I was 7 years old when I got my first pair of glasses. It was no surprise, as my older sister wore glasses and so did my father. They were thick and clear and after misplacing them several times, my mother bought me one of those strings that you wear around your neck to prevent you from losing your glasses—very cool mom, very.
Then in 1989, I got the most amazing glasses—a red pair like what Becca (Kellie Martin) wore in the TV series “Life Goes On.” This was certainly an improvement from the Sophia from “Golden Girls” look.
Finally, by the time the summer before my sophomore year of high school arrived, I was ready to make the transformation from glasses, braces, and bangs to long hair, straight teeth, and contacts.
While contacts were a step up from glasses, they still presented their own challenges, like the time my contact fell out, but I convinced my sister and myself that it was somewhere in my eye. Then there was the time I had cheerleader tryouts but was so nervous that I forgot to put my contacts in. Let’s just say I’m glad cell phones weren’t around to capture that humiliating display.
To Lasik or Not to Lasik
Through the years, certain events led me to believe that I would one day take the leap to have Lasik eye surgery, such as the ripped contact in college that forced me to stay in my dorm room on a Friday night and the scratched cornea on my honeymoon that resulted in a day by the pool wearing an eye patch, to name a few.
After wearing contacts and glasses for a combined 29 years (yes, I’m 36), I finally had enough and decided to ask my eye doctor about Lasik. I admit that I was a little nervous. I’m not sure about you, but every eye doctor I’ve ever been to wears glasses. If they thought Lasik was a good idea, wouldn’t they have tried it by now? Nevertheless, my dry eyes and the countless dollars spent on contact solution, etc., drove me to ask the question: Would I be a good candidate?
My eye doctor suggested that I go to TLC Lasik Eye Centers, so I called the 800 number and made an appointment for a free consultation at the local office (TLC has offices in major cities all over the United States). About a week later, I ventured in to “see” what my future could potentially look like.
The first meeting was pretty easy. They asked me some questions, measured my eyes, tested my vision with and without my contacts and glasses, and tested for glaucoma, cataracts, and eye dryness. They also explained the risks, none of which were concerning, and told me that I would likely have to wear reading glasses once I hit my late 50s/early 60s. That didn’t seem like a big deal, given that I wore glasses for half my life. Once they said I could get the surgery, they wanted to know if I was interested in booking it that day. I was not financially or mentally prepared at the time, so I took the information and told them I would think it over. I mulled the idea of having 20/20 vision sans contact lenses or glasses for about a year. I mention this to stress that decisions of this magnitude should not be taken lightly.
367 Days Later …
After exactly 12 months and two days, I went back to TLC for a second visit. Because it had been more than a year (sigh) since my last appointment, they needed to retest me. This appointment lasted about an hour and a half. Once I knew I was cleared, I was ready to set a date.
There were several factors to consider before deciding on a date, the biggest being when I was willing to stop wearing my contacts. Part of the preparation entails going contact-free for at least 15 days prior to surgery, so for someone who had not worn glasses since eighth grade, this was a huge deal. Not only was I self-conscious about what I would look like, I was not physically used to wearing glasses. My eyes were sore, I kept bumping the glasses with my hands, it was hard to be outside in the sun, I couldn’t exercise with them … it was probably the most difficult part of the process.
I also had to schedule five appointments with my regular eye doctor and another two with the Lasik doctor. One appointment was for the eye doctor to do pretty much the same tests the Lasik doctor did. The second was for 24 hours after the surgery to see how I was healing, the third was for one week out, the fourth was for one month out, and the fifth was for one year out. The appointments at the Lasik center were for one week prior and three days prior to surgery. The first consisted of more testing and checking dryness levels and the second was for dealing with paperwork and payment. None of these appointments were difficult or painful, but it was annoying to have to take time out of my day to constantly go to the eye doctor. But I knew it was all for a good reason and I was getting closer and closer to being able to see.
Lasik Costs How Much?
The cost for my surgery was close to $5,000. It felt like a huge amount of money, but when I thought about the cost of glasses, contacts, saline solution, etc., over the years, the money wasn’t a deterrent. I didn’t have $5,000 laying around, but I was able to use FSA and HRA money available through my company benefits. I knew I wanted the surgery, so I set aside the FSA funds during my company’s open enrollment period. Additionally, I was able to purchase a $1,000 gift card for $100 through TLC’s Living Social promotion to apply toward the cost. Please note that if your insurance company gives you an allowance toward your Lasik procedure, you are unable to use that coupon. I paid the reminder of the balance—about $900—out of pocket.
My appointment wasn’t scheduled until 2:30 p.m., so I went to work like any regular day, but planned to meet my boyfriend later so he could drive me to and from. Since you are unable to drive right after the procedure, make sure you arrange for someone to pick you up. I got to the office right on time and the waiting room was packed, as TLC performs the surgeries back to back and only on certain days. I waited for close to 90 minutes before finally hearing my name. They gave me a nametag with my name and procedure on it, and then I headed back to the waiting room. In the meantime, I sent my boyfriend to the grocery store to get my favorite snacks and the makings for a delicious, easy-to-eat, and comforting dinner (tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches). Then the moment I had been waiting for finally came. This was it! I was so excited! A nurse escorted me into a small waiting room where she checked my eyes one last time, asked me my name and procedure, and offered me a Xanax to try and relax. I hadn’t eaten a lot that day and worried I would get sick, so I only took half the pill. They also gave me a squishy stress ball to hold during the procedure. I still had my phone so I was able to text my boyfriend and friends and keep them up to date. I was then led to an area right outside the procedure room to wait. There I sat, squeezing my stress ball, taking slow, deep breaths, and watching “Judge Judy,” which I’m sure was meant to be distracting, and it worked.
They then called my name for the third time and I walked into what looked like an OR. It was cold and everything was stainless steel. I laid down on a bed-like gurney and they asked me my name and procedure. They explained to me what was happening every step of the way. “First,” they said, “we will apply suction to your eye to expose it, and it will feel a little funny. Then we will run the laser over your eye, which will only take a few seconds. Then we will repeat this on the second eye. The laser will only be on for a few seconds total.” They put numbing drops in my eyes before they began and I asked them to make sure that my eyes were in fact numb. They joked and asked me if I wanted them to poke me in the eye to see if it hurts.
Finally, it was time to start the procedure. They reminded me to stay very still, take deep breaths, and squeeze my stress ball. I could feel my hands shaking. They told me everything that was happening: the laser is on, we are fixing your vision, you’re doing great, good job, stay still and three, two, one, laser is off. That was how long it took per eye. I was in shock. When they finished the first eye, I let out a huge breath. I didn’t realize I was holding it in. My hands began to shake uncontrollably, so they gave me a minute to reset and calm down. They moved onto the second eye and it went just as quickly. Afterward, they helped me up, and while everything was blurry from the drops, I could actually see!
They sat me down in a small, dark room with the person who went right before me. I relaxed with my eyes closed for about 15 minutes and they covered me with a blanket and gave me a pair of very cool-looking dark plastic sunglasses. My eyes burned a little and I wanted to rub them, which is a big no-no after Lasik. They also watered a lot, so I used a tissue to gently pat them.
I was then escorted back to the waiting room where I met up with my boyfriend/driver. He looked so excited to see me and quietly asked if I was OK. I looked right at him and exclaimed that I could see! I would have burst into tears if I wasn’t worried about the repercussions!
The next few days entailed a ton of drops every hour or so, and once the medicated drops were gone, I used lubricating drops for about two weeks. I had to refrain from wearing eye makeup and washing my face too harshly for about two weeks post-surgery. Of course, I had to go to all those pesky follow-up appointments to ensure all was healing well, which it was. I was also given two plastic discs to wear over my eyes for five nights to make sure I didn’t accidentally rub them while sleeping.
It’s been several months since my surgery and I have had zero complications or regrets. I still cannot believe I have 20/20 vision without glasses or contacts.
I would highly recommend Lasik eye surgery to anyone who is a candidate. It was something I had wanted for more than 10 years. I only wish I had gotten it sooner!