Waking up with 20/20 – My Laser Eye Surgery Experience
Finn Ni Fhaolain's LASIK at Wellington Eye Clinic
August 4, 2017
It’s funny even though I had chatted so much to the Wellington Eye Clinic staff before going in for my consultation I was still a little nervous, I was afraid that years of surfing and swimming in the sea coupled with a stint last year of wearing very cheap contact lenses (please people NEVER NEVER do that to your eyes, I was very lucky not to suffer serious damage) that my eyes would be fit for laser eye surgery. This is something that I think it is important to be aware of, but if you let the clinic know in advance that you suffer from dry eyes or anything like that they can let you know what to do in advance to have healthier eyes by the time you come in. Since I had been following this advice then nerves were mostly drowned out with excitement. This was actually happening!
Before my consultation I did a course of omega 3 oil supplements and warm compresses on my eyes any evening I could remember. There’s a link to these videos here and here, I used a rice eye bag that I had from yoga and just popped it in the microwave when I had a chance.
On the morning of the consultation, I knew I would be in for up to two hours as various different nurses, optometrists and also Dr Cummings all ran various tests on my eyes. This was to assess my sight, the health of my eyes but also things that would affect what type of surgery I could have. The thickness of my cornea, if I had a stigmatism etc.
Everything went very smoothly and the only bit of discomfort was the dilation drops which sting a little as they go in, but it passes quickly. My eyesight was a little blurry for a few hours after so my mom came with me to drive me home.
I think many people put off the initial consultation for laser because they’re afraid of pain, worried about the cost, but for me I was afraid my eyes would be rejected and then the dream would be shattered. For anyone sharing my fear I say get tested as soon as you can, the science of the procedure advances so fast it is amazing the cases that can easily be looked after.
I was delighted to find out that I was eligible for LASIK, which is a super fast healing treatment. All of my consultation and procedure were filmed so its possible to see my absolute joy at hearing the procedure could go ahead. I’ll have a link to this in the coming months. I was booked in for the next morning and off I went home to have a good rest.
Night Before Surgery
It may sound so odd for the night pre-surgery, but I can’t describe it as anything less than the feeling of Christmas Eve. It felt bizarre, a person who hates hospitals being excited for surgery. But to know that when I would wake up the next morning and that it would be my last day wearing glasses was so exhilarating.
Morning of Surgery
On the day of surgery I had a good breakfast and lunch and just generally tried to relax. It is recommended that you have a decent meal as a sedative is offered to you if you’re nervous.
If you had told me the week before that I would go into the surgery and NOT take the pill I would have said you were bonkers, but from the previous days chat with Dr Cummings and having watched both the Wellington Eye Clinic’s and Nikki Blackketter’s surgery videos I decided I didn’t need it. Call it scientific curiosity, but I just wanted know more about the science behind the lasers. However it is still a procedure and no matter what still a bit of a shock to the system so I would not think going without the sedative for everyone.
The prep for the surgery itself was very straightforward. The same eye tests as the previous day, run 8 times for maximum accuracy. Then a nurse when through the kit that I would be sent home with later – numbing drops, antibiotic drops, lubricating drops, painkillers if I needed them, eye shield, tape and a guide on post-op care. She went through everything for me and popped them all in a bag for safekeeping. Then dressed me in my hat, gown and booties and a paint of iodine applied to my face (think Coachella festival makeup look).
I still can’t get over the speed of the actual procedure itself, I don’t believe I was in the room for much more then 30 minutes and I was told it was about 7 minutes and eye and something like only 6 seconds an eye with the actual vision correction laser.
Before the vision is corrected using one type of laser another is used to create the flap in your eye through which the procedure can be done. Being the absolute nerd that I am I found it a little hard not to giggle when I entered the room as the two suites used for each kind of laser reminded me of the beds in the sick bay of space ships on Star Trek.
Dr Cummings talked to me throughout the procedure to let me know what was happening, what would happen next and how it was going. I felt this was really important since you’re going to be awake for the laser eye surgery and I think it is more relaxing to understand what is going on. You’re given two stress balls to hold in case you’re nervous (I saw this in Nikki’s video too). The only point where I did get a little anxious was when the second flap was created and my vision blurred completely. At this point one of the nurses actually held my hand and told me I was doing great.
Honestly this is one of the things that I think just sets the Wellington Eye Clinic apart, it has to be the staff. They see hundreds upon thousands of people, but just these little gestures of kindness at a time when you’re at your most vulnerable are really touching.
Then what felt like very suddenly it was all over and the flaps were closed over and my eyes washed out. The little implement used to close the flap amused me quite a bit as it looked like the worlds tiniest spatula.
After the surgery was finished I was back in my regular clothes and brought into a recovery room for about a half hour. Here there were comfy couches, I could have some tea and relax in a dimly lit environment. At this point I could see but my vision was like looking through a very smokey room. At one point a nurse comes in to give me my first set of eye drops.
Then Dr Cummings had another look at my eyes and very pleased with the results and I was released to my mom to go home and rest.
A few factors I think would be good to think of that my mom and I forgot in all our excitement rushing out the door.
Time of day – my procedure was in the afternoon, but by the time we left it was rush hour traffic, so the 15min journey in was 1h coming home.
Weather – I had not thought of how bright it would be having my surgery in the middle of summer, I would suggest good BIG sunglasses and also a peaked cap.
Hunger – Again though we had a bit of lunch we didn’t calculate in our travel time as well and then got stuck in rush hour on a hot day with no snacks or water!
With that in mind I think a good “care kit” to bring would be – cap, sunglasses, dark top (to pop over your head if its really bright, big bottle of water, snacks that are easy to eat (i.e. with your eyes closed – banana, popcorn etc) and a comfy jumper (your body will be in some shock so it’s nice to be cosy). If we were to go by the recommendations of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter, I would also say chocolate is good to bring for shock.
Dr Cummings said the best thing for your eyes is rest so when I went home I went straight to bed, woke up to eat a pizza (well half of it), chat to my boyfriend and Nana on the phone and then promptly pass out again.
Waking up the next morning was honestly one of the most amazing experiences of my life, my eyes didn’t hurt as I expected them too and when I opened the curtains I could see the mountains in the distance and read the registration plates of the cars across the road! It felt like a miracle!
Post op what happened at the surgery, what I was given to take home. Stuff I hadn’t thought of that I would recommend.