Sunday, March 3, 2013

The day they lasered my eyeballs

This is the last photo taken where I needed or was wearing glasses. I finally got laser eye surgery  2 weeks ago.

For those of you who don't know, my vision was 20/800 without glasses, which is -8.00.

Aka, I was incredibly blind.
My vision looked like this.

The doctor described my vision as "severely near-sighted."

I couldn't read giant letters that were two feet in front of me.  And because my right eye was weaker than my left eye, if I wanted to read without my glasses, I had to close my right eye and hold the book/phone about 2 inches from my face. Life without glasses was not a possibility.

The after picture...well 10 days after at the Tim Burton exhibit.
Every morning I'd wake up and have to fumble around for my glasses immediately. In college once, I had to wake up my roommate Lauren because I couldn't find my glasses...they'd slid under some paper and were fairly visible.

I once walked into a very, very large spider hanging from the ceiling because I wasn't wearing my glasses and didn't see it until it was literally touching my nose.

When I was 13 and we moved into our house, it was the first time I was living somewhere that had stairs. I couldn't see down well enough with my glasses, so I fell down the stairs every single day, until mom had finally had it and made me get contacts, which I resisted, but they solved the falling problem. At least during the day!

I don't know if this is reasonable, but I blame my inability to find things on a lifetime of not being able to see very well. I remember one time opening a cupboard, looking around, grabbing a can of soup, then closing the cupboard door. About a minute later, our cat, Zach, walked out of the cupboard. He was sitting among the soup and I hadn't seen him.

So, I decided, after having glasses since I was 7 years old in 2nd grade, to get laser eye surgery. It is extremely cheap in Korea and had several friends who went to a clinic here and did not go blind, so I made an appointment.

J went with me for my original appointment and the actual surgery.

The Dream Eye Center is in Myeongdong and they speak perfect English, which is really helpful and reassuring when you're planning to get your eyeballs lasered.

They have several tests that they go through. They use a machine that somehow measures your vision, which I've never seen before. They do the pressure test, where they blow air into your eye, which I hate no matter how many times they do it. They measure your corneal thickness, which needs to be more than 500 (some measurement that I don't know) to get the Lasek (the painful surgery) and a lot more than that to get the one where they laser you and you walk out and can see. My corneal thickness was 502 and 510, so I had to get the painful surgery and did not have a choice.

They measure the shape of your eye and retina. Mine was within normal range. I have an astigmatism in both eyes, but it's particularly bad in my right eye (hence that one being more blind). which they had to correct for.

I also have enormous pupils, which is genetic. I knew that already, since Grant, Alana and I all complain about our giant pupils during very bright situations where our pupils are enormous for no reason. People jokingly ask if we're on some sort of drug.

We are not.

At night, your pupils are supposed to between 7-7.5 (some measurement I do not know) and mine were 10. Thanks mom. That definitely comes from you.

Having large pupils meant that my night glare around lights (basically it's just a slight circle around lights that I didn't notice I had until the doctor told me I had it based on my pupils) would get a bit worse before it would get slightly better, but could never be fixed, because my pupils were too big.

Thanks again, mother.

They then numb your eye and do these measurements, where they poke you with a pen and it's awful. You can't feel anything, but they poke you a lot.

Then, they showed me videos of the surgery, explained that my surgery was more difficult because of my stupid eye balls and  that meant it would be more expensive than the one J got it. But, because J referred me, and I reserved it that day, they dropped the price quite a bit and it was still more than $2,000 cheaper than in the states. I talked to the doctor and made my appointment for February 2nd!

I then decided to go to Japan and moved the appointment to February 16th.

February 16th arrived and I was terrified. I left the apartment bright and early in the morning and took the bus to Myeongdong with J.

They checked my vision and other things again, just to make sure, then had me read a book to guide me through what would happen. Here are some examples.

Then, I went upstairs and put on a robe and took off my glasses for the last time.

There was a nurse there who disinfected my face and said, "Ok, don't touch your face."

I immediately touched my face, because I am a 4 year old child apparently.

After she re-disinfected my face, the nurse left for a couple minutes while they tested the laser machine and I had to sit on my hands and say to myself, "Don't touch my face!" to make sure I didn't touch my face again.

Then, I went into the surgery room.

They lay you down on the bed, cover you with a blanket and give you a stuffed animal to hold onto, they position the laser above you and begin the surgery. Previously mentioned nurse's job was to hold my hand during the surgery. I thought that was a little weird until the surgery started and I definitely needed her hand to hold, because I felt a bit panicky.

At this point, they've given you lots of number eye drops and then he says to look at the green light. The first step is to remove the top layer of my eye and then told me to look at the green light while the laser was going.

Now, I didn't feel anything while the laser was going...which was good.

But I could smell my eye burning and it was horrifying.  So, for eye number one I was very good and didn't move my eye.

For eye number two, my eye was dancing around and my hands were shaking, which is when the lady holding my hand was very necessary.

They repeated the process, I couldn't stop moving my eye, then I sat up and was finished.

I could immediately see a lot better. I went to the resting room for 20 minutes. They have you lie in a bed with your eyes closed.
And then I was finished. I can say that the experience, despite minor fear, was totally worth it. The clinic was very helpful and the surgery was a great success!

Afterwards. we then got lunch and headed home.

Which is when the pain started and it was not fun for about 2 days. That feeling when you're really tired or have been crying and your eyes are burning a bit...that's what it was like times 1000.

I'd have small spurts where I'd feel ok and could open my eyes, but then I wouldn't be able to open my eyes again. I was very diligent with my eye drops but basically slept for 2 days, because my eyes felt like I had to. If necessary, I listened to Bossypants on tape for a bit and Tina Fey's voice soothed me.

About 5 AM on Sunday I woke up and it felt like there was a boulder in my eye, so I took pain medication and went back to sleep. I repeated that process until Monday.

Ben asked if I felt up to getting lunch on Sunday. For about 3 minutes I was, until I couldn't open my eyes anymore and asked him to bring it to me. We ate lunch together, then I put on my sleeping goggles, which looked like white versions of Harry Potter's Quidditch goggles, then went to sleep again.

Monday I had to teach, but was extremely light sensitive and had to teach wearing sunglasses, which was ridiculous but completely necessary.

I had my 2nd check up on Thursday. My vision in my right eye is 20/40 and in my left eye is 20/30 after 2 weeks! It's amazing!! And they're slowly getting less dry during the day, which is nice. It was a fantastic decision I must say. It's really weird waking up in the morning and just being able to see, instead of the last 18 years when I had to find my glasses and then could see. Or needing my glasses to find my glasses.

Update 4/23: I had my 2 month check up today. Both eyes were 20/20 which was better than they had anticipated (My right eye was only supposed to be 20/25). It's all very exciting!!

 I highly recommend it if you ever get the chance.


  1. Yikes!! You went to Japan to get it done? How much did you pay? I have to admit, now I am scared...and I don; want to go to

  2. No, I had it done in Korea. It's actually quite safe and the doctors who do the surgery, at least at the clinic I went to, do dozens a week! Just while I was there, I went in for surgery and there were 5 in the waiting room to go in. Go to Japan, it's awesome, as is Korea haha.