My PRK Surgery and Recovery

A few weeks ago I mentioned it and today it happens. I’ll be having PRK surgery on both of my eyes. I’m really excited about no more contacts, though I have to admit that I’m a little nervous. It’s partially because of the surgery, but also a bit on the recovery. Cole told me that he’ll come and has assured me that if I start to whimper then he’ll cry louder so I’m muffled out and not embarrassed. What a good boy.

When I was first told I’d have PRK, I went searching online for other other people who has had the surgery. I was glad to get an idea of what it was like. Because they helped me, I thought I’d add to it by documenting my own experience. I’ll be updating this post with the pre-op, surgery and post-op so you may see it pop up a few times in your RSS feeders.

Aug 31st, Day of Surgery
The doctor instructed me to scrub my eyes with an “OCuSOFT Eyelid Cleanser” the night before my surgery. I was also instructed to have a drop of Acular LS in each eye the morning of the surgery. The nurse described it as “Tylenol for the eye.”

After waiting for a few minutes at the surgery center, they brought me back to the surgery room. The first step was to get a laser guided picture of my eye. I laid on the machine and they rolled me under the laser. Once lined up, they turn the focused lights up REALLY bright, pulled my eyelids apart and snapped a photo. It was quick and easy.

Once both eyes were phtographed, they rolled me back out and put 4 drops in each of my eye. One to start the numbing, one for dilation, and two others probably for fun.

At that point, I had to wait for the drops to kick in. I sat with Candace in a dark waiting room and took a Vallium for calming. While sitting there for 25 minutes my mind kept flashing to that scene in Armageddon. The newly trained astronaut asks his trainer what the moon will be like. She tells him of the jagged rocks, the loneliness, the death and danger around every corner. To this, the student replies, “Scariest environment imaginable…thanks. That’s all you had to say, scariest environment imaginable.”

The scariest environment imaginable. That’s what I was picturing in my mind.

When the doctor arrived, my eyes were ready. She led me into a regular room and had me sit in the chair. She took a look in my eyes to make sure the dilation was working as expected. She also marked my eyes with a sort of pen. She informed me that this was because of my astigmatism that acts like a natural torque when I lay down. (At least I think that was the explanation. I was a little trippy from the Vallium in me.)

Once I was deemed ready, we went into the surgery room and I laid down on the table. My whole instruction was to “never take your eye off the flashing red light..” I told her that if I see a bright white light then I’m looking away for sure.

She taped my left eye shut and then moved me under the laser again.

The first step was to tape my eyelashes back to avoid infection. Then, a tool was used to prop my eyelids open. It was uncomfortable at first, but I tried to ignore it and just focus on the red light. From this point, my eyes were numbed with a sponge. It worked quickly. The doctor then put a suction cup on my eye and counted down from 40 seconds. If I remember right, this was to make my pupils large and to separate my cornea for easier access. This step was the strangest pressure on my eyes.

Obviously, I could see very little. Focusing on the red light was difficult but not impossible. Another ointment was applied to my eyes and then she cleared away the loose particles of my cornea. She told me this was to make a completely smooth surface for the laser to work thru.

At this point, I was ready for the laser. I heard the machine rev up and the laser started zapping quickly. Luckily I was able to keep my eye completely still so the laser didn’t stop at all. It took about 35 seconds, zap by zap. There was no pain but you could definitely smell the burning eyeball. The smell reminded me of scout camp.

Once the laser was done, a cool liquid is put on the eye and another sponge to cool it down. Then a contact lens was applied. This lens has no prescription but it acts as a bandage to protect your cornea as it heals.

The eyelid proppers are then removed and the tape is removed from your eyelashes. (ouch.)

The whole process is then repeated on the second eye.

Overall, there was no pain. Though it does feel quite strange to have your eyeballs manhandled and I did get a little tense. If I had to do it again, I would have asked how long each eye would take. Even a general idea would have helped because while that first eye is worked on it feels like they are going forever. Once you’ve completed one and know the time needed, the next eye was more bearable. Overall, the procedure lasted 10 minutes for both eyes total.

Sitting up, I could already see that my vision was improved. I was told this would occur, but also warned that the eyesight would be fleeting as it is expected to get worse before it gets better.

Once my stylish booties and awesome hairnet was removed, I left the surgery room and met with Candace again. The sun coming from outside was like plasma rays to my eyeballs. SO BRIGHT! But I put on my sunglasses, followed Candace to the truck and was able to make it home.

Once home, I was told to have a little snack, take another vallium and then get some rest. That’s what I did. After sleeping for a few hours, I watched some of the Red Sox game, and laid in bed listening to music and wearing the awesome super hero goggles to be sure my eyes weren’t bumped or rubbed while I slept. I slept fine thru the night.

Overall, the procedure and first day of recovery had no pain for me. I applied the drops as instructed and that helped. I think the contact lens would be uncomfortable from someone who is used to wearing glasses. It will feel like a piece of sand or hair in your eye. But since I have been wearing contact lenses for years, it wasn’t too bad at all. The big pain is dryness, but applying the drops regularly really helps with that.

Sept 2, Day Two

I woke with no pain still but my eyes were dry from sleeping in the contacts. One drop in each eye and I was back to normal. I know it’s cliche, but the clock across the room had never looked so beautiful. It was crisp and clear.

Cole got up about the same time I did and we played for a while. It was wonderful to see him…even though things were a little blurry sometimes. With PRK, the cells begin to grow back. Sometimes they are in perfect position and everything looks great. But then they’ll shift and it will look like you’re seeing thru broken glass with everything broken up. A couple blinks and you’re good again but it happens over and over.

As the sun came up and the room got bright, I had to put my sunglasses back on again. I was still quite dialated and the sun was really strong.

Candace and Cole drove me down for my checkup with the doctor. After some tests and a quick look at my eye, everything looked healthy. I was seeing 20/20 out of my left eye and 20/30 out of my right. She again warned me that it will get worse as my cornea regenerates, but I’ll return to better eyesight than I was seeing then. It’s a good lesson on patience.

The rest of the day was spent watching and listening to opening day of college football. I’m just putting the drops in regularly and everything feels fine with no pain.

Spet 2, Day Three

I woke up this morning with a powerful burning in both of my eyes. It felt similar to when you spend all day skiing on a sunny slope and that night you realize that your eyeballs were sunburned from the bright sun and the reflective white snow. It was the kind of pain that hurt to keep your eyes closed, but hurt worse to open them up.

I applied all the drops and that helped a little, but not much. Finally, I decided to take a Goody’s Powder and that helped considerably. Is there anything Goody’s can’t solve?

Candace and Cole took me to my appointment with the doctor. Again, it was a quick one. She just wants to make sure that there is no disease forming and that my eye recovery is healthy. She told me that my eyes are recovering very fast and I may be able to get the bandage lenses taken out in the next appointment. I was glad to hear this because it would finally feel like I’m seeing things on my own. Even though the lenses have no prescription, it still feels like I’m being aided.

The rest of the day my vision was very blurry. The best way to describe it is that it’s similar to when you open your eyes under water in a swimming pool. You can see things, but not clear. As things were closer, they were a bit more clear.

Once again, this can be expected as the cornea regenerates. Right now, the cells are kind of just swimming around under the protection of the bandage lens and I’m looking thru their little pool party in my eye..

I still have to keep my sunglasses on because my eyes are quite sensitive to light. Also, the contacts seems to dry out quite fast when met with a breeze so the glasses help with that. We ate dinner with family and played some games. I was able to see the cards alright, though I felt like a poker player with my sunglasses on.

By the end of the night, things were becoming a bit more clear. But, as soon as I applied the drops before bedtime, things were blurry again.

Sept 3, Day Four

I woke up this morning to a real pain in my right eye. When I slept, the contact had dried to the eyelid. When I opened my eye it felt like it dragged across. Ouch. I put in some drops and it felt much better.

I saw the doctor again today. I did horrible on the vision tests. She said this would be my worst day for vision because the cells were all colliding right where I was looking. She was right, all day it was like looking out of a swimming pool. By the end of the day I could see within about 4 feet, but further than that was blurry.

However, I was glad to hear that my eye was almost completely healed and she took out the bandage lenses. This was a nice physical change, but also a mental one. For the first time in a long time I was glad to know that any clear vision was straight from my eye and not being aided by a lens of any kind.

The schedule for drops are still the same and I was instructed to use the lubrication drops even more often than I thought I needed them.

Sept4, Day Five

The only pain I feel at this point is when I first wake up. My eyes don’t have sufficient lubrication during the night so when I wake up my eyelids are very dry and seem to be sticking to my eyeballs. (I know that sounds gross, but how else do you describe that?)

Usually, I’ll put a drop in the corner of my eye and slightly and slowly open my eyelids to let the lubrication spread. That helps.

My visit to the doctor was another vision test and a checkup on the health of my eye. I was able to see 20/20 in my left eye and 20/25 in my right eye. Those numbers sound good, but it’s not a perfect vision. Basically, I can read the letters but not see them clear. My eyes were healthy and I’ll have a week before my next visit.

I drove for the first time today. I’m able to read most signs and with sunglasses I don’t have a problem with the light. My vision is becoming more clear each hour.

From here I think it’s just a gradual improvement in eyesight. I’ll update each time I visit the doctor from here on out.

Oct 4, One Month Since Surgery

I’ve seen the doctor a couple times in the last week. Both times, she let me know that I was healing as expected.

For the most part, my vision is good. Though sometimes I will wake up with more of a blur than other days. I think that this is usually caused by pressure on my eye. (perhaps from a pillow) My doctor said that it brings the astigmatism back into play when this happens. It happened again when I formed a sty on my right eye. The extra pressure from the eyelid pushed the eye.

Once every few days I’ll wake up with a very strong pain in my eye. In talking to an educated friend, he said that this is probably becayse the eye isn’t quite set yet. As the eyeball dries overnight, it may stick to the inside of my eyelid and the movement of the eyelid takes it out of place. I don’t know what it is, but I know it really hurts.

To combat this, I use eye drops all thru the night. In fact, I still use eye drops constantly. THe Acular LS is only 4 times a day as prescribed, but the “Refresh Plus” drops are nearly twice an hour. It really helps the pain.

Nov 27, Three Months Since Surgery

In an appointment yesterday, I was given an vision test again and was able to read at 20/10. I was incredibly happy with that. The doctor decided that I’m now alright to stop any medicated drops and to just take the lubrication drops if I feel like my eyes are dry.

My night vision is good and my eyes don’t dry or hurt. However, at times my eyes do feel a little worn out. As if the muscle had been working real hard all day. This may be because I work in front of a computer for a living, but I do believe they are in the healing process for a little longer.

This will be my last post on the subject. Overall, the results were surely worth the cost and the discomfort.