So when most people have laser eye surgery they apparently recover in a couple of weeks. Some even recover in a day or so.
On 21st of April I had eye surgery – epi-lasik customizable to be exact. My eyes finally got an ‘an clear’ on Wednesday 29th June.
It had been over 2 months.
LESSON 1: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A ‘ROUTINE OPERATION’
At the time I didn’t really know what I was doing…. Everyone told me it was a ‘routine operation’. Get it over with.
For all those considering laser eye surgery, there are broadly three operations you can take.
The first is Lasik. This one actually removes some of the surface of the cornea. Recovery is one or two days. The success rate is high but it does involve cutting away from corneal tissue.
The second is Epi-Lasik. This doesn’t remove the surface of the cornea, but instead polishes it with a laser. As with Lasik the patient is tested to see if they have ‘enough degrees’ on the surface membrane of the eye for the operation to be safe. An image scan of the eye is taken, and then mapped into the machine.
Finally there is Epi-Lasik Customizable, which adapts the movement or operation of the laser to the requirements of each individual eye. For the Epi-Lasik treatment you’ll have to wear special contact bandages in your eyes for a couple of days afterwards.
What is important in all this is the machine – your retina will move, and the laser needs to be able to track it automatically as it operates. The machine I used was around a year old and Japanese – according to the doctor, the laser speed was three times that of FDA and government approved machine in the States and Europe.
It was also the size of a room.
LESSON 2: DO NOT TELL YOUR MOTHER OR SISTER
My grandpa who I never met always wanted to be a fighter pilot. But he never could because, Pearl Harbor style, he ended up failing the eye test. Instead of flying fighter craft he helped design them.
But his daughter – my mom – took note. She bathed us in light whenever we read. Her children were health and safety time bombs… it was a miracle they broke so little. But their eyes were always sacred.
So when my Dad tentatively broke the news of the operation the night before, the response was not good. I awoke the morning of the operation to a barrage of emails from various concerned relatives. Like this one, from my sister:
btw i’d be really careful about laser eye surgery, in England they’ve always put me off it as they said you need to have had a stable prescription without any changes for at least five years…otherwise it won’t last very long! Also there is always the chance of blindness and that it doesn’t work at all!
LESSON 3: ASK WHAT TO EXPECT
So I thought I’d asked every question – the science, the recovery time, the success rate, the after care. But I never asked how the operation would actually be conducted.
They lie you down, and you look up into a shiny red light. One of your eyes is covered with a cloth. The other is meant to look up into the laser. As the laser moves around your eye, the doctor sprays it with water and washes it. It’s like a Science Fiction car wash for your eyes.
My eye moved a lot, my heart started thumping, and the doctor kept saying ‘look into the laser please’… but that was in Arabic, so it really didn’t help much.
In short – just try and keep your eyes still.
LESSON 4: GET A RADIO.
Once the operation is over light is your enemy. It will hurt you. You will learn to fear it. Sunshades will become your best friend. This scene might be an exaggeration, but you get the picture.
There are few benefits. You can’t watch TV. You can’t use any kind of device. Even the friggin fridge light is annoying.
This may have just been me. Apparently my eyes were little diva’s… but still. The only thing that kept me vaguely sane was local radio – the melancholy musings of Ibrahim on Spin, or bubbly Luma in the mornings, or that warm fuzzy feeling I get whenever JP says ‘Good night, and Ma’Salaam’ on Mood.
LESSON 4: GIVE NOTICE AT WORK!
If you’re going to have eye surgery – especially EpiLasik – you need more than a week off. I had the operation on a Saturday and said I would be at work on Tuesday or Wednesday.
This was a bad idea. One of the dangers with Epi-Lasik is that a one of the contact bandages will fall out. This happened to me twice. I was lucky – the eye in question didn’t get damaged – but it did become severely dry. The result however was massively trippy.
Next time you go to a 3D movie take your 3D glasses off and look at the sceen. You’ll notice everything is in a strange kind of holographic double vision.
It’s no exaggeration to say I experienced the world like this for over a week. Instead of one keyboard I saw two. I attended a speaking forum where the screen looked a lot more futuristic than it should have. I sat at a dinner where the reflection of a wine glass really annoyed me, and I had trouble seeing friends at the other side of the table.
It was a bit like being on a very weird drug – you’re experiencing it, but no one else can really tell, and you can’t really communicate it.
I had to take a hydrocortisone based eye drop, and well as inserting liquid gel into my eye to eventually get it back to normal.
The main point here is it’s not just disorientating – it’s unbelievably exhausting. I don’t know why but a week of this will leave your whole body feeling really tired.
LESSON 5: PARTIES ARE A ‘NO NO’
The urge to go for a drink with friends will be tempting when you can’t do anything else. After all – they don’t know you’re seeing two of them right?
Don’t do it. For one – listening to Mood, Spin and eating too much Archies has turned you into a freak. For another, driving in the dark is so much of a NO NO I won’t even describe it. Number 3… you’ll become the center of discussion with comments ranging from ‘you need an eye patch like Jack Sparrow’ to ‘dude, that’s seriously messed up, I’d get a second opinion…’ while every single expat will ask ‘why didn’t you get it done back home?’
LESSON 6: THE JOYS OF HIGH-DEF
Right now my eyes are ‘better than 20-20’ – I can see number plates from quite a way off, colors seem richer, and i don’t find myself saying ten times a day ‘where have I put my glasses’.
Instead it’s ‘where have i put my sunshades!’
According to the doctor every case is different – and my greeny blue eyes are what’s know in the profession as a couple of ***holes.
Actually, what he did say was that every human is different, and that while most recover quickly… some don’t.
I’ll still be taking drops for the next six months, but even given all of the above, it was still worth it. Effectively you’re getting your eyes back – in High Definition.