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A Life-Changing Experience

July 16, 2006

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 09:38

I was told that having LASIK surgery can be a life-changing experience. I had the surgery last Wednesday. The doctor, technicians, and support staff make it clear repeatedly that specific results are not guaranteed. At the same time, I wanted to do everything possible to maximize the chances of success. I had been tracking refractive surgery since around 1990. (The Russians developed radial keratotomy (RK) in the mid-1970s and it found its way to the U.S. in the late 1970s. LASIK was developed in the early 1990s.) For more than 15 years, I attended seminars, read articles, met with doctors, and talked with people who had the surgery. Most, but not all, said that they had a good experience. My eyes were so bad that there wasn’t much room for error, so I wanted the best surgeon in the region to perform it using software, scanning, and laser technology that was mature and fully proven. I waited until the time was right for me. The anticipation was at an all-time high.

Less than 20 hours after the surgery, I was seeing slightly better than 20/20 with both eyes open. Thursday morning was one of the best in years, maybe decades. I rolled out of bed and went straight to the window. Trees, houses, the mountains, …. *everything* was in sharp focus. I’m seeing similarly today (four days after surgery). Vision after LASIK surgery typically fluctuates for up to about a month as the eyes heal, so it’s too early to celebrate, but so far, so good.

The doctors at the Eye Center of Northern Colorado, where I had the surgery, use the VISX Star S4 excimer laser system. Each pulse of the excimer laser removes 0.25 micron (0.00001 inch) of tissue from the cornea. According to the center, it is the only FDA-certified laser system to provide wavescan treatment for both nearsightedness and astigmatism. I had “CustomVue” LASIK surgery, which uses wavefront technology to capture the aberrations (peaks and valleys) of the eye to produce a unique “topological” map. This data is used to drive the laser, so the treatment is truly custom. CustomVue LASIK did not become available for the -6.0 to -11.0 diopter range until late 2005. My vision before the surgery fell into this range, so its availability was a major reason why I waited as long as I did.

LASIK is not for everyone. If you are interested, do your homework. Fully understand the options and risks. Talk with others that have had it done. Seek the best surgeon. I went with Matthew Robinson, M.D. and I’m glad I did. Don’t be temped by advertisements to save some money. Your eyes are priceless. For some, LASIK accelerates the need for reading glasses. (So far, I am doing fine without, but I was prepared to get them, if necessary.) If you choose to have it done, do it at a time when you can be without contact lenses for two weeks prior to the surgery. After the treatment, it’s helpful to stay close to home for a few days, if possible, although you can get back into your routine the day after surgery. It’s very important to keep the eyes moist to aid the healing process, so frequent eye drops are critical.

For the first time in decades, I am no longer dependent on corrective lenses for nearsightedness. Thank God for glasses and contact lenses because they served me well for many years. I also thank Him for the incredible advancements in refractive surgery. For me, it has already been an extraordinary, life-changing experience.