Sunday, August 5, 2012

Through My Eyes

Just a little background on my bad eyesight:  I was 8 or 9 when I got my first pair of eyeglasses, 13 when I started wearing contacts, 26 when I had to move out of regular soft lenses in my right eye to Toric ($300+ a box for a 6 month supply) trifocal lenses and fight with my insurance to cover both eye prescriptions.  I was paying over $900 a year out of pocket.  I’m 34 years old now…you do the math. 

The last eye appointment I had was roughly six weeks ago.  Two weeks ago my glasses came in, but my contacts had another two to four weeks before arrival.  The lady behind the counter asked me to try them on for proper fit.  I took my contacts out, stumbled blindly to the chair, and viola my glasses fit.  The lenses were thick, even with the feather-weight lens they offered, but the frames were cute.  I took them off and go to put my contacts back in only to find I ripped my right one!  I had NONE at home, NONE in my purse, and NONE for backup in my gear bag for work.  Seriously?

That was on Monday, July 23rd.  Forced to wear my glasses, I sucked it up for a couple days before I couldn’t take it anymore.  I should’ve been use to them by then, but I was nauseous from the movement, couldn’t look side to side or up and down without feeling off balance.  I had to do something.  Waiting on my contacts gave me the perfect opportunity to call about Lasik. 
The Filutowski Cataract & Lasik Institute was recommended by a friend and coworker who recently had the procedure done with great results.   When I called they scheduled me right away for a consultation.  I only had to be out of my soft contacts for three days.  It was a week from the day I got my glasses.  Monday, July 30th, I walked into the Daytona office with low expectations of getting Lasik.  I knew my eyes were pretty bad and accepted that I may not be a candidate for the procedure.  There were other options and I was even okay with some improvement and a lesser prescription. 

After my full eye exam and consultation I was approved for Lasik.  My prescription was listed as the following:  OD: -10.00 + 4.00 x 085 and OS: -9.75 + 1.75 x 150.  The first number (-10.00) is the amount of nearsightedness, the second number (+4.00) is the amount of astigmatism, and the third number (x085) is the direction of the astigmatism; astigmatism being the football shape of the eye.  The OD is the right eye and OS is the left eye.  As you can see my right eye was pretty bad. 

The doctor said astigmatism doesn’t scare them.  Whew!  The prescription strength is the tough part. Pffflt!   The next step was setting the surgery date.  I was preparing myself to wear glasses for a month before I could get it done like so many people had to do before me.  Nope.  They could do it as early as Friday, August 3rd.  Again, I only had to be out of my soft lenses for three days before the procedure.  Since I didn't have any that wasn't a problem. 
I was overjoyed.  Driving the past two weeks in my glasses, partially at night, gave me horrible headaches and left me vulnerable at work.  I had no peripheral vision and if something happened that my glasses got knocked off my face I was basically blind.  How blind? I’m nearsighted, and so nearsighted that if you hold your hand two inches in front of your face that would depict approximately how close I had to be to something to make out what it was or what it said.  Another issue with the glasses was getting in and out of my car and they would fog up.  That was just peachy on a traffic stop at night when I was already blinded from the lights that made me squint to get rid of the halos and glare. 

My supervisor was a godsend letting me have off on short notice for the procedure.  We had a case the night before that kept us over into the wee morning hours.  I got home at 5:30 that morning, slept a couple hours, took our oldest to get registered for school, got home just in time to leave for Lake Mary where the surgical center was located, and drove an hour and a half to make my 1:10 p.m. appointment.  My Hubs took off work to drive me and to poke fun at me while I couldn’t see. 

Upon arrival I was greeted with a 10mg valium and a bottle of water.  For someone who doesn’t take more than a morning Flintstone vitamin that valium put me on my butt.  I was wine happy in about ten minutes and didn’t care if I could see or not.  The nurse came out and helped me to a dark sitting room with a recliner where there was soft music playing.  I say ‘helped’ because even though I was wearing flip-flops it felt like I was tipsy walking in high heels. 

There were two other people sitting with me, a young girl and an old guy.  The girl was having Lasik like me and the guy was getting the lens implants.  The young girl disappeared through a door into a room that is glassed in and can be viewed by everyone else in the waiting area.  I’m still in the dark room tapping my flip-flops against my feet to the beat of the elevator music.  A nurse opens another door and says, “Ms. McLaughlin, it’s your turn.”  I reply, “cool.”  Still sitting in the recliner I reach out my hand to her and wait for my escort.  She was laughing at me, knowing how blind I was and that if she really wanted to she could lead me right into a wall and I wouldn’t know until I hit it. 

The glass room was clean and cool, subtly lit, and quiet.  Dr. Filutowski himself was performing my surgery.   I couldn’t make out his features, but his voice was soft and he had a slight accent.  He immediately put me at ease and explained what I would see and hear throughout the procedure.  Odd, he didn’t say what I would feel.  That’s because I soon found out I didn’t feel anything.  My eyes were completely numb from the drops.  The contraption used to expose my eyeball to the laser caused slight pressure for less than a minute.  I closed my left eye then saw the same thing on my right eye.  In less than two minutes I was sitting in an exam chair with Dr. Filutowski shining a light in my right eye to mark the points he needed with what might have been a sharpie pen.  It was weird ‘seeing’ it and not feeling it. 

That was less than a minute and I was led into the other side of the glass room where another contraption held my eyelids open and a laser light penetrated my eye.  The doctor told me to look straight at the light.  It was red starbursts, almost like a still picture of a red firework explosion.  I heard the laser and saw sparks in the red light that eventually started to come into focus as a small red dot.  The clamp was removed, a few drops in my eyes, and he told me to blink.  I sat up and looked across the room at one of the machines where I could read the letters…I could actually read across the room.  It was a bit hazy with the drops, but I could see!  Next thing I know I was standing next to Dr. Filutowski having my picture taken. 
Rest.  Lots of rest and lots of drops for the next few hours, then a follow up the next morning.  I woke up with clear eyes and able to see Fat Dougie lying between me and Hubs.  The alarm clock was visible over Hub’s head and it read 5:30 a.m.  Holy crap, I could see the alarm clock!! My eye exam reported my left eye as 20/25 and my right eye 20/20, together easily seeing 20/20.  This is less than twenty-four hours after the procedure and I’m able to see clearly for the first time in over 30 years without glasses or contacts. 

BEFORE:                                          AFTER:

It’s early for me with the procedure to be boasting how awesome it is, but I can tell you this, it has already changed my outlook on so many things.  No pun intended.  I have career goals that I didn’t think would be possible because of my bad eyesight.  Now I can try out for the dive team and not worry about being blind in the water during the testing.  I don’t have to worry about having eyeglasses or contacts in my car for backup in case I lose/damaged them, or struggle on the firing range with my eyes drying out in my contacts.  Best of all I don’t have to pay a fortune for either of them anymore! 
Questions about what follows and did I smell bacon during the laser portion come up too.  No, no bacon smell, though I always crave bacon after someone asks that.  And what follows is up to the individual.  For me, it’s enjoying every day God has given me to see the world with my new eyesight ...and no eye makeup for a week.   The two same questions everyone has asked me, “Does it hurt?” and “How much did you have to pay for it?” 

NO, it did not hurt at all.  I wasn’t kidding when I said I didn’t feel a thing other than slight pressure when they apply the first contraption to hold your eye in place.  It caused minor bruising on the upper white of my eye that is barely visible unless you point it out.  I still don’t feel it.  Nothing near as irritating as sinus or allergies, and the pressure was less than if you were to apply eyeshadow with a brush.  When my eyes feel dry I use the drops they prescribed as often as I want.  You also get steroid and antibiotic drops for the first few weeks. 

The cost?  It depends on the individual’s eyes, the procedure being done, their prescription, and whether or not they’ve ever had it done there before.  First timers pay a lot more than follow up surgeries after the first year.  Mine totaled $4800.00 well worth it dollars.  That was with a generous discount for being LEO and paying upfront instead of financing, as well as having it done within three months of the exam, and they were running a summer special.  Without all of that I would’ve paid $6000.  During the first six months if they need to tweak either eye it is covered under my already paid cost, and if I need further correction after that which is not for the same issues then it’s only $500 per eye.  Same after care applies. 

If you didn’t do the math from before, over $900 a year for the past eight years in glasses and contacts, that equaled approximately $7200.  Add in the cost of the eye exams/copay and lens solution too.  Friends and relatives who have had this done over the years are all saying it was the best investment they ever made.  I’m inclined to agree.   Many of them had it done 8-15 years ago and still have 20/20 vision.  That’s over $7200 dollars I can save…or spend on really awesome sunglasses to protect my newly improved big brown eyes!