Sunday, February 24, 2008

Taking the LASIK plunge...so far the water is fine!

I come from a long line of myopes. I have vivid memories from when I was young of my father wearing Coke bottles for glasses. My mother, father and both sisters all wore glasses. However, somehow in the toss of the genetic dice, my eyes were not nearly as bad as the rest of my family's.

I tried a brief stint with glasses in 9th grade and boy was that a fashion mistake. So when I changed schools in 10th grade, I left my glasses behind. I thought for sure when it came time to get my driver's license at 16, I would fail the vision test and be doomed to wearing glasses again, but through the magic of strenuously squinting, I passed. So I remained without four eyes through the remainder of high school and all through college. My eyesight gradually became more myopic, but not to the point of causing problems. It wasn't until I started my full-time career with MCI in 1993 that I took advantage of the Vision plan and got glasses. I have been wearing glasses ever since, going on 15 years now.

As laser eye correction became more mainstream, I began to consider the alphabet soup of procedures to "free me" of my glasses or contact lenses. However, since my eyes weren't "that bad", I chose not to. However, my wife's eyes were about as bad as the rest of my family's eyes, so a few years go we set aside money in our Healthcare Reimbursement Account and she had her eyes done. I had read a lot of good things about Dr. Gary Tylock and the research he had done in this area, so Sara had her CustomView IntraLASIK done there. The results were nothing short of incredible. As part of Dr. Tylock's "20/20 or it's free" guarantee, she did have to have one eye "tweaked" a couple months later, but the end result is that she is glasses-free for the first time since she was a very young girl.

Even with her success, I still couldn't bring myself to have the procedure done. Not out of fear of the procedure, but out of the lack of desire to spend several thousand dollars on my not-so-bad eyes. So, I stuck with glasses. However, the last pair of glasses I got was an aesthetic mistake. While I liked the overall look, they were too small for my wide head and the temple pieces were too short. The last straw was screws coming out of my glasses. I tried to replace them with the correct screws, but the threads were too messed up. The only thing that worked was a larger screw that was too long and didn't thread in all the way. Well, at this point in my career, I didn't want people focusing on my crappy repair job instead of what I was saying, so I decided to investigate having LASIK. And I am sure glad that I did.

My wife setup the consultation for me with Dr. Tylock. I went and they did all kinds of tests on my eyes. With regard to LASIK, Dr. Tylock only does CustomView IntraLASIK now. This means using a Excimer laser to create the flap in the cornea instead of the mechanical microkeratome. Further, the CustomView part involves not only determining the extent of one's myopia, it also detects and corrects higher-order aberrations in your eye. Being a Network Engineer and not a eye surgeon, I can't provide examples of those high-order aberrations, but it is good to have them corrected as well.

After all of the tests and consultations, I was bracing for the financial bad news. However, since my eyes were within the "not-so-bad" range, my surgery would be the cheapest they offered, at $2222 per eye, or $4444 for both, before various discounts for seminars, paying cash (or rather not financing the surgery with them) and surprisingly a Verizon corporate discount. So, my total was $3440, or $150 for the exams and $3290 for the surgery. I scheduled my surgery for a week later.

On the day of my surgery, I was admittedly a bit nervous. After all, these are my eyes! But I have known many people who have had wonderful results from laser eye surgery and none that had major problems. When I arrived I had to wait about 35 minutes before I was called back with a group of others. We were given our procedure bags containing our medications and post-surgical goggles and then given an explanation of the procedures.

Next they gave us each 10mg of Valium, "if we wanted some." I figured, I'm paying for it, I'm taking it! Only one or two of us (including me) were there for LASIK only. The others were having PRK, which while a shorter procedure, had a longer post-op recovery period. After the description of PRK, I was glad I was having LASIK.

Next they called us individually and took us to the surgery queue. We lounged on recliners and the techs put covers on our shoes and hairnets on our heads. Nowthat I shave my head daily, I probably had more hair on my clothes than I did on my head, but the rules are the rules. Peridically a whirring sound came from another room followed by a barrage of popping sounds which reminded me of electrical arcs. I assumed this was probably the laser doing the corrections, and later found I was correct. I could hear a good selection of music coming from the surgical theater and, with the valium kicking in, I had a hard time not singing along...

Next they called me in. I was taken to a chair that reminded me of a dentists chair. But it was hard to tell because of all of the medication and anesthetics they had put on my eyes. They laid me back, put more stuff in my eyes, made marks on my cornea and had me wait my turn. By now there was a series of Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) and John Fogerty songs playing and I was having a good time. Then it was my turn to move again. This time it was to a recliner near the Excimer laser station to wait my turn.

Shortly I was told to get in the chair where the femptosecond laser was. I did and they lay me way back. I asked who picked out the music and was told that Dr. Tylock did. I told him that it was great! He said that John Fogerty had just come through town and it was a great concert. They placed more anethetics on my eyes and began with my right eye. They placed a device on my eye to hold my lids open and then lowered the device down to put pressure on my eye. They warned me that I would lose sight temporarily in that eye while the pressure was applied, but I knew it was coming. When I was a kid, bored in class, I used to put pressure on my eyes to make myself temporarily blind. Lots of fun! The laser then began to cut, but I couldn't see anything because of the pressure on my right eye and a patch over my left eye. I could, however, feel the pressure of the cutting as it moved in a circular path around my eye. They repeated the procedure on my left eye next.

Once complete, one of the techs told me that she would take me to the next chair. However, as I could see (even with flaps cut) I was able to get in the chair. I have to say though that I couldn't tell which was the heads or tails end of the chair... :-) This was the chair where they corrected the myopia. As they prepared me for the correction, they moved the flap out of the way. Previously I could see a white ring of light and a pulsing orange light. Once the flap was moved, it was just a blurry pulsating light that I could see. They said to hold still as the machine whirred to life and the arcing sound started. I could see what seemed to be light blue arcs of light all round the center of my vision. Then as they moved to the center of my vision, things got dark, except for that orange pulsating light. As before, they did the right eye first, then the left. As each eye was completed, they would put the flap back down and I could see the light ring and pulsing light clearly again. I thought this was pretty cool.

When I was finished, I stood up and could see. It looked as though I was seeing through a fairly thick fog, but otherwise things were clear. They took me to a station within the surgical theater where they checked to ensure the flaps had seated appropriately. Once satisfied, they took me to a dark room where I was to recline with my eyes closed for 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes, they put my post-op goggles on and walked me to the lobby where Sara was waiting for me. Sara drove home and I went ahead and took one of the sleeping pills, since it was already 7PM and the best post-op care for my eyes was sleep. The neatest thing was briefly lifting up my goggles and being able to read signs. The correction is effective that quickly.

The next day I awakened and could see everything. It is incredible. There was no pain. The only postop pain is when I put the sterioid drops in my eyes. Otherwise, everything is great! I figured now that I was glasses-free, I needed to go get some cool shades since I could no longer rely on my transitions lenses in my old glasses. So, I got what I thought were the coolest looking sunglasses that WalMart had. Now, my oldest tells me they look like my old glasses... Oh well, it was worth a try. I guess I'll have to keep looking for "cool" glasses. My kids recommend aviator glasses, but I don't think so... :-)

So, downsides to the surgery. The first is the cost, but that is coming down. My only complaint thus far is that I am likely a bit overcorrected. I'll find out for sure when I return in two weeks, but I find it difficult to read things up close. It is almost like when you cross your eyes, your eye muscles straining. But that could change over the next couple of weeks.

So as of this writing, I am VERY pleased with my decision to have LASIK and the wonderful job Dr. Tylock and his professional staff did. I would highly recommend this procedure to anyone who wears contacts or glasses. I never did well with contacts so I stuck with glasses. The difference is incredible! I no longer have to look through two small windows to see. Now, everything is in focus, even my peripheral vision. Can't beat it!

Lastly, if you are considering LASIK (or any medical procedures), make sure and use a Healthcare Reimbursement Account if your employer offers it. You can use pre-tax money to pay for your procedures instead of using money from which Uncle Sam has already taken a chunk. Depending on your tax bracket, it can be an additional savings anywhere from 15% to 35%.

2 Comments:

Blogger JKMano said...

Great post, very informative. I found your blog because I was interested in having lasik done w/ Dr Tylock. I was wondering what research you found that helped you decide to go with him. I've found it pretty difficult to know who I should use. Thanks again for the post.

March 12, 2008 10:02 AM  
Blogger Nick DelRegno said...

Thanks for the kind words. We started looking into LASIK about 5 years ago. We went to the websites of the main surgeons in our area and discussed the procedure itself with our opthamalogists as well as asking their opinions. We came upon some material (likely created by Tylock) that spoke to his work at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the research he did there. Our other serious candidates were Boothe and Key Whitman, based on recommendations. Given the safety of the LASIK procedure, just about anyone will do you well. Just ensure that you have the All-Laser as opposed to their using a microkeratome. Most doctors only do all laser surgery now, but when I asked at Tylock's about this, they said that occasionally they use the microkeratome for people who have scar tissue on their eye since the laser will not penetrate uniformly through the scar tissue. Good luck! I am so glad I finally did it!

May 9, 2008 2:07 PM  

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