I Got My Eyes Lasered: Pew! Pew!


I am near-sighted.  I got my first glasses when I was in the Third Grade, so when I was eight or nine.  I can't remember exactly, but I think it was only in the year or two before then that my vision started declining.  (Now that I think about it, that change in my vision may have come with the onset of puberty since that's about the time that I, uh, began to mature.)

At home I found that sitting closer to the T.V. was a lot better than sitting back on the couch, and at school I thought that watching a video in a darkened room somehow caused the T.V. screen to blur; on special occasions the entire grade would gather in the gym to watch a video, sometimes Reading Rainbow, sometimes a movie, and of course all the lights were turned off so that there wouldn't be a glare on the screen.  I remember gathering in the gym to watch Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983) and imediately being upset as soon as the lights were turned off because I knew the screen would be blurry.  It was, and I sat through the entire movie annoyed that I couldn't see any of the action.

It never occured to me that I needed glasses, even though the rest of my family all wore glasses.  It was in my genes, so it was inevitable.  Simply one day, my parents took me to the optometrist, and I was told to pick out frames because I was getting glasses.

I hated those things.  I don't know why.  Maybe I thought I would get teased at school, but looking back, I can't recall ever getting teased about my glasses.  Not in my adolescence, and not in my adult life.

Nonetheless, I hated my new glasses, so much that one day I threw them down on my bedroom floor as hard as I could.  They were in a felt-lined holder, but the lenses shattered as they were made of glass.  Also, my bedroom was in the basement, and the floor was concrete covered with a thin carpet, which is probably why my parents may have believed me when I told them that my glasses broke when I “accidentally” dropped them.  (Sorry, Mom and Dad!)

I was more careful after that, and I don't think I ever broke another pair except during a fight I got into in Eigth Grade.

Eyeglasses are however a pain the ass.  You have to worry about losing or breaking them.  If they're too tight they can be extremely uncomfortable.  If they're too loose, they can fall off when you lean forward.  It hurts if you try to lie on the side of your face while watching T.V.  If something gets bent, your vision might be a bit wonky and induce migranes.  If you accidentally touch a lense, you leave a big smear across your vision.  Glass lenses shatter easily.  Plastic lenses are lighter and more durable, but scratch easily, so you can't just rub that thumbprint off with a paper towel.  You can't wear goggles or 3-D theater glasses.  And if I had a dime for every time I've accidentally knocked my glasses off of my own face...

So why not contact lenses?

On the one hand, I'm too lazy for contacts.  If you don't want to irritate your eyes, you have to religiously adhere to a regimen of lense care, and sleeping with contacts in can be harmful.  I watched each of my older siblings go through their contact lense routines, and I thought it was just too much effort.

On the other hand, I just don't like sticking things in my eyes.  Self administered eye drops are a little easier to use these days, but my “Eyelids, protect my eyes!” reflex is so strong that doctors always have to fight me to get eye drops in.

In the 1990s people started getting LASIK—laser eye surgery—to correct their vision.  Even “Weird Al” Yankovic got it done in 1998 and completely transformed his iconic look.  The procedure was still not 100% reliable, however, and I doubted I would ever go for it.  Getting my eyes cut with a beam of focused light sounded really risky, especially considering that if something went wrong there woudn't be much that could be done about it; I'd effectively become blind!

In the Summer of 2012 my wife found a Groupon for PRK, another type of laser eye surgery, and she talked me into undergoing the procedure.  It had been 14 years since Weird Al had it done, and it sounded like advances had been made since then.

My procedure happened 2012 August 2.  Just before I entered the operating room to have my eyes worked on, the doctor's assistant dropped some “natural tears” into my eyes.  As she did so, I asked, “Did you have to beat up a lot of people to get them?”

To briefly describe the surgery:  The doctor put some special drops in my eyes, which I think numbed and maybe softened the surfaces of my eyes.  She then scraped each eye with a ring, then turned on the light show!  As I lay under a machine, it used a laser to selectively burn parts of my eyes.  I was supposed to stare unblinkingly straight up at the laser emitter, which is difficult to maintain for a long period of time, but the machine had a quick-reaction mechanism to shut off the laser if I moved my eyes.

After the surgery I began some eye drop precriptions.  I'm not entirely certain that I followed the dosages correctly, as the medications had long, confusing, non-sensical sounding names like “Tatsumaki­senpuukyaku” or “Strassen­verkehrs­angelegenheiten.”  The doctor very briefly went over the prescription instructions right before I went into surgery, and the papers I received may have used the generic chemical names while the bottles prominantly displayed some non-similar brand names, so I think I got them mixed up.

In any case, I quickly adopted two very important new behaviors:  1) Not to rub my eyes when I first woke up, because that hurt a lot, and 2) to open my eyes slowly when I first woke up, lest my dry eyelids rip a layer of skin off of my healing eyes.

To help with the dry eyes, which is a typical response to eye surgery, my eye care prescriptions included Restasis (“point-oh-five-percent”), which I was supposed to take indefinitely to help restore my eyes' natural lubrication.  I had some sort of discount card with which a pack of about 30 single-use vials cost 50 bucks.  I bought another pack about every month until the discount card stopped working, at which point my “important medication” rang up for $300!  I just about fell over and said to the pharmacist, “Are you serious?!

He seemed surprised that I would question the price and confirmed that it was indeed $250 more than what I'd been paying previously.  I then told him I wasn't paying $300 for eye drops and walked out empty handed.

In 2019, with a coupon you can get Restasis for as low as $290!

In 2006 there was a study that showed that Restasis wasn't any better than other eye drops at treating dry eye.  It's too bad I didn't know about this before spending hundreds of dollars on useless eye drops.  Screw Allergan, the maker of Restasis.  Screw you, Allergan, and screw the horse you rode in on!

At some point my doctor recommended that I apply a “gel” eye medication when going to bed, but it was so thick it was like shoving Vaseline under my eyelids.  I woke up feeling like my eyes were grease pits, so I didn't stick with that very long.  I ended up using generic over-the-counter eye drops, which worked just fine.

As I said at the beginning, I'm near-sighted.  Thanks to the eye surgery, I went from extremely near-sighted, to kind of near-sighted.  I can actually recognize faces from across the room without glasses now, and going to the theater to watch a movie isn't a problem as long as the movie doesn't have subtitles.  I was even able to go snorkeling without glasses and still see all the sea life.

Although my vision had improved significantly, it still wasn't satisfactorial clear enough.  For example, I can now drive without glasses, but only during the day, as the road signs and lane lines are too hard to see at night.

Doctor Benator called me back to her optometry office for follow-up appointments on a regular basis to monitor my recovery.  At first the visits didn't cost anything, as making sure I recovered properly from the surgery was a part of her duty, but after a while she started sending me bills for the examinations.  Not once did she ever suggest I get glasses or do anything else to improve my vision, she just examined my eyes to see if anything had changed.  I wasn't going to keep paying for a servcie that wasn't doing anything for me, so I quit going.

I eventually got myself some new glasses.  I went to a Walmart optometrist to measure my prescription, then ordered cheap glasses on-line from Zenni Optical.  (If you go this route, be sure to ask your optometrist for a measuremnt of the space between your eyes.  Measuring it on my own, I got it wrong, which gave me terrible migranes, so I had to order a second pair of glasses.)

In the end, was getting eye surgery with it?  Yes, and I'm glad I did.  My vision may still not be perfect, but at least if I lose my glasses I'm now far less disabled than I was before.