LASIK, six months later

I had my eyes lasered six months and ten days ago, and I thought it might be useful to take a minute and talk about how that’s been going.

And honestly, so far, my experience has been kind of mixed. I am very definitely still healing, and things are still changing on a week-to-week basis. One thing I wasn’t aware of going into the process was that apparently nearsightedness takes a bit longer to heal than farsightedness does, and I was quite nearsighted. I’m also suffering from not being able to simply put my glasses back on to compare glasses-assisted vision to what I have now. So let’s do a pros and cons list.

Pros:

  • Pain, even very early on, has been virtually nonexistent. For the first couple of days after the surgery the first maybe five minutes after waking up, when I’m just opening my eyes for the first time, had that sort of pebbly there’s-something-under-my-eyelids feeling that you might get when you’re really tired. But that went away quickly and there’s been no issues since then.
  • I’ve experienced no starbursting or any degeneration of my ability to drive at night.
  • Close-up vision is essentially perfect for 90% of the day, and my vision has been corrected to somewhere in the 20/20-25/20 range. For the purposes of this conversation I’m defining “close-up” as anything within five or six feet, and when they give you that little card to read at “normal reading distance” at the eye doctor I can read the smallest print easily.. This is where I wish I had my glasses, because there’s a lot of “could I have read that with my glasses on seven months ago?” going on with text that is farther away than that.

Cons:

  • That other 10% of the day. My eyes get tired more easily than they used to, and I swear they produce more crud than they used to as well. I have gone from someone who never needed eyedrops to still using them (non-medicinal rewetting drops, to be clear) maybe two or three times a day. The last hour of the day can sometimes be a bit of a struggle, and that just wasn’t the case when I was wearing glasses.

Now, some caveats and provisos and quid pro quos:

  • I don’t think it’s unfair to point out that working from home during quarantine has had a serious effect on my eyes. I spend eight hours a day at my computer, to start, and that was never the case before. It is rare that I have to focus on something more than ten to fifteen feet away, and that is probably fucking with my mid- and particularly my long-distance vision. One thing I’ve noticed: I sit maybe ten feet away from the TV when we’re watching shows, and we typically keep closed captions or subtitles on regardless of what we’re watching them. At the beginning of watching a show, it can be a struggle to keep the captions in clean focus. That’s almost never a problem by the end of the show, so it’s a case of my eyes taking a minute to adjust to focusing on something out of arm’s length. Similarly, it just occurred to me in the last couple of days that our new TV puts out a lot more light than the old one, which might be why longer video game sessions bug me more than they used to. I need to adjust where I’m putting my chair; I wasn’t too close to the old TV, but I think I am too close to the new one. That’s an eye issue, but it’s not LASIK’s fault.
  • Similarly, the first couple of minutes of driving anywhere (I leave the house maybe once a week) always involve me thinking about my eyes a lot. It goes away quickly. I have never, even for a moment, even at night, thought that I couldn’t see well enough to drive, but that first minute or so always involves lots of staring at trees long distances away and wondering what they looked like when I wore glasses.

Things are still getting better on a week-to-week basis, I think, and I’m spending a lot less time thinking about my eyes than I used to, but I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that the first two or three months in particular were a bit more of a trial than I expected. I don’t think I made a mistake, mind you, but as someone who didn’t mind wearing glasses all that much, I don’t know if I’d do it again, if that makes any sense. If you really feel like glasses or contacts are a pain in the ass, I’d definitely still suggest you think strongly about doing it– but just be aware that the healing process is a lengthier thing than you might have expected.

Assess the new look

I have had two problems with my lifestyle lately. One, I’m spending way too much time sitting in front of the computer– which remains vastly preferable to the alternative, but still an issue. Two, I am bald and for some reason bald this year has been cold in a way that it simply hasn’t in previous years.

Enter the skullcap, which fits nicely (more of a problem than you might believe; it’s nearly impossible to find hats that fit) and which I intend to wear around the house and outdoors on these sorts of days, and the fact that I am back in glasses, sort of, which will sit by the computer and be worn nowhere else, as they are blue light blockers and are supposed to cut down on eyestrain. I have close friends who will be mildly berated if they don’t work.

(This is not true. I have been describing myself as reasonably financially comfortable for a few years now, and my definition of “comfortable” is “can spend $20 pretty much whenever I like.” These glasses were $20. I won’t even bother returning them if I decide they don’t work.)

I sort of like the look of the skullcap (feel free to yell at me if you disagree) but I’m not in love with the Harry Potter style of the glasses. Then again, this picture will be the only time anyone who isn’t married to or genetically related to me sees them, so I don’t much care what they look like. I’ve gotta say, it’s weird having glasses back on my face again.

(Figures eyes are already hurty enough for the day, takes them off, figuring it won’t get worse)

(Questions own logic)

(Does it anyway)


Blah blah blah blah election panic-cakes. Amy Coney Barrett’s successful nomination makes it all the more critical that we take the Senate and then pack the hell out of the Supreme Court, hopefully impeaching Brett Kavanaugh along the way. My position all along has been that Coney’s nomination was legitimate– there wasn’t a “no election years!” rule when Merrick Garland was nominated and there isn’t one now– but that she should nonetheless be opposed with, well, every arrow in our quiver, Ms. Pelosi, and with every procedural trick and lowdown dirty bit of nonsense our parliamentarians can come up with.

Welp.

There are a number of dark and depressing paths my brain could wander down at the moment; I’m doing my best to cling to what little optimism I can find. If the election is won by a large enough margin we don’t have to worry about the electoral college or the Supreme Court stealing it, and if the presidency is won by that large of a margin it should take the Senate with it. We’ll worry about that first, then move on to the other stuff.

The degree to which the last two Supreme Court nominees are poster children for overpromoted white mediocrity is pretty impressive, by the way. I actually brought up Coney Barrett last time around as an example of a nominee they could have picked who wasn’t a drunken, belligerent rapist and would still be a stenographer for whatever the Republicans wanted, but I still feel like there still has to be someone out there who has maybe been a judge for longer than I spent in high school, or, like, actually been a lawyer, maybe. But whatever. It’s fine, she’s white, that’s good enough for them, yeah? Sure.

On LASIK

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 which my eyes are still there

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.