I’m getting my eyes fixed (part 1)

On Wednesday I’m getting my eyes fixed. Well, actually the right one, and then the left one the following Monday. I’m absolutely bricking it. All of my life I’ve had to deal with the affliction I describe as “shit eyes”, I’m incredibly shortsighted (or nearsighted / myopic). To put it bluntly, my “good” eye is -9.5 Diopters (the other is -11). I’ve got awesome vision, as long as things are held within 5cm from my face.

I’ve had to deal with crappy eyesight since I was a little kid. I remember the sinking feeling of getting glasses when I was in infant school having tried to memorise the eye chart, and how I used to hide my glasses during break time in my desk along with my My Little Ponies and collection of animal shaped erasers. I wore glasses pretty much full time up until I was about 16 when I got contact lenses. These helped a lot with my self-confidence as I was firmly of the opinion that “guys don’t make passes at girls in glasses”. To be honest, guys (in the loosest of terms, I am discussing the male peri-adolescence phase) don’t make passes at sulky nerdy girls who give them attitude and put them to shame at school. Yes, I was Daria.

Since moving to Sydney I’ve had the opportunity to go to places like the beach (or any number of beaches), but sadly, one fell splash to the face and my contact lenses go for a swim and I’m left in a world of blurriness. I also now have a bit more cash than I’m used to (i.e. no longer a student), and with a fellowship comes the feeling that I’m not going to get deported any time soon.

(Imagine -9D… I’m like “Where’s the E?? Where’s the chart?”)

Other than not enjoying getting splashed in the face, working in a lab was taking it’s toll on my eyes. The lab makes my eyes itch as there’s all kinds of chemicals and allergens floating about. On several occasions I’ve got some crap in my eye and had to go home to sort out my eyes as once I’ve lost a lens I’m effectively blinded in one eye, and a hideous headache would set in. I’ve also lost a couple of toenails bumping into things in the dark, and my leg shaving technique in the shower has much to be desired, mainly based on hacking at my ankles with a razor. I’d previously been told that my eyes were too bad for laser (Lasik, PRK) surgery (yes, it happens) because my cornea thickness couldn’t cope with the sheer amount of tissue that would have to be scraped off (with lasers) to try and get my eyes refracting optimally.

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Sometimes after a big night out, I’d forget to take my contact lenses out so I’d wake up with decent vision.  My waking thoughts would be “I’M SPIDERMAN” before the realisation that I wasn’t bitten by a radioactive spider, and instead drank too much beer / vodka / gin / whiskey and was going to be spending the rest of the day feeling very sorry for myself after peeling my semi-dried contact lenses out of my eyes.

Also, as I continue my back story of visual woe, glasses with thick lenses to correct severe shortsightedness are horrible, I do not feel cute in glasses, I feel awkward and vulnerable. If they got knocked off I’d be severely disadvantaged in the sight department. Not only do glasses with strong prescriptions aesthetically give you pinprick eyes, but they are heavy, expensive, and cause visual distortion (which gives me headaches) as well as a total lack of peripheral vision making me feel unsafe driving. To be honest, my decision to get my eyes fixed was confirmed when I was told that before I could go for a laser surgery consultation that I would have to go at least 5 days without contact lenses to get my cornea back to it’s normal shape, and I promptly burst into tears.

So, five days wearing glasses… I managed one morning. Sydney pulled one of it’s “warm” days, with a glorious sunny 36 degree day, rendering me sweaty, irritated, with a thumping headache and my glasses sliding down my nose. I wanted to wear my (non-prescription) sunglasses. At the consultation I had lots of eye scans, tests and some drops put in my eyes that dilated my pupils and made me look like radioactive Mr Burns.

Simpsons-Mr-Burns-Radioactive

I was told what I suspected, I have crappy eyesight and my vision was too bad for lasers to be an option. The ophthalmic surgeon also called me “eye disabled”.

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I got told that my best / only option to get decent vision would be to get Visian Implantable Collamer Lenses (ICLs) implanted into my eyes. The ophthalmic surgeon made it sound super easy. They just make a 3mm incision in your eyeball by the iris and poke in a lens between the actual lens and the iris to give you perfect eyesight. Simples.

ICL

In my state of disappointment having been labelled eye disabled, I sat there and accepted that the whole procedure sounded super duper and I would be able to get splashed in the face in the sea and navigate around objects at night and in the case of an emergency fire evacuation I would be able to reach safety with full visual acuity. But then, the other, more alarmed thoughts came flooding in – EYE. INCISION. EYE. INCISION. I’m not a squeamish person, unless it’s eyes; in particular, my eyes. Years of contact lens wearing has rendered me pretty much fine with poking about in my eyes with my fingers. I am however slightly less cool with the thought of sharp objects being stabbed into my eyes (which is why they do the procedure under IV sedation, another thing I am nervous of as I don’t like needles poking into me, and have a tendency to vomit).

I got a quote for the procedure, which equaled two thirds of a new Toyota Yaris (or nearly $11000 AUD, it sounded much more easy to digest when they gave me the quote per eye). I’m not good at putting a price on things. But having awesome vision when you’ve always been a bespectacled nerd (or a secret speccy nerd in my case) did seem appealing. In fact, just being able to find my glasses on the floor when I’ve dropped them would be awesome. Plus, by getting the new model of the ICL I would avoid having to have an iridotomy, which didn’t sound pleasant.
So, after a few weeks of mulling it over, frantically researching everything about the procedure, pestering the surgeon again about the procedure and expected outcomes, I put my savings account where my mouth is and coughed up for the lenses and booked the procedure… Eeek!

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3 thoughts on “I’m getting my eyes fixed (part 1)

  1. Paul Morris says:

    I grew up wearing glasses and hated it too. I got contact lenses for a while but hated putting them in my eyes so I went to get my eyes “fixed” by Lazik. It’s been about 10 years and I never regretted it.

    Some tips for you when you get it done:

    – Get lots of sleep the night before. It can be a stressful time and you need to be awake for it.
    – Don’t watch someone else’s procedure! Before my procedure they had a video feed showing what is happening with the current patient getting it done and it made me even more nervous.
    – Be prepared to be uncomfortable… but it won’t be painful.
    – If you have something that calms you down, bring it along. I was given a stress ball to squeeze while during the procedure and that really helped me.

    Most importantly, after the procedure do everything that they tell you to do. Don’t rub your eye even a few days later no matter how much you want to. I made sure I didn’t touch my eyes for at least a month. Also, make sure you use the drops they give you.

    The only problems I had after the eyes healed were some night vision problems (halo effect) but that didn’t last very long and my eyes tended to get tired more easily. That’s normal and will go away eventually.

    Good luck and enjoy life without glasses, I know I do!

  2. Laura says:

    Brilliant post. I’ve had glasses since I was about 8 or 9, and hated them with a passion all this time. I’m not as short-sighted as you (I’m -4 and -5) but I always hated both wearing glasses and faffing with contact lenses. And trying to put makeup on is a nightmare – without lenses in, I can’t see my face so I end up looking like Marge Simpson after Homer uses the makeup gun on her, and with lenses in applying eye makeup is like a great big game of ‘try not to lose the contact lens behind your eye.’
    You’ve put my frustration into words with far better transparency and wit than I ever could. I wish you the best of luck with your procedure – can’t wait to hear how it goes!

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