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My LASIK laser eye surgery experience

Yesterday was a turning point in my life; I had laser eye surgery (LASIK)! Here's a brief summary of my experience.

When I was 16, I barely passed the eye exam at the DMV, so they told me I had to see my eye doctor. Being a self-conscious geek, I opted for contacts over the stereotypical glasses. Although they were fine for most of the day, my contacts always dried out around 8 or 9 PM. My friends will tell you they got sick of my complaints that "my eyes feel like corks!" and "these contacts feel like sandpaper!"

Over the years, I've tried more than 10 different types of contacts, including extended wear, overnight wear, and high-moisture contacts. For a while, I even had contacts with bright blue artificial irises to cover my natural grayish ones. I got a lot of compliments, but they didn't help with the dryness.

I decided to put an end to the suffering this year. LASIK isn't cheap; reputable surgeons charge about $2000 per eye. It hurt to max out my FSA, but I may as well do it now; in 2013, the limit on FSAs will drop to $2500.

I arrived at TLC Laser Eye Center in Kalamazoo at 12:30 PM. Here I am sitting in the waiting room, wearing my glasses. I had to stop wearing contacts at the end of May so my corneas could return to their natural form, so I was in glasses all of June.

After pouring a ton of drops into my eyes from several droppers, they walked me into the operating room. I lay down, and they gave me a blanket because the room was freezing. They also gave me a stuffed Nemo (the fish) to squeeze if I needed to (not a good sign, I thought).

They started with my right eye, so they put a patch on my left one. The surgeon taped my eyelids open, then put on a clamp to make sure they stayed open. He added moisturizing drops since I couldn't blink. There was a small mirror where I could see the reflection of my exposed eyeball, but eyeballs freak me out a little bit, so I didn't look at it.

I had to focus on a small light while they lowered a suction cup. It felt like he was pushing it down like a plunger - not at all comfortable. Everything went black, but the surgeon and assistants kept talking to me the whole time. As if the suction cup wasn't uncomfortable enough, the surgeon ordered, "apply suction," and I felt even more strain.

The first laser cut my cornea to make a flap. I felt a slight heat for about 15 seconds, but everything was still dark. Next was the correcting laser. I could hear the machine clicking (sounded something like an MRI), and it felt vaguely like a series of small electric shocks in my eye. My eye had been numbed before surgery, so I barely felt either laser.

They removed the suction cup, and the surgeon checked the flap. As he moved the flap around, it seemed like I was looking through a kaleidoscope underwater. He then removed the clamp and pulled the tape off my eyelids - probably the most painful part, after the suction cup. He patched my right eye, and repeated the entire process on my left eye!

After a quick checkup to make sure the flaps were aligned correctly for healing, I was able to leave. Here I am walking out of the TLC office:

Happy to be free of contacts and glasses (at least until my 40s or 50s when I need reading glasses):

The suction cups left some attractive pools of blood near the surface of my eyes:

Left eye:

Right eye:

I had to keep my eyes closed as much as possible after the surgery, which made for a boring Friday night. When my eyes were open, things looked pretty hazy. I ate dinner, then napped from about 7 until 9:30, when some friends woke me up with their calls and texts. I talked to them for a while, then went to bed at 10. I should note that I have to wear plastic eye shields that I tape to my face during the first week of sleeping:

I was wide awake around 5 this morning, since I slept more than usual last night. I could see quite clearly (no haziness), but when I blink it still feels like I have eyelashes or something in my eyes. They told me I should expect that for a few days. The bloodspots were more obvious this morning, the day after the surgery:

I could see good enough to drive to my Day 1 post-op checkup this morning. My eyes are still pretty sensitive to light, and there's a slight halo around white and lightly-colored objects. My eye doctor said everything looks good, and that my vision is better than 20/20 and should stabilize that way (my vision had been 20/200).

I'll still have be careful for a few weeks, plus deal with the various eyedrops every few hours, but so far, I like being able to see with my natural eyes!


It sounds like a horrible procedure. I wouldn't want to have it done.
Chad Warner said…
Parts of the surgery were uncomfortable, and it's definitely expensive, but so far I think the results were well worth it.
Crystalyn Kasa said…
Hi there,
I actually just had the LASIK procedure done today on both eyes and felt my experience was similar to yours. Worst part of it for sure was the auctioning a d pressure applied. I also has extreme excruciating pain 1 hour post op. it was absolutely unbearable. If i could have ripped my eyeballs out of my head i would have been tempted! Luckily the gave my oxycdon which knocked the pain away and made me sleep all day. My already early concerns are hazy sight, halos around lights and TV, and starbursts light while night driving. Have you experienced any of these complications and have they resolved? I would love to chat with you about your healing process. Please email me at
warnerchad said…
Crystalyn, it's been almost 3 years since my surgery, and I don't have any issues. If I remember correctly, I did see halos in the dark for 1-4 weeks, but no longer. You should definitely talk to your optometrist about your concerns.

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