I went to the Hangil Eye Hospital for the pre-surgery exams back in December on a Saturday morning… It was nothing more than a million different types of eye exams. It took about two hours to get through. The final test… One of the nurses who couldn’t really speak English approached me as I was sitting down texting while looking out over the sunny city. She motioned for me to hold up my head and “Angyong poda” (glasses off). She dropped some liquid into my eyes and left. As I sat, it became hard to look at my phone and the light started to bother me slightly. Then, I remembered a blog post about your eyes getting dilated for a final test. So, just heads up for that. (There was a 100,000 won deposit for the pre-surgery exams- part of the total cost.)
I was told that there is a 50/50 chance of whether or not I will be able to see well after the surgery. So, a good ole buddy came with me to the surgery. After the three different eye tests (the puff, “Is A better or is B better?”, looking into each eye with a light), taking a large pain pill, receiving pain relief eye drops, and signing more ‘warning’ waivers, I was ready for surgery. I replaced my outdoor shoes with indoor shoes and followed the assistants to the large, white, surgery room with a bed in the middle and a large machine next to it. That’s all my eyes focused on… I couldn’t tell you how many people were in the room. It sounded like 4 or 5. I couldn’t tell you what everyone was wearing. Maybe white shrubs. I can tell you that the light was yellowish and the walls were plain and that the bed looked like a scene from Avatar.
“Back…down,” the surgeon said and pointed to the bed. I laid down, scooted up, and let my head rest in the circular massage type place for the head. The surgeon walked to the head of this futuristic bed. The procedure began.
One eye at a time, of course. It was my right eye first. “Look up,” the main surgeon taped my upper lid. “Down,” he taped the bottom. And if that wasn’t even to ensure that I wouldn’t blink, “clamp in” and he placed a circular clamp in my eye. No more blinking… it became ‘real’. “Look at green light at all times. No moving,” the surgeon reminded me. I mumbled, “Ok” and relaxed my body. Staring at that small green light, right above my head, was my only task during whole procedure.
A squirt bottle appeared and liquid poured all over my eyeball. After the liquid was wiped off from my face, different equipment appeared. (The surgeon was assisted by others who handed him the supplies.) They started cutting layers of my eye and peeling it back (I suppose). After each peel, my vision changed (which was pretty wicked cool). Things got blurrier and blurrier. After a circular saw thing (with the sound of a dentist cleaning your teeth), the green light looked like I was looking through a frosted window with the light particles much bigger. The surgeon reminded me about my green light task. The laser machine lowered and all of the lights turned on. White… red… green…. there was a party going on and I got the invite! Red lights turned green and back. Then, the laser came on. The red shot into me… but I didn’t feel it. After the brief laser light show ended, the machine lifted. The surgeon went to work like a busy bee. He did a few things, placed a contact lens in, the squirt bottle returned, and the tape came off of my face. Next eye…
They did the same process to my left eye. This time, I started zoning out and daydreaming during one part. I had to snap myself back to reality and focus on that green light. They would not be messing up my vision because of something that I did! This time, when the lasers came on, I could actually feel it a bit. It didn’t hurt, but it was strange… just slight pressure.
They wrapped up the left eye. It was. All less than 10 minutes… maybe 4 minutes each eye actually.
“The surgery is complete. It was… success,” the surgeon said while standing in his position. He walked near the foot of the bed and said it again, “Surgery… success.”
When I sat up, everything looked… not perfect, but much, much clearer… as if I had prescription contact lenses in. It slowly faded into a blur as I exited the room. My eyes were checked again. I made an appointment for the following week, picked up my medicine from the pharmacy and out the door!
Before and after the surgeries, every doctor/ nurse/ pharmacist told me:
“Rest… extreme pain tomorrow.”
I was sent home with a cute bag filled with instructions and supplies.
Some of the instructions:
- Don’t shower for three days (only wash-up or baths)
- Sleep with goggles for seven days
- Don’t wear any make-up for a week
- Don’t exercise, run, weight lift for seven days
- Don’t participate in any sports where there is a possibility to get hit in the eye (tennis, kickboxing, etc.) for a month
- Do not swim for a month. When you swim, wear goggles
- Do not wear heavy mascara or eye liner for one month
- Do not drink alcohol for one month
- Wear sunglasses outdoors for 3-4 months
Medication and supplies:
- Other (anti-biotics): Place one drop in each eye four times a day, every four hours (morning, noon, evening, bedtime) for 7 days
- V-word (anti-flammatory): Place one drop in each eye four times a day, every four hours (morning, noon, evening, bedtime) for 4 months
- Vitamin C 1000 mg: Take one pill every day after 30 minutes after eating for 4 months (they gave me a box of 200 pills)
- A large pack of eye drops: Place drops in eye when needed (especially during the first week before opening eyes after slumber) for 4 months
- Ice pack: use when needed
- Tylenol 500 mg: Take when needed
- Goggles and tape: Sleep with these for the first 7 days
When I walked out the door, the street lights and car lights did have a star burst effect. My vision was blurry (but not as blurry as prior to the surgery). I didn’t have a headache. I kept hoping to myself that the pain medication wouldn’t wear off anytime soon. Yet, there was a strange feeling in my eye, like a slight pressure.
Since I could see and didn’t have any complications, my buddy and I headed to an Indian restaurant to pick up lunch. I proudly told the friendly Indian owner (who sees me probably at least once a week) about my surgery. I hoped for a discount, but… at least I got a decent dinner. I went home afterwards and still wasn’t tired. The night became mine. I danced and twisted my hair away!
(Recovery- Week One- Day by day recounts)
Day 1- Saturday
When I woke up, I was afraid of opening my eyes. I thought about the blogs and the doctors’ warnings about extreme pain and such. Would it start when I open my eyes? Did the contact lenses expand? I reached for the eye drops and put them on the cracks in my eyelids before going to a darker area of the apartment (away from the sunlight). There, I opened my eyes. No pain. The vision wasn’t too much of a difference from last night My eyes were poofy, but not too bad. My eyes were definitely sensitive to light. I had the urge
to close and rest them often. Yet, I still met up for dinner… but my energy levels were still pretty low. I was kind of exhausted, but did not want to stay home. I did go home afterwards, though… and started Skyping. I could read a bit, but my vision constantly improved and decreased. So, I learned about the voice-to-text feature on my phone. It was super hard and a REAL headache to read anything on the phone or the computer. Everything became a teary blur and double vision. So, that feature and voice notes made life a whole lot easier.
Day 2- Sunday
When I woke up, I was completely disoriented. I thought that my wall was on the right instead of the left and etc. I did not want to open my eyes at all… and when I tried it was hard. I could only open them for a second or so before shutting them close again. I went to the mirror… they were SWOLLEN. There still wasn’t any pain. So, I was okay. I made a sandwich with very little sight and it turned out to be the best sandwich of that week! Later that evening, I could open my eyes more. Until then… Do I really need to say that I slept most of that day away? I couldn’t rest my head for two seconds before falling asleep. My goggles stayed on my face and I set alarms for the eye drops and vitamin C pills. I felt like itching my eye only about two times, but nothing major. That day, I placed a high limit on the TV and phone. My sight was the same as Day 1.
Day 3- Monday
The swelling started decreasing. It was still there, but I could keep my eyes open for longer periods. That was nice. I was still very tired, but no longer *fighting* to stay awake. My vision was more blurry than Day 1 and Day 2. The antibiotic eye drops started to burn my left eye. That eye also started to itch at a period of time. I think I accidentally scratched that eye with my nail… Big oops. I threw on my goggles for the rest of the day. I placed clothes over my TV screen and computer screen so that I can listen and talk (via Skype) without the screen resolution bugging me. However, I did have to watch the legal US presidential inauguration. Then, the munchies started…
Day 4- Tuesday
By the evening, my eyes were no longer swollen. Administering the eye drops was getting to be a fairly easy task. I could see the clock’s numbers again, so the vision improved back to Day 2’s strength. I was very sleepy and stayed sleep until about 6pm. When I woke, I could finally be able to read the phone without much strain and I could look at the computer screen without instantly wanting to turn away (I still could not look for longer than 5 minutes). I still kept the TV covered though… except during Obama’s US Presidential inauguration. Yeah, yeah, such a patriot. 🙂 My eyes were a bit dry, but a sudden wave of energy came over me… I was awake til 7 am… with work at 8:30 am, so that wasn’t such a good thing.
Day 5- Wednesday (Back to Work)
The lack of sleep must have had an impact. I was really tired and fell asleep at work, probably drooling away… only to be awaken by a take-out delivery guy who was looking for the restaurant’s dishes. I did not have to do any work. It is deskwarming time. So, for me… no major reading… just sleeping. I wouldn’t recommend working or reading hard on Day 5. The computer screen still bugged me, but I could watch TV now for smaller periods.
Day 6- Thursday
I guess after the initial major recovery passed of when my body just wanted to sleep (Days 1-4), then I could feel the aggravation of the goggles when trying to get to sleep. I toss and turn trying to get comfortable now. I didn’t get much sleep last night. So, what happens when you’re super tired with another day of deskwarming? You make your school your home. (Blanket, goggles, sleep mask, etc) The vision is more… double visioned today. I need to lay off of the electronics. I can feel the contacts more at times and the large Vitamin C pill i harder to swallow, but the eye drops are sooo easy to do now!
Day 7- Friday
One week! The contacts will be removed tomorrow. Last night, I finally got some sleep and it made my day. I keep getting an urge to put on my glasses, because of the blur. Yes… the vision is on the lower end again. Once again, I need to lay off of the electronics. Do I have to say that I can easily look at all screens now?
Day 8- Saturday
Contacts out… and it feels so great! The doctor removed the contacts during an exam with tweezers. The eye drops easily soak into my eyes now. It feels so good to nap without goggles again. I’m excited for weeks to come.
End of Week 2
I experienced a bit of ghostiness and double vision at random times throughout this week, as well as a decrease in vision in my left eye. It was great sleeping without goggles. However, one night, I felt like I scratched my eye. On Saturday, I abruptly woke up to sharp pain in my right eye, but it went away almost as quickly as it came… like someone pinched me. Every side effect died down, but I was still concerned about the decrease in vision in my left eye. Finally, I left school early on Monday, during week 3, to get an immediate check. I had three exams and talked to three different people. Everything is normal and my vision is improving at a normal speed. My left eye had more layers shaved off. So, while my right eye has begun the rapid improvement stage, my left eye will take longer. So, the difference is very, very noticeable. Other than that and constant vision fluctuations my vision is still remarkably great and much better from the end of Week 1.
Were you awake during the procedure?
- Yes, you have to stare.
Did you feel pain?
- No, I felt pressure on the eye, but no pain. Those were the best pain relieving pills/ drops/ liquid ever. Maybe I should have kept some for future situations.
Wait, there were blades?
- I will double check when I gather information for the page about the process.
Did you see everything?
- My eyes were open the whole time.
How were they doing this, this, and that during the surgery?
- I don’t know…. They were operating *on* my eyes.
Did I smell ‘burning’ during the surgery?
- No… I didn’t even read about that until tonight…
Any pain after the surgery?
- Nope. No pain.
Dry eyes? Any longer term effects?
- No long term effects yet… but it’s only less than a month. (3-month mark update: still no effects)
What did you not like about the process?
- I went to the hospital that I was comfortable with and felt in good hands the entire time. I cringed when they first started operating, but I took some deep, active breaths. The first few days did get a little boring a times, but I’m pretty lucky to have great friends who called or visited. So, I wouldn’t have changed anything.
Did you feel the difference when they took out the contacts? Were the contacts thick?
- I was super happy to sleep without goggles. My eye drops easily soaked in my eyes after the contact lenses were removed. They felt ike normal contacts. I felt it sometimes in my left eye, but that was expected. When I wore prescription contact lenses, I used extra comfortable ones for the left eye.
What would you recommend to someone who is interested in getting LASEK/ LASIK/ PRK?
- Keep doing your research. Find a hospital/ clinic that you feel comfortable with. If at all possible, find a place that someone you know went to for operation. Remember, you only get two eyes. Know why you want the surgery. Some people may try to convince you not to go through with it. Thoroughly understand the risks, but pray that everything will be okay. Good luck!