For Christmas, I decided to give myself a gift of sight (20/20 in 2020!) I traveled from Shenzhen to Hainan (a small direct flight of one and a half hours) for eye surgery at laser, also known as LASIK. The procedure costs a fraction of the price in the sunny island province compared to major cities in China. There is even a high speed train connecting Haikou to Sanya if you want a complete beach vacation.
In Shenzhen, the procedure starts at 17,500 RMB while clinics in Hainan start at 7,900 RMB. I decided to go with Hi-Vision Center after some recommendations from a few friends. On a typical day, the clinic sees around 20 to 25 patients and during peak season this number jumps to 90 patients per day. It was also a bonus that the head surgeon operated on my eyes for the surgery and there was also a translator for the whole procedure.
Here’s a breakdown of some key information:
Reception area. Image via Summer Lin
One week pre-surgery: I have been asked to stop wearing contact lenses as they can cause swelling of the cornea which can affect the accuracy of eye measurements before surgery. Glasses only!
Cost: 8,330 RMB
There were three options to choose from, I choose the cheapest option. It was the doctor’s analogy: the first level is a vintage BMW, the second is a Rolls-Royce, and the third is NASA. (Yes, I also don’t know why vehicle references are not used everywhere). The price difference is due to the technology used to cut the corneal flap.
Eyeglasses: -4.50 and -5.25 with astigmatism in both eyes. I have been wearing contact lenses for over 15 years.
Time: The actual treatment lasted five minutes. However, from start to finish, I was in the center for about three hours. It was a very intense experience, there were three beds and three machines in each room – a fast and efficient assembly line.
Pre-surgery: the most important and surprising part was the intensity of the preparation of my eyes. They washed my eyes four times before the procedure, constantly put eye drops in my eyes, threw me a hair net, and dressed me in scrubs and plastic slides.
Operation: I entered, lying down and there were four people around the bed including an interpreter. They cleaned my eyes, stuck a speculum to keep my eyelids wide open, and told me to look at the light and not move. I then started to hear a constant clicking sound as the lasers fired.
Recovery: Your post-operative sensitivity depends on the thickness of your cornea. My cornea was thicker (thank you mom and dad) so it hurt less. You may feel like there is sand in your eyes, but this is completely normal. I also had to stay at least 30 minutes after that as another set of eye drops was needed.
I was told that goggles were not necessary, that I did not need to stay out of the sun, and that I had not been given painkillers. However, I was sent home with four types of eye drops that will need to be used for a month. Patients should also refrain from swimming or practicing martial arts for a month, and from applying eye makeup for a week. The doctor also taught me a series of eye exercises with my finger and was advised to practice reading at a distance that seems blurry to recycle my focal point.
Drops for days. Image via Summer Lin
My eyes got pretty dry the following days, and I even accidentally missed my flight home, but staying under Sanya’s sun for a day or two more wasn’t the worst thing in the world.
Hi-Vision Center. 8 am-6pm. Wuxi Lu, Haidian Island, Meilan District, Haikou, Hainan Province 海南 省 海口 市 子兰 区 海甸岛 五 西路 8-1 号 港湾 花园 1 楼 海南 眼视光 学 中心 (hi-vision.info)
[Cover image via Unsplash]