And so I finally mustered up the courage and the financial resources to get my LASIK surgery done last weekend.
Rationally, it’s a very unnerving procedure to decide on. If I had to make an intellectual decision based solely on how Wikipedia describes it, I would have given it a resounding “OH HELL NO, YOU FUCKING BITCH.”
I found a short YouTube clip that describes the process in a very clear, no-frills, clinical manner. It’s knee-softening to say the least.
But I have to say this: The mild nausea you feel as you intellectualize the process is massively overstated; actually going through LASIK is a very pleasant, quick experience to deal with.
The video tells you What does the ophthalmologist do? and I don’t think I need to elaborate on the very graphic detail contained therein.
What I can add to the discussion is How did I feel each step of the way?, which I think is very critical to help anyone who’s sort of sitting on the fence make an emotional commitment to the process.
Step 1: Anesthesizing the eye.
The concept alone is a dealbreaker to a lot of people. Rightly or wrongly, we imagine the anesthesizing process to involve lots of sharp pointy things, and out-takes from a Robert Rodriguez movie.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
I sat in a nice, comfortable leather recliner with my feet in fluffy bedroom slippers, and simply leaned back as a hot Cebuana nurse in a white leather mini-dress deftly dashed a mild topical anesthesia in eyedrop form into each eye.
(I’m lying about the hotness of the nurse, but fundamentally, in theory, my statement is true.)
It’s strange to have numb eyeballs, but it doesn’t feel any worse than being mildly drunk.
Step 2: Suction-cupping your eye open.
In my head, I had this part of the process pegged as a cross between the iconic brainwashing sequence of Alex DeLarge in Kubrick’s cinematic masterpiece “A Clockwork Orange,” and the climactic battle between Elle Driver and Beatrix Kiddo in “Kill Bill 2.”
I’m a drama queen that way…
Again, this was an unnecessary source of stress.
My eyeballs were nicely numbed, and the only thing I actually feel was a bit of mild pressure around my eyes. It’s really best not to visualize what’s going on (and I think it’s quite helpful that you’re never actually shown what the equipment looks like), but again if I had to describe the feeling, it would be like putting on a pair of racing goggles that are set one size too small.
Step 3: Creating the corneal flap.
There really is no other way to describe it – the doctor has to cut open a flap on your cornea that he can peel back to get inside for some good ol’ laser blasting.
But here’s the thing: the surface of your cornea is measured in microns. Sure, if a doctor told me he had to slice through 5 inches of abdominal flesh to get to my appendix, I would consider myself justified in freaking out. I mean, geez, that’s a lot of nerve endings and blood and tissue and muscle he’d have to saw through to get to the Money Shot.
But for something that measures 500 microns thick, and doesn’t have any nerve endings? That isn’t any more traumatic than shaving a bit of fingernail, I would think.
The word “blade” is also misleading, and unnecessarily terrifying – it’s really just a finely-tooled plastic device. You could whack it against your ballsack and it wouldn’t hurt in the slightest.
I can personally promise you though that no ophthalmologist has ever whacked his microkeratome blade against anyone’s ballsack. For what it’s worth.
Personal disclaimer: I’m a technology geek, and always insist on having the latest bit of gadgetry for myself. Hence, I opted for the new IntraLase bladeless procedure; instead of the plastic microkeratome blade, the doctor uses precisely-tuned laser beams to perforate the cornea. No epithelial damage so it heals faster, and the device itself is very cool – it looks like the UFO in Close Encounters of the Third Kind with all kinds of cool flashing lights..
I had no idea it was even working until the doctor told me we were halfway through! I literally just laid back and stared at flashing lights, and that was it. No heat sensation, no burning, no blinding.
My boss opted for the blade though, and insists she didn’t feel a thing either. It was done too quickly.
And I can’t even recall the flap being pulled back – I just remember my eyeball being irrigated with a nice warm water bath, and all of a sudden that was it. This is the only disorienting part of the process; I suddenly felt like I was looking at the world while submerged underwater.
Step 4: Shaping the cornea.
This is the real meat of the process – using a cool ultraviolet laser to shape out tiny imperfections inside your eye, to bring the focus of light back into whack.
As a patient, nothing could have been simpler. I just lay there and stared at blips and bloops of red light. Again, no heat. No pain. No discomfort. Just a bit of focus.
The cool thing with the lasers these days is that they have all sorts of cool tracking technology to compensate for the minute shifts in your eyeballs. I’m pretty sure my gaze was all over the place (I couldn’t focus on any one point, considering that everything looked Atlantean to begin with), but the beam tracked the slightest movement, ensuring that it only did what it was programmed to do.
I will say this – the smell at this part of the process is quite off-putting. It’s a high-pulse laser after all, so you do smell a bit of burning. Some people describe it as the smell of mushrooms; in my experience it was actually quite nutty. But then again, the smell was totally disconnected from what I was actually feeling. I never would have guessed the surgeon was going all Death Star inside my eyeball, because I didn’t feel a damn thing.
Step 5: The Aftermath.
They replace the corneal flap the same way they peeled it back – with a bath of warm water. Everything just snapped into focus. The cornea heals almost instantly once restored to its original state, so the flap just sort of “glued” itself shut.
It was shocking, really. The moment I sat up, everything was so clear. A bit hazy and misty albeit, but outlines and contrasts were almost perfect.
Doc had me sit in a chair and rest for 20 minutes and I was good to go.
A quick eye test immediately after showed I had gone down from my terrible 250 grade with nasty astigmatism to a spectacular 25/20. I could count the nosehairs on the receptionist from across the lobby. It was breathtaking. I had never been so happy to see somebody’s nosehair.
How long did the entire process take?
It sounds like you go through a lot, but I was actually under for just about 15 minutes. It’s a spectacularly fast, efficient process, and I swear to God it took longer for me to read and absorb the patient consent form than it did for the doctor to perform the actual LASIK process.
I was able to walk out of the clinic under my own power, although obviously I did not even attempt to drive. It was too bright out.
But with a simple regimen of hourly eyedrops on the first day, and 4x daily for a week thereafter, I was totally cool.
Doc even said that after I went home and took a nap, I could play PlayStation again. And so I did, and proceeded to play my best game of NBA 2K10 ever, scoring 24 points against the Miami Heat in a close 67-63 overtime loss.
Here are the practical catches though:
- The incredibly unstylish but absolutely necessary protective goggles. I needed to wear a pair of plastic goggles the entire weekend – even while sleeping – to keep myself from accidentally rubbing/scratching my eyes. Not that I ever needed to, since there wasn’t any pain associated with the healing process. I did notice that my eyes were slightly dry, but that’s nothing some eyedrops couldn’t cure. I had to be positively MacGyver-ian though in finding ways to ensure that my goggles stayed on all night; my best solution involved using athletic tape to anchor them to my temples and my nose. I looked like a toolbag, but told myself I may be naked and in my bed, but I’m alone – nobody gives a damn how I look.
- Being careful with water around your eyes. Swimming is off-limits for a whole month, for example. But even such simple acts as brushing one’s teeth or washing one’s face become a bit of a chore for a week or so.
- Avoiding dusty places for a week. Obviously, due to the sensitive condition of one’s cornea, walking into the middle of a raging sandstorm would have to rank quite lowly on one’s personal list of Fun Things To Do On A Lazy Afternoon. But this is really more of common sense than anything else.
But ultimately, the good outweighs the bad, and on Day 4 of having LASIK-ed vision, I have to say I have no regrets.
Dr. Adel Samson over at Mega Clinic in Megamall is absolutely wonderful. On top of his very impressive professional resume, international training, and literally 845,022 satisfied customers, he’s a very cool cat.
He has his own band. He’s a photographer. He’s a diver. He’s an outdoorsy dude and rides a bad-ass bike in very cool spandex outfits with all sorts of bright colors. He wears buff shirts and cool leather bling and fancy jeans and nice pointy shoes.
That, to me, speaks highly of his credibility. These things show off the aesthete in him, and I have to say, this made me believe that he knows the values of one’s senses – to hear fine music, to see the wonders of nature, to taste salt air on one’s lips – and would therefore do every single thing in his power to prevent the least bit of harm from coming to them.
I highly recommend him. He’s excellent. You can book a consultation with him through +63 2 63 LASIK, and figure out how he can help you. He holds office at the The LASIK Surgery Clinic, which is on the 5/F of Megamall Building A, just before the bridgeway.
LASIK isn’t for everyone. Not everyone is prepared to deal emotionally with the risks involved, and neither is everyone prepared for the financial investment needed.
If you’re lucky, and can have the Standard procedure done on you, expect to spend anywhere from PhP45,000-55,000. The custom procedure, which is tailored specifically to your own computer-generated 3D map adds another PhP15,000 to that. And if you decide to go balls-to-the-wall and choose the IntraLase bladeless process instead of the microkeratome process, that’s easily another PhP35,000 on top of your bill.
I value my eyes. I’m an artist. I couldn’t bear to take on a process that didn’t give me the best chance of success with the best possible results, so I swallowed my sense of fiscal responsibility and went for The Granddaddy Of Them All – custom LASIK with IntraLase. The stars aligned perfectly for me though, and rather than having to choke out the full PhP105,000, I ended up paying a promo price that was MUCH lower than that.
I have no regrets.
I am now in the process of imagining how my next beach vacation will go. I can imagine stepping out onto the shores at sunrise, and being able to see the beautiful blue-golds tinting the sky with my naked eyes instead of from behind a pair of heavy, clumsy plastic frames. I can imagine sailing a boat, or jetski-ing, or kayaking, and be able to see each sparkle on the ocean’s surface as an individual, beautifully-chiseled diamond instead of as a shapeless blurry mass of white. I can imagine looking up at the stars late at night, and smile at how each one dances to its own unique rhythm instead of being an anonymous white dot nestled innocuously in a smear of inky black.
Those things, to me, are worth more than any amount I could have hidden away in my bank account or placed into investments.
Memories, they say, are worth more than money.
LASIK is the way.
To the things that don’t matter, I say: Goodbye.
P.S. I just want to add that I feel even more unfathomably cute without my glasses. Having perfect eyesight adds some SWAGGA to one’s overall demeanor, I must say.
[UPDATE:] Five days after surgery, I came in for a follow-up check up on my eyes. From 25/20 post-op, I’m at 20/20! W00t! At this rate I’ll have X-Ray vision by May. Girls, beware around MDJ Superstar! Protect your virtue!