Eye See You…Or, No Eye Don’t — Recovery from PRK
I hate hiking, golfing, biking, or kayaking wearing sunglasses that are not prescription. But I also hate having to use the same glasses for any activity if I get prescription sunglasses. For that, and many other reasons, I decided to get Lasik surgery to correct my vision. The Las Vegas sun plays prominently, with 292 sunny days a year, so sun glasses are like underwear… don’t leave home without them.
As I was in the pre-surgery process, I found out I had a corneal dystrophy that would prevent my having Lasik, but would steer me to PRK, or Photorefractive Keratectomy instead. I knew it would be a little different — slightly longer time being uncomfortable and slightly longer healing. I learned from this process “slightly” is a relative term.
DAY 1. — SURGERY: I gathered at the surgery center along with six other patients on a Saturday morning. We each went through a series of final tests and evaluations and then the surgeon met with us as a group. (everyone agreed he could talk openly about our individual cases, so no running around yelling HIPPA!) We were each offered a Valium to take the edge off and make us more relaxed at the appointed time.
All of the others were getting Lasik. I was the only one getting PRK. I was first. I went in and they were finalizing their set up. I lay on the firm, massage type table with the back of my head in a little ring to stabilize. They emphasized not to wiggle my feet and gave me this long snake stuffed animal to hold. I suppose to keep me from fidgeting. The doctor (who was quite friendly and had done somewhere in the neighborhood of 38,000 laser surgeries) took his spot at my head and put some numbing in my eyes, did some washing of my eye and proceeded, all the while telling me what he was doing along the way. I had previously been instructed to focus on a green light and stay still. I complied.
When he said something like “now the laser” it was a few seconds and I could smell what reminded me of hair burning. Then eye two and BAM! all done.
I was then escorted into a room where the tech measured my tear ducts with this tiny pick type tool so she could put plugs in my tear duct drains. The Lasik people got plugs that, over time, dissolve, but help while they heal to keep their eyes from drying out too much. Mine would be silicone. The doc himself had them and they have been in for 15 years. The tech popped those in and I was ready to head home. All in all, I had been at the center for 3 hours total, only 10 minutes or so of which was in the actual surgery room.
I had dark glasses on, which they provided, and was instructed to go home (via my accompanying driver) and lay down and keep my eyes shut as much as possible until my mandatory return the following morning. Again, being brought in, not to drive myself. I did go right home and lay down. At this time I took off the glasses and put on a flexible protective mask they provided so lolling about on the pillow, I did not hurt my eyes. Also helps prevent you rubbing your eyes as a reflex while sleeping. My eyes were burning. A lot. Like way too much shampoo got in them and I couldn’t get it out. Or like when you get a lot of lime in your eye when squeezing fresh juice into your gin and tonic. Another description would be when you poke yourself in the eye accidentally with your mascara wand. Only you keep on doing it. They provided “comfort drops” for numbing, which dealt with that discomfort swimmingly. Fortunately, I slept a lot. According to my Fitbit I slept 14 hours. I am not a big sleeper. I sleep 4 – 5 hours a night. So this was a big sleep.
I got up once to put drops in and have a bite and go back to sleep. I took Advil PM, as suggested by the doc, and that must have helped. (I have never taken a PM type pill before). While laying down but awake with eyes shut, I listened to audiobooks.
Hallmarks of the day: I learned the steroid drops are REALLY important. They slow healing which prevents scaring and reduces the chance of hazy vision. Fast, procedure not really uncomfortable to undergo, weird smell of burning hair, slept a lot, lots of watery eyes, eyes stung a lot. Vision very blurry
Day 2. — DAY AFTER: The next morning I got up and put the tears in and then the other drops…waiting 5 minutes between each type so one didn’t just wash the other out. No showering and off to the follow-up appointment to get a check. Clad in sunglasses, of course. I was seeing little. Very little. Though somehow I tested to 20/30 distance and reading the line below news print. That is, I could identify, but no sharp vision at all. I had what is called MONO done which means one eye is done for close vision and the other is done for far vision. He was happy with my progress and reminded me it would be a couple more days before the discomfort really subsided and asked me back in 3 more days to remove the contacts they had placed over the cornea to protect it after the surgery. They called it a contact bandage. After that check, I went home and sat around with the audiobook playing. I had discomfort but the comfort drops helped. Though I was beginning to hate mascara wands.
Hallmarks of the day: Check up went well, lots of watery eyes, eyes stung a lot. Vision very blurry.
DAY 3. Now I was bored but also in a lot of discomfort. The comfort drops were to be discontinued so no help there. My eyes had been watering a lot and the boiled onion feeling of my eyes continued. I still could not really see anything well, and my eyes were very light-sensitive.
Hallmarks of the day: Very watery eyes, eyes stung a lot. Vision very blurry. No more comfort drops meant more discomfort than before. Light sensitivity increased.
DAY 4. Went in for my contact bandages to be removed. They took them out and the right eye was on watery, eye poke steroids. That kind of eye pain where when you try to open your eye, the lid refuses to budge. It continued to spray tears and stay shut and the Doc waited them out and finally checked them. Vision was good. I am seriously not sure how that works since I cannot see the edge of anything and faces are simply eyebrows and mouths. She decided to put fresh contacts in to be ultra sure I didn’t damage the repairing area and had me come back three days later. I was able to see a bit more clearly in my close eye. I did watch tv and may have overdone that.
Hallmarks of the day: Very watery eyes, eyes stung a lot. Vision very blurry.
DAY 5. I felt much better. Even tried a short drive. I could not see the words on street signs, road signs, businesses. I got a drive through coffee and went home. Frustration began as I wanted to see distance better! All I read says this is normal for PRK.
Hallmarks of the day: Very watery eyes, eyes stung a lot. Vision very blurry. took a very short drive.
DAY 6. This day I didn’t feel any improvement in my eyes though I am not feeling the discomfort of the first days. I was to meet some friends for dinner and got out on the road, but felt very odd behind the wheel. Felt like things looked washed out and thin. I don’t know how else to explain it. So I went right back home and Ubered to dinner. (Yes, it is a verb now to Uber). I felt fine other than I could not really see. I enjoyed being out and then called an Uber for the ride home. It was now dark and I live in Vegas so lights EVERYWHERE! it was like a fear and loathing in Vegas scene with lights replicating themselves and moving and flashing and I couldn’t tell which was the shadow and which was the real. Thank GOD I had not driven!
Hallmarks of the day: Vision very blurry. Driving not a good choice. Night lights are in triplicate and haloed and sprayed and everything else hallucinogenic.
DAYS 7. Back in for my contact bandages out. I drove and things were ok. After, I felt a marked improvement as the night went on. Felt some better sharpness on close vision and less blur on long vision. Also felt less discomfort. Moving in to Sunday, the gains seemed gone and back to generally blurry, albeit painless eyes. I went and bought much better sunglasses. My light sensitivity definitely persists.
WEEK 2. Back to work. I drove and that was fine though not my optimum vision. for driving at all. Like driving without my glasses only a tad worse. I had 272 emails to read. YIKES! Had to work with all the lights in my office off, dim down the computer screen as much as possible and rest my eyes every so often. Every real often. To read, I had to be as close as I could get my face to the monitor. By the end of the day I was beat and my eyes felt like I had used them for feet on hot pavement all day. Second day back at work — today — is not much better. I am worried at this juncture about all the work for the next few days. I wish I had scheduled out 2 weeks, in all honesty. I never knew it was going to be like this.
WEEK 3. This week was better. There was a lot of fluctuation in my sight. Good days/bad days. With the mono, I felt there was a sort of tug of war between my eyes regarding which eye was the boss. Driving is the most difficult thing. I definitely do not drive at night yet. Too many starbursts and double vision elements. My close vision seems to be clearing up faster. I can now tolerate the computer screen without feeling like squinting. I have been on 3 drops of the steroid a day this week, dropping to two tomorrow. I continue to use the tears, though much less often. The only time my eyes actually feel dry is first thing in the morning. It seems like as my vision is less blurry, the distance is still very impacted by double vision. Cars at a distance are difficult to really make out which is the real one.
My eyes are still light sensitive and I use my quality sunglasses relentlessly. The Las Vegas sun is always present. Yet, at dusk, dawn times and during cloudy days, it is not always easy to see what is down the pike from me. I didn’t see a man and dog in the crosswalk until I was about three car lengths from the stop sign. It was jus as the sun was coming up.
With the advances of this week, I am finally feeling like I might have gotten over the initial hump and look for great things in week 4!
WEEK 4. This week seemed to be a series of a little better/a little worse. Like the dog days of PRK. I still have double vision, though the two objects are closer together than previously. I am really tiring of this vision as I cannot just reach for glasses and see clearly. In other words, it is getting old and my patience is wearing thin. I am going hiking this weekend and already pouting that the views at Zion will be less spectacular than they should be — double vision, no sharp colors or images.
I am about to start my last week of steroid drops. This week I was able to wear eye make-up, though only did it once for a special event and am being very conservative. I even make sure that the extra steroid drops that dry in the corner of my eye are carefully removed so they don’t get in my eye.
Night driving is still OH YOU TEE OUT! Lots of starbursts and accentuated double vision in the dark. And day driving? Honestly, I probably shouldn’t be doing that either. Things are so washed out that today, a woman was standing in the median to cross a busy street. I saw her but did not even see she was pushing a stroller until I was very close. I still cannot read most street signs. Also, I cannot read the on screen menu for my cable company on my 60″ TV as the overlap and all the lines of print combined with the blue colors makes it awful. Even just the clock on the DVD player is a big blob of blue. That color will not clear up for me yet.
So, while I am still confident this will all work out, I am weary from the long recovery. I am less sure I would have chosen to do this PRK had someone really told me what the time frames were rather than just say == a little longer yada yada.
I will update the blog weekly as I continue to recover. And hope this is helpful. I am not discouraged regarding the ultimate outcome I expect in the long run, but I hate not seeing things vividly and sharply in the here and now.