Friday, January 11, 2013

My PRK Recovery: Introduction and Day 0

I had PRK surgery on both eyes last week and thought I would record my own recovery process because it was so incredibly helpful to read about other people's experiences when I was considering the surgery myself.  Reading these accounts also helped to set my expectations for the surgery and maintain optimism during the days when it seemed like my vision might be devastated forever.  The one thing that really stood out from reading all those accounts is how variable the recovery process is for each person, so this is my account.

Stats: I'm 32 years old and my prescription going in was -8.0 diopters for both eyes with a slight astigmatism in one eye.  The thought of eye surgery always freaked me out even though I knew several people who had had Lasik and loved it.  I would have happily continued on in contacts but in the last year or two, I seemed to have developed a sensitivity to contacts and could no longer wear them comfortably.  Even the daily disposables were difficult to wear.  With such a high prescription, my glasses were kind of intolerable so I started looking into eye surgery.

Consultation: I'm an OHSU employee so the Casey Eye Institute was the obvious place for me to look at.  Since I was so nervous about eye surgery I definitely wanted a reputable institution with very experienced doctors.  If anything happened to my eyes my career would literally be over so I was not going to cheap out on this.  I first went to a free information session, which demystified the whole process for me, and I scheduled my consultation soon after.  The consultation was $100, but this amount was deducted from the total surgery amount when I chose to undergo the surgery.  During the consultation I learned that my corneas were of average thickness, but since my prescription was so high, I was a borderline candidate for Lasik, which was what I wanted.  I could do Lasik, but would not be able to do a followup procedure if it was necessary because there would not be enough cornea left.  The doctor explained everything and left the decision up to me.  Given that my prescription was so high, I wasn't super confident that I could fix my eyesight in a single procedure and thought I should play it safe.  So I chose PRK and scheduled my appointment.  

Cost: The cost was $2000 for each eye, but I got a 25% discount as an OHSU employee and planned to pay for the procedure with money set aside in a Flexible Spending Account.  I calculate my actual cost (after tax savings) as closer to $1100 per eye, which was more than reasonable for such a respected institution.  

Pre-Surgery Preparation:  I made my appointment in October for the earliest date in 2013 (so I could sign up for a flexible spending account).  At that point I had already been free of contacts for a few weeks (important for an accurate consultation).  Since my contacts were irritating my eyes and I wanted my eyes to be in their natural shape as long as possible pre-surgery, I only wore glasses for the next three months.  Four days before surgery, I discontinued wearing makeup and starting wiping my eyelids with some sterile washing pads they provided for me in the morning and evenings.  I forgot to do it twice but I guess it was fine!

Surgery (Day 0): After checking in, the receptionist told me I could take my Valium pill so I did.  I really have no idea if it was effective, but I was definitely quite nervous during the procedure and it's possible that it would have been worse without it.  I recommend you take the pill if given the chance.  As others have described, numbing drops are placed in both eyes, eyelashes are taped back, some cold sinister contraption is placed in to hold lids open (I absolutely HATED this part the most), and a solution is dropped on the eye to dissolved the epithelium.  The doctor handled everything and a technician operated the laser I think while another technician assisted the doctor.  Everything I would experience was explained beforehand, which was really reassuring when I was actually experiencing it.  Anyway, after the technician counted out the time, the chemical solution was washed away and the doctor scraped on my eye to get rid of the cells I guess.  This felt weird but did not hurt.  Really the most uncomfortable thing for me was inserting that lid contraption.  Then I was told to focus on a green light (which was super fuzzy to me) and not move.  The lasering smelled like a blowdryer was running and was very quick and the most delightful part so far.  As my eye was lasered, I could see the fuzzy green light come into focus.  My eye was then flushed with cold solution I think and that was that.  When I got up from the padded table, I was able to already see very well.  It was incredible.

I was told to take one of my Vicodin pills right away and to use my medicated drops four times a day (antibiotic one first, then steroid).  I put on my dark goggles and my boyfriend drove me home and I slept for a couple of hours.  My eyes felt sensitive but I was amazed by how well I could see.

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