Procedure: PRK (PhotoRefractive Keratectomy)
November 1, 1995
Today was a turning point. For months now I've been buried under all kinds of information, studies, professional papers and opinions regarding PRK. It has been a roller coaster - one day I think it's a good thing to do, the next I am convinced that only fools would do such a thing. But today my doctor did an initial exam and confirmed what I have secretly been hoping: I am a good candidate for PRK. My correction (-5.25 in my right eye and -6.50 in my left) is well within the range of treatment. I still must have more tests once I have had my contacts out for a week. If all is well I will have my first eye treated 10 days from now!
Still, I'm nervous. As with any surgical procedure, there are risks. But I believe I have chosen the best technology and the best doctor (he's been doing very complicated eye surgery for twenty years) and by doing so I have reduced the risk factor. And I'm excited! I imagine being able to see in the shower, go swimming or scuba diving etc. with vision. Heck, I even wonder what it will be like to wake up in the morning, open my eyes...and actually see what is around me. In all my life I have not known this simple (?) pleasure.
November 2, 1995
I've been thinking about how vulnerable I feel without my glasses or contacts. I recall reading an article in the mid 1970's that talked about people who wear glasses. The article suggested that many people who wear them hide behind them, making it hard to communicate with them. I remember deciding at that time to make a real effort of get comfortable with my contacts and wear my glasses infrequently. I knew that it was true - that we "hid" behind our spectacles. There is always something between us and the outside world. For me, contacts were no different than glasses in establishing an "invisible" barrier. Now, after 30 years of fiddling with either glasses or contacts, this "barrier" is about to be tossed away. In a way, that makes me nervous, and curiously it seems to bring on a sense of loss. Nevertheless, I am eager to have the experience!
It has only been three days with my glasses and already I feel at my wits end. I had no idea how much vision I lose with glasses compared to wearing contact lenses. I find that I must move slower than my usual "dash and dart" pace because if I don't I bump into things and I'm starting to get bruises!
My husband Peter says it has been a long time since he's seen me so excited. My first eye will be done on Friday. The second next Thursday. I am surprised by the support coming from all directions. It seems that many people are curious about this procedure and are keen to see how I make out.
I have learned so much this week about planning. I nearly worked myself into a frenzy trying to find good days/right days/ workable days to have my eyes treated. Yeah, right! The thing I had to realize was there was no "good" time, just like there is no "good time" for your child to get sick, your dog to die and to borrow a phrase from a colleague "There is no good time to leave your husband (or wife)." So I adapted a new attitude to my PRK. I am going to have this done and for a couple of weeks everything else will just have to work around this fact. It is foreign territory this attitude of "me first" but it is also the way it has to be if I ever want this done. And I do! At work I am trying to focus on the things requiring critical vision, but aside from writing, everything else I do is visually oriented. I think I am in for an interesting couple of weeks ahead...
Tomorrow's the day! This experience wearing glasses has been an eye opener! Not only am I getting bruised from bumping into things, I'm losing keys, pens, paint brushes and even cups of coffee. And I'm completely ineffective at searching for misplaced items! I had no idea how much vision you lose with glasses. Today it feels so claustrophobic! A client of mine who recently became intolerant of contact lens solutions and now must wear glasses told me she experienced the same thing. Needless to say, she is one of the people who is eager to have someone she knows "go first."
I get shivers down my back when I think of the possibility of seeing, just with my own eyes.
Today is the day! I woke up feeling wonderful until I got to the office. All I could think of was the things that I didn't get done. But it did not dampen my enthusiasm or excitement. This is such a life affirming event for me!
November 13, 1995
It is now four days after the first procedure. Funny. It doesn't seem like only four days ago.
I am still astounded by how little discomfort I felt after the procedure. I had watched videos of PRK before, so the actual technique was no surprise. The worst part of it for me were the lights. I have always been somewhat light sensitive, but those laser lights are something else. It made me realize that I was absolutely correct in choosing a doctor that uses technology that has a suction ring to hold the eye steady during the procedure. I've read that the old RK procedure required people to stare at a spot on the ceiling during the operation. Well, there is no way I would have been able to do that! I can't believe anyone could for the length of time to do my correction (-6.50). Anyway, I didn't have to, and the whole thing was over in a couple of minutes.
Another huge shock was the vision I had in my treated eye immediately afterwards! Okay, it wasn't 20/20, but as soon as I got up from the chair I knew that my vision was already significantly better than it ever had been. I donÍt know why that was such a shock, but it was. The weekend was very low key for me. I was extremely light sensitive and had to keep the drapes closed and the lights off...even though I was wearing sunglasses indoors. I also seemed to need a lot of sleep, and regularly took Tylenol to ward off any pain before it even got started. The "bandage" contact lens was removed three days afterward, which is pretty standard. It takes about three days to grow a new epithelium. My doctor says everything looks fine, so we will proceed with my right eye on Thursday. That's the day after tomorrow!
November 15, 1995
Tomorrow's the day for my right eye, and it cannot come soon enough. Yesterday was horrible. One of the worst. And, in its own right it was also one of the best. Let me explain...
The horrible part comes from the fact that my eyes are now completely out of whack. My left eye is slightly hyperopic (the planned over-correction to allow for regression) and my right eye is still -5.25. I can't wear a contact lens in it because I'm having it treated tomorrow. I tried taking the left lens out of my glasses in the hopes of getting some kind of normal vision, but that definitely does not work. There is enormous discomfort during the adjustment period while one eye comes back and the other prepares. That part can not be understated. It is horrible, and may be why some folks do both eyes at the same time. I am too risk adverse to do it that way. I needed to have one eye done first and make sure that it would heal properly, etc. before I would have the other eye done. I know the chance of problems is very, very, minimal. But hey, they are my eyes and I won't take unnecessary chances with them. This weird adjustment period is the price I am paying. I imagine it is different for everyone, depending on their correction and personal adaptabilities.
Now, on the other side of yesterday's coin:
In one hour we will leave for Vancouver to have my second eye done. I feel terrible, and am more than anxious to get this over with. The mis-matched eyes I am trying to see through are driving me nuts! It is almost time to go and once again I am surprised at how calm I am. I'm glad. It's like my body is not resisting the impending change at all. When it's time, it's time. And it is time.
November 24, 1995
It is now one week since my second eye. A lot has been happening. Going back to the day of the second eye, I can't believe how different the it was from the first, beginning with the room itself. I am going to draw a cartoon someday showing what the room looked like to me the first time and what it looked like the second time. If it hadn't been for my doctor assuring me it was the same room, same chair, same laser, etc. I seriously would not have believed anyone else. Yes, it looked that different!!
I'm certain that has something to do with fear and familiarity. By the time I got there for the second eye, I knew what to expect and how it would feel so the anxiety levels were not nearly as high. Recovery over the weekend was easier too. I didn't sleep nearly as much this time. I felt better, too. But the light sensitivity was the same. And the general feeling of the eye was the same. I couldn't see as well as I'd hoped. It almost seemed as though the right eye was just a little slower to come around. Mind you, the vision in the left eye is still not anything to write home about yet either! It seems to come and go. I'm still in denial, but I'm starting to suspect that my visual acuity is directly related to my stress levels and fatigue. Patience, patience, patience! My doctor has looked at my first eye a couple of times already and says everything is perfect, and I find that to be a great source of reassurance.
November 29, 1995
Yesterday was the first day that I got a glimpse of what it is going to be like to be "normal" or sighted. It is like coming out of a long dark tunnel and into the sunlight.
It has now been just over two weeks on my first eye and just a little over a week on my second eye. The brightness of light no longer causes me to dive for cover. In fact I find myself turning on lights earlier than I usually do because I find that dim light diminishes my vision. So does stress. I find that in the morning my vision is by far the best and as the day goes along, it starts to get shaky. I had no idea how much stress and fatigue can affect vision. I mentioned this to my doctor the other day and he just laughed. Does he have a sense of humour or what?! Actually, he didn't just laugh. He said, "I'm not surprised."
Every day gets better and better! I am becoming completely enamored with my own ability to see. Colors have taken on a new intensity, and I find myself marveling at many sights as if it is the first time I've seen them. In a way, it is! The artist in me is completely preoccupied with my new vision, which is clearer than I have ever seen in my entire life.
I have notice that old habits die hard. Last night I tried to take my glasses off before I went to bed. There was nothing there to remove, but after 30 years of habit, it became an unconscious activity. I have also noticed (and so has my mate) that I can get ready quicker in the morning. I had no idea how much time I spent fiddling with my contact lenses both in the morning and in the evening. But then, I was one of those fastidious people that religiously washed hands, rubbed, cleaned and soaked lenses precisely according to instructions. As a result, I never had a problem. But at ten minutes a day (5 in the morning and 5 more in the evening), that adds up to a total of 60.83 hours a year! That is 2.5 whole days out of a year just spent maintaining contact lenses. Wow!
One negative result of PRK is the appearance of Christmas lights. What a disappointment! Now they seem so small. I used to see large halos and flares around all lights and this made Christmas lights extra pretty. Not any more, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. I have begun to wonder why I waited so long to have this wonderful, life-changing procedure...
Dr. Murray McFadden Email: M2@prk.com
For detailed information with actual photos of the LASIK procedure, please visit our sister web site www.lasik1.com
(BSc, MD, FRCS(C), Diplomate of the American
Board of Ophthalmology)
© Copyright 1996-2005 Murray McFadden MD, Inc.
Telephone: (604) 530-3332
Fax: (604) 535-6258
Langley, BC Canada V2Y 1N4
Dr. Murray McFadden