My Laser Eye Surgery Experience

Well, I finally did it. I got laser eye surgery. I finally made the leap… and it was great. This morning, I woke up and I could actually read the time on my alarm clock. Sometimes, it’s the little things that mean the most.

Over the past week I’ve had dozens of requests to let people know how the experience goes.

I completely understand this.

When I decided I was going to do this back in April I kept asking questions of the two people I know who’ve already done it; my cousin, Shawn, and Kevin’s Mom in Calgary. I wanted “the scoop”, and to “know what I was getting into.” Neither of them gave me specifics. All they said were things like, it was easy, and, there’s no pain. These were not the answers I was looking for, but regardless they did put me at ease a little bit.

I decided to walk to the clinic to walk off some energy in the morning. I got there at 7:55 for my 8am appointment and found the clinic was locked up and the lights out. I hung around in the hallway and a few minutes later I heard someone get off the elevator. She was on a crutch that clicked with every step. Click-click, pause, click-click, pause. She came around the corner and slowly made her way down the hallway. She introduced herself to me and I to her. She was Dolores, she worked here. She would be doing my pre-op counselling today. She knodded to the crutch and explained she just got back from a two month break due to her leg injury. She had been given the door lock code by another employee but couldn’t remember it. She tried about five different combinations but none of them worked. She tried ringing a doorbell I had not seen, but there was no answer. So we waited. Promptly at 8:01 we were let inside by a young woman holding a tray of cookies.

I sat in the entry waiting room for about half an hour, filled out some paperwork, disclaimer forms, etc. Full of terrifying stuff about side effects and permanent vision loss. There was also a binder full of surveys from past patients that I flipped through. They all rated their experience as 9/10 or 10/10 and had very promising feedback. It occurred to me that they just wouldn’t put the bad responses in the binder. I then was taken into a room for another eye exam to ensure my rx has remained the same since April.

I was next brought to the second waiting room. The view from the 20th floor is breathtaking in this room. I waited some more, then I went in with my counsellor, Dolores. She gave me a fanny-pack full of eye drops and a sheet explaining how to take them. She got me to sign the release forms in front of her and then she acted as witness.

She then explained some things to expect in the procedure.

I should not be alarmed at the burning hair smell, that’s just the laser cutting off excess tissue.

Don’t be alarmed when your vision goes dark, that happens when they apply suction to your eye.

Do not be alarmed at the red dot that may appear on each eye, it’s like a hickey on your eyeball from the suction.

This stuff, this is real helpful. No, seriously.

See the below picture? This only happened on one eye.


I paid her at this point. I gotta admit, it’s quite exhilarating to be able to say, “I’ll put it on debit,” at this point. It promptly declined, and I then called the bank to raise my daily limit to allow the charge to go through.

Dolores asked me if I was nervous and I said yes, I was. She then asked if I had eaten breakfast and I told her no, I hadn’t. She said sorry, but if I had eaten she could have given me Ativan to calm me down. I would be a raving drunk in the procedure if she gave me the pill. She said don’t worry. There’s nothing to be worried about.

She gave me a prescription for eyedrops, and I went down to Shopper’s in the Square and gave it to the pharmacist. At this point I realized I was starving, so I walked to the A&W in the food court. The cashier only had one arm. I only mention this because I tried to be normal about it but I tried to stare at the “stump” a couple of times anyways. It wasn’t that I had any mean feelings, I just wondered how it happened. Was she born that way? Did she get in a horrible car accident? Was it diabetes? Anyways, I ate my breakfast, picked up my eyedrops, took out money for a cab ride home, and went back to the clinic.

Now, I waited what felt like forever. The manager gave me a cup of green tea to help me relax. Everyone who worked there was super friendly. I think I’ll send get them a card.

I talked with the other people in the waiting room at this point. There was Ellie, middle-aged with her own grown up daughter there to drive her home. There was Will, skinny, balding, hair cut real short. Also, Tom, somewhere in his 50’s with grey hair. There was a woman with short curly hair reading a book, I forget her name. There was another blonde woman with hilites. There was the younger Tom, in his 40’s, with brown hair and a moustache.

We joked about our fear of going blind, and other people’s reactions when we told them what we were doing today.

Sometime around 10:00 one of the technicians asked me to sit by the operating room door, she put a cap over my hair and put the freezing drops in my eyes. Those burn a lot. I sat for maybe another 20 minutes. I could hear them testing, or calibrating, or (god forbid) fixing the machine on the other side of the door. I swear I heard a man curse.

Finally, the door opened and I went inside. I shook hands with Dr. Van der Zweep and felt re-assured. He told me the steps to the procedure and that he would explain what was going on as he did it. I also should mention he’s kinda cute. Here’s his page:

http://www.lasikmd.com/cedmonton/meet-your-doctor/our-surgeons/dr-john-van-der-zweep.en.html

I laid on the table. A female technician handed me two gel balls to hold in my hands and squeeze if I felt a need. He said to stare up at the blinking red light overhead and ignore the tiny green light blinking almost right behind it. He taped my eyelids back. He put in more freezing drops. He then taped my left eye shut. Then he inserted a speculum into my eye to keep my eyelids open. I never actually saw it. It did not hurt. But I did feel it touch my eyelids a tiny bit.

At this point, I’m not sure what he did since my eye was completely numb. But, it looked like he put a clear lense over my eye, then he said that I would feel some pressure as they applied the suction and my vision might go dark. I felt the pressure, and I do not know how to describe it. It was uncomfortable, but again, not painful. My vision went very dark, not black, but more like static on a television, only instead of all the white’s and grey’s, it was more dark grey’s and black’s flickering around. Then my vision slowly came back. It was still blurry and the red light instead of being all focused in one spot was now a huge unfocused red blur. Then there was the blurry green light way below it. I never asked why that was.

Next, he said the laser would start and make some loud noises and don’t be alarmed. This is when I smelled the burning hair smell. It wasn’t that bad, I was told the smell gets stronger as the day goes on. I was the first patient today. They do three runs with the laser and then they’re done.

Now, he put the flap back down. and it looked like he was taking a tiny brush and running it down my eye. This is when I got the weirdest sensation. I realized I was watching this. I couldn’t feel a thing. It was like TV, distant, removed, only this was my life, my eyesight. The sensation passed very quickly.

I might have missed a step or two somewhere in there.

Next step, everything in reverse. Take off the suction, take out the speculum, remove the tape from my eyelashes. Rewind.

Now the second eye. Damn. I forgot all about the second eye.

Everything went exactly the same for the second eye, except, right before the did the laser he said stop. I was alarmed at this point. He spoke to a girl beside him. He said he noticed the rx and wanted to change the numbers slightly. I asked what’s wrong. He said to put the flap down at this point. I saw what can only be described as a clear lense being put over my field of sight.

He explained the rx written on the sheet is a touch too high in his opinion. If he takes off that much I might end up a touch far sighted in this eye. So, he was just taking it down a small notch.

We had to wait for the laser to warm up again. Someone put a tissue over my eye so all I can see is this tissue.

Anyways, the burning smell again, success, and again all the steps in reverse. He asked me to sit up. I was a bit shaky at this point. Everything was murky. Like I was underwater.

I went out into the waiting room. A technician came with me, told me to take my cap off, put my sunglasses on. She ran me through the eye drops and actually put them in my eyes for the first time.

I now had to sit in the waiting room for one hour before I could leave. The time was 10:45. Everybody asked me how it was, how was my eyesight. I told them. The manager came by and Ellie yelled that everybody wants drugs now. I told them it was pain, pain! I held my hands up and say no. I didn’t say that. Everyone laughed. Tom is next, then Ellie, then Will.

After 30 minutes I put in my eyedrops right on schedule. After 1 hour I put in my eyedrops again. I was then taken into a room where they examined my eyes again and I was told everything was healing nicely. They called me a cab, I went home.

At this point the freezing drops had worn off and I was experiencing discomfort. It got worse over the next 2-3 hours. You know those headaches where your eyes just hurt? It was that kind of pain. Also throw in a bit of sand or an eyelash stuck in each eye, and extreme light sensitivity even with the dark sunglasses that block out all light.

I cannot rub my eyes. This was repeating in my head. It will mess up the flap if I rub my eyes. All I could do is put in my drops every 30 minutes. Fortunately I was allowed to take Advil so I took one after about 20 minutes of lying on my bed going crazy. I sat in the bathroom since that’s the only room where there isn’t a window and I could sit in complete darkness. Well, either that or the storage closet. I wasn’t going to sit in the closet.

I never realized how hard it is to go 24 hours without watching television, going on a computer or reading. This are my three main activities in life. The solution I found was…hearing. The telephone. My MP3 player.

I laid in bed and listened to music. Kevin came home. I stayed in bed. I got up and talked to him. I called my Mom, I called my Aunt, I called Amber. I laid in bed and listened to music. Again.

I went back this morning and Dr. Van der Zweep said my eyes are doing good. My right eye has a bit of inflammation and I should take my Prednisolone drops every 2 hours instead of every 4 over the weekend.

Overall, a great experience. If anyone wants to get rid of glasses, I highly recommend this. I feel like there’s something missing on my face but I’ll get used to it.

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~ by Cara on August 3, 2007.

4 Responses to “My Laser Eye Surgery Experience”

  1. Hey, thanks for sharin’ that. I’ve been thinkin’ of gettin’ it done but not certain still. A co-worker of mine did it a couple years ago and has had no problems. I just have to muster the courage. ^-^

  2. Hi, don’t know if you’ll answer this or not but how bad were your eyes before hand? I’m thinking of getting laser eye surgery but not sure… :/ I’m 24 and I’m slightly short sighted, I’ve had prescriptions for about 10 years but I’ve hardly worn my glasses. I can get away with not wearing them but I can’t see in detail if something is over a meter away (i.e. going out places I can’t see other peoples eyes/expressions if they are at a distance of over 1m) and I can’t see detail/faces when I watch TV. On a scale of 1-10 how unpleasant would you say the experience was? And how long did the operation take? Have to say I think you are very brave šŸ™‚

  3. Thank you so much for posting this. I am getting mine done on July 9th by the same surgeon.

  4. I had Lasik in the late 90’s when it was still a fairly new procedure. My healing was problem free but I did need a second surgery on one eye. Overall I expected the benefit to last forever but within a few years I needed glasses again. Now I am going to have cataract surgery. Likely not a result of the prior Lasik but rather due to age and Sun damage.

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