I had laser eye surgery and it was the best decision I ever made

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  • Laser eye surgery for vision correction has been around for over 20 years and can cost at least $ 1,500 per eye.
  • Michelle Yan of Business Insider was offered two options: Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK) and laser-Keratomileusis in situ assisted (LASIK).
  • This video follows her through all the stages of the procedure: consultation, surgery and recovery.
  • Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.

Here is a transcript of the video.

Michelle yan: It really hurts. Hello my name is Michelle and I have been wearing glasses for 16 years and contact lenses for about nine years. I have always hesitated to do LASIK because it is expensive, and the thought of laser cutting my cornea scares me. But recently my contacts got really uncomfortable, and I just got to a point where I was mentally and financially ready to take that next step.

Ideally, doing this surgery would mean that I could see perfectly clearly without glasses or lenses for the rest of my life. And that would be so amazing because I wouldn’t have to deal with the dry eye from wearing lenses all day, spending money on lenses and solutions every year, and the inconvenience when I travel. But first, I needed to see if I qualified for laser eye surgery.

So, I went to my eye doctor for a free consultation, and he told me that there were four things he was looking for during the exam: a stabilized prescription, how much treatment is needed, the curvature and the thickness of my cornea, and how wet the eye is. The good news is that I am eligible for eye surgery. Instead of LASIK, the doctor recommends that I do something called PRK.

Dr Harry Koster: Some patients, instead of having a flap, have the surgery directly on their cornea. This is called PRK surgery.

Michele: Because my eyes were drier, the doctor recommended that I do PRK instead of LASIK because with LASIK I am more likely to have chronic dry eyes. So I decided to go for PRK even though it might take up to a month to get 20/20, whereas with LASIK it only takes a few days.

The next preoperative step is dilation, which allows the technician to get a more accurate measurement of my prescription.

Finally the day of the operation!

I just took Valium, and we’re waiting for it to work. Sherri, my surgery consultant, used to tell me how I should feel like I had drunk three to four cups of wine, but it’s supposed to calm me down and stuff like that.

The first thing the technician did was disinfect my eyes. Then Dr Koster added a piece of duct tape to keep my eye open. After that, he applied medicine to the surface of my eye to relax it as well as drops to hydrate it. Dr Koster said it was like a little spa for my eyes. While he was doing this, I couldn’t feel or really see anything. Just the colors of the red and green light.

After eye preparation, it was laser time! I had to focus on the green light for 10 seconds. I didn’t see any movement of the laser or feel it cutting my cornea, but I did feel a bit of a burn. I tried not to think about what was going on while it was going on so as not to panic. And before I knew it, the operation was done! Dr Koster added medicine to my eye to keep it from healing more than it should, and he put medical contacts on my eye to protect the cornea as it heals, with a final touch of eye drops . Once he was done with the left eye, he repeated the same process for the right eye, and that’s it! It all took about 15 minutes.

“It just happened so fast. So now I have to do my part to take care of this and recover.

One hour later

So, I just got back. I’m a bit tired. My left eye definitely feels a little prick. I will also be taking Tylenol for the pain. But so far not too much pain.

I ended up falling asleep before taking Tylenol, and it was a big mistake, and I definitely suffered the consequences.

I just woke up from a short nap, I don’t know, and my eyes are starting to hurt a little. It sure hurts.

The pain, on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being really painful, it was a solid 11. I felt like someone had shaved my eyes, and there was nothing I could do about it.

Day 1

Hello. It is currently 7 am Man, last night it was pretty unbearable. I don’t know if this is normal, but I was also hot and cold at the same time. But today things are much better. I also had to stick to a very precise schedule of various eye drops: antibiotic eye drops, anti-inflammatory eye drops and artificial tears without preservatives.

My eyes are still very sensitive to light, so they are a bit closed. Even as I speak at the moment, they are closed. I ended up eating and sleeping a little more. I used Siri to text a friend and kept putting on eye drops.

Day 2

Today Saturday. Yesterday evening, I had the impression that my eyes were very dry, which is why it is good that today I can shed artificial tears eight to ten times a day. I also set a bunch of alarms to remind me when to put on all my eye drops, just in case I forget or fall asleep. For the rest of the day, I would just listen while standing or sleeping. I notice that my left eye can see a little clearer than my right eye. So hopefully in the next few days they will both be clear, but that’s a bit of a concern for me right now.

Day 3

By the third day, I was starting to feel a little restless, as I was stuck in my room all day without being able to do much. But it was really nice to see progress. It’s Sunday, 7am, I just woke up, and I can sort of open my eyes a little bit more without needing sunglasses. Plus a lot of discomfort. My eyesight fluctuated; sometimes it’s blurry and sometimes it’s pretty clear, but, yes, it’s getting better and better. They look pretty good, don’t they?

Day 4

I really wanted to wake up today and be like, “Boom, oh my God I can see 20/20 without glasses or lenses.” But this is not the case.

Day 5

It’s Tuesday morning. I just took a shower with these guys, just to protect myself from the water entering my eyes. And I’m going to work, but before work I’m going to go to the doctor to get those medical contacts out. First time I walk outside. The sun is not too bad. I am not overly sensitive.

Dr Koster: It’s time to see how you are.

Michele: OK.

Dr Koster: A few dry spots, but you are where you should be. Things will improve in the next few days.

Dr Koster: Alright, so let’s get the lens out. Look towards the ceiling. Its good.

Michele: Wow, just like that!

Dr Koster: It’s easy, eh? I have been doing it for a few years.

Michele: So when do you think I should be able to see 20/20?

Dr Koster: Mm, usually there will be glimpses of it, depending on how wet your eye is. But usually after two weeks you will calm down quite well. All you have to do is trust the science for the next few weeks. Let science do the work for you, okay?

Day 11

After being back to work for about a week, my eyesight was still fluctuating. In the morning I could see quite clearly, but by the early afternoon my vision was blurry. When I was on the computer, I had to zoom in to 175% to see clearly. This continued to happen for the next few days.

Usually when I got home I would take off my lenses and put on my glasses, and I was really tempted to do that today, but it’s so amazing not to have to do it anymore.

Day 19

It has been officially two weeks since I removed my medical contacts and finally returned to work. My eyesight is still fluctuating, but I think I am 98% there. It was a little frustrating because I wanted my eyesight to be clear within two weeks, but it took a while, and I’m still waiting patiently. Tomorrow will be the last day I stop putting my drops. So, yeah, definitely a lot of post-recovery commitment. Hopefully the results will be worth it.

Day 30

It has officially been a month since my PRK surgery, and I can confidently say that I can see 100% clear. My right eye has definitely caught up with my left. No pain, no dryness, no discomfort, no redness. It was awesome! I’m also traveling at the moment, and it’s so convenient that I don’t need to bring glasses or lenses or a fix with me. I think the last thing left for me to do is donate all of my contact solution because I won’t need it anymore.

Final thoughts

I’m still amazed that the whole operation only took about 15 minutes and that I didn’t feel any pain during it. Dr Koster and his team really took care of me. Although the thought of laser cutting my cornea always scares me, I have found that thinking about other things during the operation has really helped me.

As for post-operative pain, the first night was definitely an 11 out of 10, but it probably could have been avoided if I had taken Tylenol with codeine before I accidentally passed out. Other than that, the first two nights the pain was bearable, like, four out of ten.

The most boring part of this whole process was, for three weeks, my eyesight kept fluctuating. Doing my job was really, really hard. And there were times when I felt skeptical and sad that the surgery might not have worked. But I kept thinking about what Dr. Koster said: “Let science do the work for you, okay? And I just tried to be patient.

If you are considering doing PRK I would be willing to set aside a month for recovery. I know that with LASIK the recovery time is much faster with similar results. But doing PRK was worth the money and the wait for me, because now I can wake up with clear vision without the need for glasses or contacts.

If you are considering having laser eye surgery, do your research. Find out which procedure is best for you and which doctors have the experience and care. And don’t forget to follow all of their instructions before and after surgery for the best results.

Michele: It’s my eyeball!

Jade: Yeah, like, you weren’t reacting to that. Like, it was so strange.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally posted in December 2019.

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