving it herself.) But again, the whole thing was no longer than a few seconds and I was just staring at a green light the whole time, then they switched eyes and did it again, then they had me sit there with my eyes shut for 30 seconds or so…
… and boom, when I got up they pointed at a digital clock on the other side of the room and asked what time it was, and I could read it. Done.
As of right now, 24 hours later, my mid-range vision is still blurrier than I want it to be, but everyone tells me that’ll get better and I have no reason not to believe them, and other than maybe the first 15 seconds of having my eyes open this morning there has been no pain whatsoever. The pain this morning was only a little bit worse than the sort of there-are-pebbles-under-my-eyelids pain that you get sometimes when you stayed up too late and your eyes are dry, if that means anything. It was a little stabbier, for lack of a better term, but again: fifteen seconds. They give you a sleeping pill and tell you to try to not get up until the next day, which wasn’t that hard– I woke up around 9 and put some eyedrops in and went to the bathroom and then went back to bed.
I cannot properly express how nothing this entire procedure was, and I wouldn’t have believed myself before having it done anyway. I haven’t tried to drive at night or anything yet (they warn that starbursts can be a problem for a few weeks, and I know of at least one person for whom they were a longer-term issue) but driving to my next-day followup this morning was no problem, and honestly while I’m glad my wife was there I’m pretty sure I would have been able to drive home after the procedure if it had been absolutely necessary.
Oh! They give you these things too:
I have been ordered to tape those eye shields to my face for the 5 nights after the surgery, so I have four more nights of sleeping with plastic taped to my face. It’s to keep my pillows from pushing on my eyes. (Incidentally: the reason they really want you to sleep after the surgery is so that your eyelids are covering your eyes the entire time, and you aren’t blinking a whole lot.). The only problem is my pillow is really firm, so the eye shields push into my face kind of obnoxiously. It wasn’t a real issue last night, because sleeping pill, but we’ll see how it goes tonight. Other than that, aftercare includes thrice-daily medicinal eyedrops for a couple of weeks and “as needed, but at least 6-8 times a day” artificial teardrops, because apparently the surgery can mess up your tear ducts temporarily and they want to make sure you don’t dry out. Which, come to think of it, it’s time for some new drops right now.
So, yeah. It’ll take a couple of weeks before I’m willing to issue a full endorsement, because right now my vision was better with my glasses, and I’m gonna be upset if I spent all this money to end up with worse vision than I had with glasses, but again: first day. I’ll write a follow-up in a couple of weeks with a slightly more final judgment, or earlier if I run into problems with side effects or anything, but as of right now? If you were thinking about doing this, do it.