Eye-laser surgery diary (Trans-PRK method)

2. The treatment

August 13, 2015
I arrive in the morning at the clinic at the same time as the doctor, who rolls into the parking lot in a beautiful BMW 7-series. My mom drops me off and will pick me up after I’m done. I’m gonna stay at my folks to recover for the next couple of days. It was recommended to be around others for at least the first day, as the recovery process as they put it, “might be somewhat discomforting to some”. What better place to be than your own family?

I’m the first one to arrive around 9.20, and I get greeted by the same lovely ladies at the reception as last week. I grab a coffee and watch the big plasma TV hanging on the wall that’s tuned into The Dog Whisperer. As the morning rolls on, more and more people start coming in while Cesar Millan rehabilitates a mean Pit-bull. The waiting room fills up with about 15 people, and I decide to grab another coffee. 10 rolls around, and the next show on National Geographic Channel is Locked up Abroad. Some South African woman gets busted for smuggling heroin into Mauritius and gets thrown into a jail that’s a total hell-hole. No matter how bad this is gonna be, it can always be worse.

Just as I’m starting to get into the TV show, we’re called into the next waiting room. It turns out today’s group consists of seven guys, aged mid-twenties to fifties. The room is darkened, and one of the doctor’s assistants shows up to explain what’s going to happen. Five guys of the group are getting the Intra-Lasik treatment, and me and one other guy are getting the Trans-PRK treatment. The Intra-Lasik guys have to go through two steps: creating the flap, and the laser treatment itself. Me and the other guy will go straight into the laser-room.

Everyone gets a medical gown, hair net, and overshoes. We also get a little teddy bear to hold to as a distraction, which is apparently a standard procedure when getting your eyes lasered. After all, it is a pretty scary thought that they’re going to do stuff to your eyes, especially since you’re not knocked out for it.

The assistant gives everyone painkiller eye-drops, and after five minutes, the Intra-Lasik guys go into the next room one by one to get their flaps done. Their comments are the same when they come back: it doesn’t hurt, it’s kinda a weird feeling of pressure when it happens. After that, they go into the laser-room one by one, and then it’s the other Trans-PRK guy’s turn. I guess I’ll be the last one of the group.

It’s finally my turn, and I walk out of the waiting room with the assistant to the operating room. There, the doctor is waiting for me at the laser-machine (this one, for the experts out there) with two other assistants. I’m told to lie on the table and relax. The doctor confirms once again which treatment I will be getting as the table slowly whirrs backwards until my head is positioned underneath complicated and intimidating machinery. Once I’m in place, they go to work.

First, the skin around my eyes gets wiped down with Potassium-Iodide, and then I get a sterile mask covering my entire face except for my eyes and mouth. Next up, my right eye is pried open with a clamp, moisture drops get poured in, and the eye surface gets wiped clean with a little wiper by one of the assistants. The doctor tells me to look at the little green light and pushes a couple of buttons.

A mechanical arm moves in from the right side, and the laser activates. I start seeing endless little lines swirling around my vision extremely rapidly. I don’t feel pain but it’s not comfortable. I also smell something burning, kinda like burning hair, or a fly in an electric flyswatter. The doctor counts down from 30 to zero, which is the total time it will take for the correction to take place for each eye. I keep forcing myself to stare at the green light, and in the last five seconds or so, my vision turns hazy. The assistant pours in moisture drops and wipes my eye again, which clears everything up again. After that (the doctor talks me through what they’re doing), they put in antibacterial drops, antibiotic drops, and apply a “bandage” contact lens to protect my eye while it heals.

The clamp gets removed and applied to my left eye, where it’s the same exact deal.

Less than a minute later, both my eyes are officially lasered. I’m blinking both eyes while tears flood out of them, while I’m trying to process the overwhelming stimuli that my brain just got bombarded with. It’s an experience that cannot be compared with anything.

I slowly get up wildly disoriented, and all the lights in the room are suddenly bright to the point where they almost knock me over. One of the assistants guides me by the hand out of the operating room into the darkened recovery-room. Everything looks and feels completely surreal, and I can only open my eyes a little bit for a few seconds at a time.

I lie down in the lounge chair and drink some water from the glass that’s on the table next to me. All the other guys are also here in chairs recuperating. One of the assistants stops by every ten minutes to put drops in our eyes. The people that had the Intra-Lasik treatment are commenting that their vision is clearing up and that they’re pretty much ready to take on their day. Me and the one other guy however, are still completely helpless and a mess.

Half an hour or so goes by and it’s time for everyone to leave. The Intra-Lasik group walks out without needing assistance. I still can’t open my eyes at this point, and the assistant leads me back into the main hall by the hand, where my mother is waiting. As we walk out of the building, I need to cover my eyes with my hands because direct sunlight is like a Death-Ray now. I have trouble walking in a straight line. This feels like being seasick.

The car ride home is miserable, but luckily it’s not far.

Home safe.

Next: Recovery process, week 1