NO, They’re my eyes, you can’t take them!: Reassurance for the nervous LASIK patient

    To say I was a nervous LASIK patient would be an understatement. On my Facebook page the day before my surgery I wrote, “Tomorrow I get LASIK. Pray for me so I don’t punch out the very friendly surgeon, overturn the equipment and go running down the street, gown flapping in the breeze, screaming, ‘No! They’re my eyes! You can’t take them!'” All my friends got a good chuckle out of my joke. Only, it wasn’t entirely a joke. I really did fear I might lose all reason and go completely ape when the laser came at my eyes. I didn’t. I did just fine. Here are some of the fears I had about LASIK and some advice from one who was just there to put you at ease.

1. I’ll have to wear a gown.

    Okay, I admit I knew this would not be likely. I put the flapping gown in to make the imagery much more amusing. Who wouldn’t laugh at a fugitive on the run dressed in nothing but a surgical gown? Instead you will be able to wear whatever clothes you want to for the procedure. You can come in your comfy jeans and a t-shirt like I did. You could wear footie pajamas and bunny slippers if that’s your thing. I supposed you could even show up in a surgical gown with far too much air circulation if that floats your boat. The only required attire is a hairnet to keep your eyes accessible and shoe covers to keep the surgery suite sterile. That’s not so bad, now is it?

2. Any tiny little movements will invalidate the surgery.

    This was a big one for me. I was concerned if I moved even the slightest bit, the laser might cut into or burn places it wasn’t supposed to, leaving me with blurry vision, or worse, blinded for life. When I shared this concern with my friendly surgeon, Dr. Michael Wilcox of the Utah Eye Centers, formally known as the Mount Ogden and Bountiful Hills Eye Centers, he immediately put me at ease. He told me since the computer tracks my eye movement, it would simply stop if I fidgeted or moved at all and then continue after he repositioned my head. He said even if the power went out mid-surgery (a dire contingent I hadn’t even thought of!), the laser would just pick up where it left off when everything was restored.

    Incidentally, you should choose a surgeon who will listen to your fears, no matter how bizarre they may be, and discuss them with you so you will go into the surgery with as much reassurance as possible. With your eyes wide open, so to speak.

3. A LASER, WILL BE COMING, AT MY EYE!

    As someone who opted to wear glasses all my life because sticking contacts in my eyes was too terrifying, the thought of having a pulsating beam of light invade my eye tissue was, um, distressing. This fear is absolutely true. I can’t deny it. A laser will be coming at your eye, and you just have to sit there, take it and remember you paid a lot of money for the privilege of having your eye reshaped by said laser. However, I envisioned much more along the lines of some awful, B list spy movie where the evil doctor cackles manically as he inches the laser closer to the captured hero’s eye, threatening to burn right through it and into his fragile and somewhat pompous brain. Overactive imagination, you say? Probably. But, still likely not all that far off from what you are thinking yourself. That scenario couldn’t be further from the real experience.

    After you lie down on the chair and your eyes are prepped, the first laser will open a small flap in your cornea. The same thing will happen to your other eye if you are getting both done. The staff at Utah Eye Centers were wonderful. They kept telling me I was doing great. They told me what was happening and kept me informed about how much longer it would take, counting down the number of seconds I would be at each part of the procedure. Your corneal flap will be lifted. Your vision might go dark for a half second, but don’t let that freak you out. Then, your surgeon will quickly move your head to the other machine which has the reshaping laser. The laser will be positioned, and it will move down and contact your eye. All you will see is a bunch of lights, similar to a very blurry, very short laser light show. The only thing missing is the Pink Floyd music. You will hear some popping noises–think Snap, Crackle, Pop, Rice Krispies when the milk hits it–and may smell a slight burnt odor. All normal, all meaning that everything is working as it should. Then, the other eye will have its turn. Finally, the staff will replace the corneal flap, smooth it down, irrigate the eyes, and put some drops into them. The entire procedure took much more time to describe than to undergo. I was literally in the chair for about five minutes. I remember thinking, “That’s it? That couldn’t possibly be long enough to fix my vision.” But it was.

4. LASIK is going to hurt, a lot.

    As someone who takes double the Novocain to numb my teeth and for whom the epidural only took away the majority of the pain for two out the four childbirths I had, I worried I would feel excruciating pain during LASIK. After all, just getting poked in the eye has caused me to utter a few choice words I wouldn’t normally use. However, the numbing drops used are, quite simply, awesome. I didn’t feel a thing. A slight amount of pressure, but not a drop of pain. And the recovery has been much better than I thought it would be. My eyes have felt a little scratchy and dry, but only a small amount of pain on the first day. Not even enough to take a Tylenol for. No pain at all on the second.

5. The procedure will go horribly wrong and I will be blinded for life.

    This is a normal fear, considering the legal documents you will be required to sign which lawyers spent far too much time writing to cover every single hideous and horrible scenario possible. And, if you want to go trolling the internet for horror stories, you can probably find those, too. But LASIK is extremely safe and probably has fewer complications than surgeries to correct ingrown toenails. That being said, do your research, ask friends who have had it and if they would do it again. Then, talk to a reputable surgeon and ask about complications and the likelihood it will happen to you. You’ll feel much better.

    I am so happy I didn’t let my fears stop me from getting LASIK. I typed ninety percent of this article about 30 hours post LASIK surgery. Without any glasses, contacts or corrective lenses at all. I’ve been annoying my husband and children for the past three days exclaiming over the individual pine trees with individual branches I can see on the distant mountain. I even woke up and looked at the alarm clock all by myself this morning, no need to ask my husband what time it was. The only down side? I realized I have a seriously ugly bedroom ceiling I never noticed before since my glasses were always off by the time I got into bed. And, some of the tiny dark spots in my shower I thought were just shadows are actually mildew. Eww. Thank you, LASIK, for showing me all sorts of things, grand and less so I didn’t see before. I’m so glad I didn’t let my inner chicken stop me from crossing this particular road.

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