When Paul and I found out how cheap it was to get laser eye surgery here, we decided to go for it!
It is roughly $4,000 for both eyes in the U.S., it was $2,000 in Thailand a couple years ago and here it was $900 out the door including follow-up visits and the doctor’s cell number in case of any concerns!
We chose Videre Eye Clinic. The first visit included lots of eye exams and measurements. We met Dr. Alejandro Claros. We found out I had myopia and astigmatism. At this point LASIK was still an option.
They dilated my eyes in order to ‘map out’ my retina and did another test to show the shape of my eye. Unfortunately, because of the “2-tier snowman” shape of my eye I was out of the running for LASIK but still a candidate for PRK laser surgery.
PRK and LASIK are similar in that a laser is used to alter the retina but with LASIK the laser also cuts a flap prior to the alternation of the rent. Pain and healing time are practically non existent. A little sore after surgery and fine the next day. Vision is clear immediately.
With PRK the unusual shape of the eye makes cutting the ‘flap’ out of the question. So a small amount of alcohol is placed on the eye’s surface only over the retina. The alcohol makes the epithelial cells on the eye’s surface separate and then the doctor wipes them out of the way prior to the laser treatment. Pain and healing time last about a week and clear sight in 1-2 months.
We discussed pain, healing time and vision acquisition and them made an appointment for 4 days later.
The day of surgery, the nurse lead me back to a room to change into a hospital gown and gave me some anesthetic eye drops and an anti-anxiety pill.
I went in and laid on the table. The nurse laid a blanket over me which was nice as the room was VERY air conditioned. She also gave me a Cookie Monster stuffed animal, tucked in on my tummy under the blanket and motioned that I could squeeze it if I needed to. Really…seriously!?!?!?
Dr. A introduced me to the two interns who would be watching the surgery. He explained to them that he would be speaking in English for the surgery so that as he explained things to them I would also be able to understand what was happening. So nice!
Laying on my back, the laser machine was over my head and without my glasses I could see 3 bright red lights in a triangular shape. The light at the top of the triangle was blinking. Dr. A said to look at the blinking light unless he told me otherwise.
He taped a surgery paper over my face…you know the kind with the hole that only shows the area being operated on. He taped one side to my forehead and gave me some more eyedrops.
He did one eye at a time. He placed the eye retractor in my right eye and taped back my eye lashes.
Next he placed a tiny funnel-like instrument on my eyeball so that the alcohol only touched my retina. the nurse counted for 30 seconds and then they removed the funnel and rinsed my eye with water. Dr. A used a hand instrument to ‘scrape’ the loose cells off the outer layer of my eye over my retina. Another rinse and then the laser treatment.
The laser treatment was the easiest part of all. Dr. a said he would be doing the laser treatment now so just keep looking at the blinking light. I heard the machine buzz and my vision darkened and then brightened again but all without any feeling.
After the laser he put more drops in my eye and then a protective contact for the week of healing. He then commenced to taking out the retractor and removed the tape from my eye lashes. Then he moved to my other eye and did it all over again.
In my experience there was no pain with the surgery. It was a little uncomfortable when the retractors went in but only for a few seconds.
Once finished, Dr. A removed the tape from my forehead and took the surgical paper off my face and the nurse lead me out to the room where I could get changed back into my clothes. At this point there was no pain but my eyes just felt a little ‘funny’ almost like a bit swollen and just that I was aware of them.
Dr. A had told us that it would likely be VERY painful and that recovery lasts 3-5 days. My research before surgery made me think that it may be longer (5-7). I also found a blog post about a woman’s experience where she ‘went blind’ after surgery with a dark hood and covered windows and her husband doing everything for her to give her eyes complete rest while healing. Her doctor was shocked that she was completely healed in 3 days.
We decided to give it a go as best we could. So when we left the office I closed my eyes and basically kept them shut for 3 days. We blackened out the windows with blankets and Paul was awesome at taking care of the kids and fixing meals for the kids and his blind wife.
Day 1 - Surgery day! No pain just the feeling of being ‘aware’ of my eyes. Thought that maybe I was pain-free because of the anesthetic drops (we found out later at the 1 week appointment that anesthetic drops actually wear off about 1 hour after used). Antibiotic drops, steroid drops and pain drops throughout the day on a schedule. Lubrication drops whenever I wanted them (about every hour). Staying ‘blind’.
Day 2 - We went to the 2 day appointment and the doc said they were looking good and 20% closed.
I had no pain just slight irritation or a feeling of being aware of my eyes again. Drops same as Day 1. Still ‘blind’. Wondering why not feeling any pain.
Day 3 - Eyes feel slightly irritated and uncomfortable. Using more lubricating drops than before (every 30-45 minutes). Still staying ‘blind’ except for a few peeks to get to the bathroom on my own. Audible is my new best friend!
Day 4 - Eyes more irritated and uncomfortable. Using lube drops about every 20 minutes.
Day 5 - Increased irritation and moments of sharp pain that feels like dryness that won’t go away. Beginning to feel that the irritation may be the contacts drying out and not related to the surgery. I could never tolerate contacts well as my eyes were “too dry”. Lube drops about every 10 minutes.
Day 6 - I believed that it was dry contacts that were now causing stabbing pain that would make my nose run and cause me to have to jump up and down. Need lube drops constantly and lots of it!
Day 7 - 1 week appointment. Pain is gone instantly when the contacts come out! Sweet relief!!! Dr. A took digital pics of my eyes and showed us how each still had small holes in the epithelium that wen’t closed yet (2% to go!). So I had to wear the contacts for 2 more days. If I didn’t wear more contacts my blinking may reopen the holes. We thought it might be ok since they were new, wet contacts but my eyelids were so irritated at that point that they were just as bad for Days 7, 8 & 9 as it was on Day 6. Dr. A said that if I just couldn’t stand it any more I could take the contacts out.
Day 8 - As bad as Day 6. The pain was so bad and I wanted to take the contacts out but wanted more to have complete healing with no more setbacks. I held out until 10pm the night before the appointment for one eye! Whew! Did that feel better!
Day 9 - At 8am I had to take the other contact out. Went to the appointment and the doc said eventing looked good. My vision is still quite blurry (more than I thought it would be). But Dr. A says that my natural blinking will slowly and gently wipe away the remainder of the loose epithelial cells that are causing the blurry vision and things will clear up in about 5-6 weeks. We’ll see! Guess I’ll have to do a update on this post at a later time!
So, overall total healing time for me was 9 days and if it wasn’t for my eyes not being able to handle the contacts, I don’t think I would have had any pain as a result of the surgery.
For now, things are going fine. Traveling isn’t as fun when you can’t see the landscape going by outside the window or the thing that kids are exclaiming about on the other side of the road! But I am concentrating on the big picture and looking forward to seeing clearly without glasses/contacts in about 6 weeks.
Have any of you had PRK done? How much pain did you experience? How long was it before your visit cleared up? Please take a few minutes to tell me…I am super curious!