Seeing is believing after surgery

I got my first pair of glasses at the age of 9, maybe 10. I can still remember the feeling of awe as I looked through those lenses and saw the world clearly for the first time. I have worn spectacles, with varying degrees of success, for the last five and a half decades.

I was told several years back I did not qualify for LASIK surgery to correct my vision because my prescription was too strong, so I gave up on that idea and wore contacts for a couple decades. Recently, however, I learned that the practice of LASIK had progressed to the point that I was indeed eligible.

Because insurance does not cover this procedure, I waited some more, saving up my pennies, nickels and $20 bills until I could afford this costly bit of magic. Upon my first visit to the Laser Eye Surgery office in Erie, Pa., I was told that while my corneas were too thin for LASIK surgery, (due to the wearing of contact lenses, which tend to thin the cornea over time) I could have a procedure called PRK. Now for those of you who are unfamiliar with these vision correcting surgeries, trust me, if you can do LASIK, it is the much preferred method.

I won’t go into all the gory details, but suffice it to say, PRK is painful. And it takes a while for the eyes to heal and vision to reach its full potential. The surgery itself is a breeze. Numbing and pain drops were put in my eyes, and I didn’t feel anything while the laser did its duty. I was sent home with a pouch-full of eye drops, a prescription for a pain killer, and instructions to take a long nap. Everything was fine until 3 a.m. when I awoke to horrible pain. It had taken approximately 12 hours for the pain drops and anesthesia to wear off and my eyes HURT! Quickly putting more pain drops in my eyes and popping a hydrocodone, 20 minutes later I was again fast asleep.

The first three days were dicey, to say the least.

Five different eye drops at varying times of the day, and opioids got me through, albeit sometimes with plenty of tears. After that, things got measurably better. The epithelial layer of my corneas regrew quickly, the clear protective contacts were removed after the first week, and my vision is steadily improving. With LASIK most patients can see 20/20 right away. With PRK it can take up to six months for the eyes to totally heal and relearn to work together, but normally after three weeks vision is passably good.

I am a week and a half out from my PRK surgery, and while my vision is still blurry, and I see slightly double, especially with numbers, I’m glad I had it done. I was setting my alarms on my iPhone the second day from surgery, so I could remember to take my drops on time, and I looked at the numbers and saw 99 hours and 330 minutes. I looked again, and saw all the hour numbers had gone to double and triple digits and the minutes in the hundreds.

Now remember, I was on drugs, but I honestly wondered what I had done to change the numbers to metric or military or whatever time they were showing! I finally realized I was seeing true double vision. Whew!

I am so grateful to Dr. Haverly for his expertise in performing this procedure, and to Dr. Simmons for his thorough follow-up; and to be honest, they’re not so hard on the eyes themselves. (wink)

This year I am thankful for the gift of good vision. I hope your Thanksgiving was warm and memorable.

Robyn Near is a Ripley resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com

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