My LASIK surgery was a week ago today, and I’m pleased to announce that I seem to be adjusting fine. Other than the first few minutes after waking up during the first day or two, there’s been no pain, and as you would probably expect I’m noticing my vision less and less as the days go on. I’m still not as happy with my distance vision as I want to be, but the “good range,” for lack of a better phrase, does seem to be expanding, and the scientist in me is suffering from being unable to put my glasses back on and compare what my vision was like back then to what it is now. It’s entirely possible that this is just what it’s always been but I’m paying more attention to it now, but the fact that I don’t know and don’t have a way to check is making me moderately crazy.
The urge to reach for my glasses in the morning and when I get out of the shower remains pretty overwhelming– 37 years of conditioning will do that to you– and I’m also noticing that at the end of the day my eyes are tired, leading to a similarly overwhelming urge to remove the contact lenses that are not actually in my eyes and put my glasses back on. In fact, honestly, other than the (no longer an issue) early eye pain, this has been almost exactly like adjusting to contact lenses, except for all the eyedrops and the vague notion that my vision is improving from day to day. I need to find an excuse to take a drive after dark sometime this week to see if I have any issue with halos or starbursting; driving in general is fine so long as I’m going places I’m used to driving to (which is 100% of my driving; I’m not leaving the house much, because quarantine) but I’m not sure my distance vision is great for driving somewhere new, because I have to get pretty close to road signs before they’re legible and if I was looking for street signs to know where to turn I’d have to either drive slower than was safe or make some very abrupt decisions.
One way or another, though, I’ve been repeatedly assured that the stuff I’m currently concerned about will get better, and I still am amazed at how easy the surgery and the recovery process have been. Yesterday was the first day that I didn’t spend every second I was awake thinking about my vision, so this is definitely on an upward trend.
One additional sign that my eyes are improving is that after not being able to read more than small chunks of Scarlet Odyssey at a time without my eyes getting tired, I blew through Ilhan Omar’s excellent memoir This is What America Looks Like in basically two sittings. Granted, it’s quite a bit shorter, at 265 pages and a relatively large font, but it’s nice that my ability to binge-read is coming back. This is one of those books where I think you probably already know if you want to read it or not, and if you do, you should follow that urge, and if you don’t, you should read it anyway. Omar’s story is barely even possible in America any longer, but remains a perfect example of the type of country we like to think we are, and her life has been fascinating regardless of what you think of her politics (not a problem for me, obviously) so the book is definitely an engaging read. If anything, I wish it was another hundred pages long, as I’d like to know more about what life was like as a younger person for her, both in the refugee camps and her first few years in America when she was trying to navigate middle school without being able to speak English. Give it a look.
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.
In case any of you were wondering if it was reasonable for me to expect to be able to come home from my surgery and sleep for fourteen hours, the answer is yes, that is perfectly reasonable, and frankly if my wife didn’t regularly get up at ass o’clock in the morning, it could have been a few hours longer.
I have had my one-day follow-up appointment already and have had my eyes proclaimed “perfect,” by which I assume they mean “perfect for twenty hours after the surgery,” because as of right now my vision is still blurrier than I want, although there’s no real pain or discomfort to speak of. I’ve been cleared for screens and reading, but I’m going to try to stay mostly away from both until later today, at which point I will give y’all a fuller report. For now, I’m going to use the day to rewatch Season One of The Mandalorian, just for the hell of it.
…yeah, I had a whole plan to write today’s post early and make it be About Something, and basically utterly failed at that, so instead I’m just going to pop in and point out that I slept surprisingly well last night except for a random hour between 2 and 3 AM, and that in the shower just now the thought What if I have to sneeze during the surgery? occurred to me and now I am completely obsessed with the idea.
Starting to get just a liiiiiittle jumpy about tomorrow, y’all. While scheduling the surgery for 2:30 is good for me in terms of coming home and going to bed, it’s less good for keeping myself Not Nutty between now and it actually happening. I’m gonna wake up at four in the morning and spend the rest of the day imagining pew pew lasers blowing my eyes out of the back of my head, I swear.
Be aware that I will probably write a post today to pop tomorrow sometime so that I don’t have to do it before the laserating. I’m not supposed to look at screens or read anything in between the surgery and the doctor’s follow-up the next day, and I’m fairly certain I can’t write a blog post without doing either of those two things. So once I’m home from my follow-up on Tuesday y’all can hear all about how it went.