I have been wearing corrective lenses since I was in 4th grade. My parents took me in at the beginning of my 4th grade school year to get me tested once they discovered that I could not see the rabbits we were hunting on opening day. They were only out about 20 yards, but it was a complete blur. I still remember the day I got my glasses. Everything was slanted, my peripheral vision no longer existed, and I was constantly getting headaches from the distortion when looking through the lenses. It was awful. The only up side was that I could see the kids making fun of me farther than 40 feet away.
It took me 4 years to save up enough money to get myself contact lenses. My parents would not pay for them and told me that I had to do it myself. I still remember the cost being $349 dollars at that time for the exam, lenses, etc. They also made me pay for my own contact solutions until I was in high school so I had to continue to save everything I could to cover costs. This was back in the 1980’s and we were pretty poor as a family with no health insurance, let alone something like VSP.
Once I was able to get contacts, a whole new world opened up to me. I could play sports. Hunting and fishing became SO much easier. My depth perception and peripheral vision with my contacts was almost nonexistent. Kids quit making fun of me quite as much since I didn’t look like Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys anymore. Life was much better. Luckily, I was prescribed RGP (Semi-rigid Gas Permeable) lenses. The first pair lasted almost 7 years. My second pair lasted about 6 and my third pair lasted about 6 as well. That was when I started having problems, but I will talk about that shortly.
The only problem (before I got a bad set of contacts) was that I had to be extremely careful at all times. Camping was difficult since I had to take my contacts out every night. Being outdoors could be a nightmare at times due to dust and floating contaminates. Getting up and trying to function before I put my contacts in was a nightmare. Without correction my eyes were 20/500. Basically, I couldn’t see the stupid “E” on the eye chart without my contacts. Remember that I never wore glasses because the vision that they did give me was horribly distorted and I lost depth perception, peripheral vision, etc. These problems made it difficult to do one of the most important aspects of maintaining my sanity: spend time outdoors.
Speed through my childhood and a good section of my adulthood…..
I finally had insurance for vision. The first time in my life, other than the crappy glasses that the Navy gave me, where I could go get seen and buy corrective lenses at a reduced cost. My wife’s friend recommended this guy that had an office near us so we made appointments and went in to get new “portholes” (Navy/Marine Corps slang for glasses/contacts – as in portholes to the world). He wrote me a new prescription for some RGP lenses and told me that my prescription was way off from what I had been wearing. I didn’t argue, but I found that very odd. Semi-rigid lenses disallow your eyes’ prescription from changing that much because they basically hold the lens of the eye in place. It doesn’t relax, flex, etc., like they normally do as you age. The curvature of my eye was supposedly much different than the contacts I was wearing, according to this eye doctor. Again, I didn’t question it too much because I thought this guy was a good doctor due to all the testimony from my wife’s friends. Long story short, I should have known better.
This visit and subsequent follow up visits to this doctor changed my ability to see decently and made my life miserable for about 10 years. I just could not see decently either distant nor close. It was almost like I had to pick either or. It was so bad that I had to keep reading glasses in my desk at work and a pair of magnifiers at home to do fine, detailed work on things. The answer that I got from follow on doctors was, “You are over 40 so you should just get used to the idea that you will need reading glasses or bifocals”. It really pissed me off because no one was taking the time to work through the bad prescription I got from that asshole my wife’s friends recommended. I could barely see well enough to do my job about half the time unless I took out my contacts for close, detailed work and then used them again for distance. My old glasses caused similar issues, but I could focus within a couple inches from my eye without corrective lenses. It didn’t make sense that “I was just getting older.” Life was really sucking……
Fast forward to now. Starting in late September I decided that it was time to look into corrective eye surgery. Of course my first step was to question those that I knew who had undergone corrective laser surgery.
My father had it back in the 1990s and was able to go without glasses for about 15 years. He can still pass a driving test, but he does wear glasses to shoot and have more clear vision at distance. He also uses reading glasses, but needed them before he got RK.
Both of my daughters received laser eye surgery while Active Duty and it made a huge difference in their lives. My younger daughter had similar issues as I was having with distortion, depth perception, night vision, etc., and was getting constant headaches with corrective lenses. Long story short is that all three of my family member’s lives were changed for the better after their surgery.
When I went in for my initial appointment, I was told that I would have to quit wearing my RGP contacts for at least 5-6 weeks before surgery. This created a problem because I can BARELY function in glasses. To help with this transition I first went to soft contacts for about 5 weeks and then wore glasses for one week. This allowed my eyes to reposition to their natural curvature prior to surgery. This is important so that the correction is appropriate and proper.
The next step really brought me to the day of operation. Of course there were about 5 visits to the eye doctor prior to surgery, but those were to check the curvature of my eye and see if everything had stabilized. On the day of surgery, I was beyond nervous. Suffice it to say that I was terrified. Considering how many issues I have had with my vision over the years, the thought of it either becoming worse somehow or completely losing my vision was far more horrific than death itself. Many won’t comprehend that, but things like that are all based upon personal experiences and fears. Being physically handicapped in any form is my worst fear in life.
I was given a Xanax and a Neurontin when I arrived at the doctor to calm me and help with pain after the surgery. We signed enough paperwork to establish a mortgage on a home, gave them our money, and were put in a “calming area” to wait. There was a nice waterfall thingie next to me and not a wet bar in sight. I could have used a shot or two.
Once they took me into the room, I was told lay down on a table. The doctor physically manipulated my head and shoved it into position. He really didn’t have much of a tender touch. Of course this also led me to become more anxious. Some additional drops were applied to my eyes, an eyelid pry bar was utilized and a weird suction cup thing came down on my eyes (one at a time) that blacked out my vision. Some weird noises and light were inserted into the process and then the repeated it for the other eye. It actually hurt a bit, but was probably more related to my fear than actual pain. This created the “flap” that was needed to get down to the part of my eye that they were going to saw on.
All the apparatus was removed and they then taped my eyelashes to my forehead, used the pry bar again, used some dental tool things to lift up the flap, hit me with some laser lights, put the flap back down, squeegeed the hell out of my eyeball and then repeated for the other eye.
Once done I had a second to kind of get my bearings before they had my stand up and walk over to an eyeball microscope. My eyes were checked, some clear bug shields were duct taped to my face and I was sent home.
Now, I was supposed to have been able to sleep due to the Xanax….. The Titanic was supposed to float as well. I just rode home with my eyes closed and annoyed that my eyes felt like they were being scrubbed with gravel. I was also supposed to be able to sleep when I got home. That didn’t work so well either. I got home around 1830 (6:30 pm) and remember looking at the clock several times between then and about 2000 (8 pm). I finally was free from the gravel cleaner feeling in my eyeballs by 2130 (9:30 pm) and decided to get up and take off the stupid anti scratch devices that looked like bug shields. Most of the skin and a good portion of the tape residue remained, but the plexiglass walls were removed.
I COULD SEE….. It was crazy. It is still crazy. For the first time in almost 10 years I can see both up close and far away, but I don’t need corrective lenses to do it. I am amazed…….
My suggestions, recommendations, wisdom to be passed on, etc., for those thinking about this surgery is quite simple. It really is a life changing event, especially for those with vision as bad as mine was. I don’t know how much more I can say, but my life will never be the same. I am truly beyond words to describe the change. My headache caused by eyestrain is gone. I have depth perception again. I can see both up close and at distance. Hell, I can even see decently at night.
If you have the means or ability to save up to get this done, I strongly suggest that you just go for it. One day out and I can only repeat how amazed I am at the change.