My eye doctors over the years would warn me this was unhealthy, that even with extended wear contacts, I should still take them out and clean them at least once a week (and probably more). An eye doctor once told me sleeping in my contacts was as bad for my eyes as smoking would be for my lungs! But I never listened. I know, I know. It’s terrible.
On September 30th after my dried-up contact crawled out of my eye on its own, I reached into my bathroom vanity drawer for a contact freshie and like my eyes, my supply had dried-up. I sat down in front of the computer to order replacements, but my prescription had expired months ago. Ok, I needed to get to the eye doctor. I put on my glasses and scheduled an eye appointment for the next weekend. I figured it would be good for my eyes to rest in my glasses for a week anyway.
My husband suggested that maybe it was time for me to seriously consider LASIK surgery. I had been talking about it for years. We had a little money saved up and considering my poor contact lenses habits, it seemed like it might be the right time.
I did a quick internet search for LASIK surgeons in Fort Worth. The one I chose was based solely on the fact they were open on Saturdays and I wanted to get in as soon as possible. Of course, they didn’t have any open appointments for Saturday so I ended up going in during the week.
When I made the appointment at the Lasik Vision Institute in Fort Worth I asked if they could give me a price for the LASIK but they wouldn’t quote over the phone. They said the price depended on my prescription. After some discussion with my husband, I decided that I was willing to pay up to $1000 per eye and if it costs more than that, I would not go through with the surgery. This decision upfront may have saved me thousands of dollars.
|I can't be accused of only posting flattering pictures on the internet|
The consultation is free to determine if you are a candidate for LASIK surgery. They do an eye exam (but don’t give you your prescription, not sure if they would if I asked). It was an all-day event. I was not prepared to spend at least four hours in the office, I ended up having to take the day off work, which was unexpected.
After a half day in the office, I was already a little beaten down. That’s when they bring you in to meet with the sales consultant to discuss pricing. Now, I’ve seen pricing advertised for $500 an eye or even less sometimes. I wasn’t necessarily looking for the cheapest option, but I had my one thousand per eye limit in my mind.
I honestly think they keep you in the office all morning so that you feel invested. There was a lot of shuffling between different offices and the waiting room all day. I mean, after all of that are you really going to start the process over with another company? I certainly didn’t feel like doing that again.
The guy sits me down in his office and says that they are having a 20% off special so the regular price of $5K is discounted to $4k. 4K? That was double of the number I had in my head. I may or may not have laughed in his face. He assured me that they had financing options. Since we strive to live debt free, I wasn’t interested in adding debt, not even interest-free debt. I don’t like to make payments on anything (not even cars, and we are trying to pay off our house). I wasn't going to go into debt for something that was purely a luxury. The truth is that I had the money, it was just more than I wanted to pay.
I explained that it wasn’t that I couldn’t afford it, I just didn’t want to spend that much money on this procedure. I was prepared to leave. I was completely deflated and annoyed at wasting the day, but I wasn't willing to pay 4K. That’s when he told me a special Groupon they were running for $1798 for both eyes. Um. What? The price was slashed by more than 50% in three minutes. I was annoyed that if I had agreed to the regular price, they would have charged me a much higher price for the same exact surgery. That seemed unethical to me. Anyone willing to finance what they couldn’t afford would be charged twice as much. I was torn because it seemed wrong, but I was also happy that I was getting the surgery for the price I was willing to pay. It wasn't like I was getting a different (lesser) surgery. It was the exact same surgery for a lower price just because I wasn't willing to pay or finance the higher price.
Then he told me about the “assurance” plan for $1000 for lifetime enhancements. LASIK usually lasts about 10 years, but if any time for the rest of your life, if you needed a touch up they would do it for free if you purchased this plan.
My sister had LASIK more than 10 years ago and she said that after all that time, she needed glasses again (which is normal and expected after more than a decade). She told me she called a half of dozen doctors but no one would touch her eyes, because the enhancements on LASIK are not FDA approved.
I asked the sales consultant about this and he looked at me like I had two heads. He assured me that this was not true, that the enhancements were FDA approved. He said it must be just because my sister had a different type of surgery (since it was so long ago) that it must be just that type of surgery was not FDA approved for enhancements. That sounded reasonable to me and I believed him. In the end, I decided not to purchase the assurance, because I figured in 10 years if I did need an enhancement, I’ll just pay for it, why pay $1000 for something I probably won’t need for 10 years? They want you to pay upfront for something that may or may not go wrong.
I went home that night and looked it up on the FDA website. It clearly says enhancements are not FDA approved. "It is important to note that no laser company has presented enough evidence for FDA to make conclusions about the safety or effectiveness of enhancement surgery."
Even though I didn’t purchase it, I felt deceived. Maybe he didn’t know any better. Maybe he believed it was FDA approved. Maybe there is some piece of the puzzle missing that would make this make more sense. (Does anyone out there have expertise on the subject? Am I missing something?) Maybe it was poor communication. I walked away thinking, Am I buying LASIK or a used car?
I was a little hesitant, but I put a down a payment with the balance due on the date of my surgery.
I had been wearing my glasses for two weeks at this point and they wanted me to wear my glasses for at least three weeks before surgery, so they set the surgery date for following Thursday. I have never worn my glasses that many days in a row...ever.
On surgery day my husband dropped me off because you can’t drive after surgery. They told me to expect to spend about four hours in the office that day. I was a little nervous but honestly, my expectations of the surgery and the reality of it were very different. Spoiler alert: It was worse than I expected.
In the waiting room on the day of your surgery, they make you initial and sign a six-page waiver of everything that could potentially go wrong including your cornea could fall off and we could lose it, your cornea could fall off and we could have to sew it back on, the machine could break mid-surgery, the power could go out mid-surgery, you could go blind or die. Please sign on the dotted line. (I am probably not remembering these exactly as written, but it sounded at least that scary to me.) I realize all these things were extremely unlikely, but still possible, It just doesn’t make you feel comfortable to sign off on everything that could go wrong right before surgery. Obviously, I signed.
I imagined the surgery is very easy. I would sit back in a chair. They would shoot a laser (insert your own Dr. Evil "lasers" joke here) in my eye and it would be over. Easy. Now, I never specifically asked anyone what the surgery process was like, I just assumed because everyone said it quick and painless, that the process would be easy. I think if I had any expectations that it would uncomfortable at all, I might have had a better experience. Quick and painless, yes. Easy? No. At least I didn't think so.
On the day of surgery, they did some eye scans and when I was ready for surgery, they gave me a hair net, shoe covers, and a name tag placed upside down on my shirt so the doctor could read it when I was lying on the table. I sat outside the surgery room in a line of people waiting to go in. One by one, every five to ten minutes, we were shuffled forward in our seats until it was our turn. When it was my turn the nurse reminded me to turn off my phone (what? No mid-surgery selfies?) and put some numbing drops in my eyes. I heard them walk the lady in front of me out of the office after her surgery, “I’m sorry it was uncomfortable for you” the doctor said. What? Wait. It’s uncomfortable?
They brought me in a room. Pop Quiz. Your Name? Lea Genders Your Birthday? September 21 mumble mumble (old lady year) What are you having done today? LASIK surgery. Which eye? Both. Congratulations. You passed the test. Let’s do this.
I laid back on a hospital bed, they gave me a colorful dinosaur to squeeze and a blanket then swung the bed under the LASIK machine. They taped my top and bottom eyelashes to my face and this where it went very differently than I imagined. They put on some contraption that would hold my eye open. The pressure was intense. It was very weird and uncomfortable. There was a suction feeling and it went dark. I think I had a full-on anxiety attack. I wanted to tell them to stop, I was legit freaking out, but I didn’t want my husband to be disappointed in me if I wimped out.
They advised me to take deep breaths while holding still. Once they started the surgery it was fine. I could see the lasers and then the doctor using a tool to “close the flap.” I couldn’t feel anything at all (except the intense pressure). The doctor had a calm soothing voice that kept telling me how great I was doing, even though I clearly wasn’t doing great. It was all over in less than two minutes. Now onto the second eye. I think I did a little better on the second eye, just because I knew what to expect, but it was still kind of rough. I was glad when it was over. My heart was beating out of my chest. They gave me some eye medication prescriptions, postoperative instructions, lovely goggles and sunglasses and then called my husband to pick me up. While the surgery itself was as painless as everyone claimed, I wouldn’t describe it as easy. Maybe I am just a big wimp. Yeah, I am sure that is it.
They told me to spend as much time as possible resting my eyes by keeping them closed, avoiding screen time and bright lights. I thought it would be hard to stay away from my phone, but it ended up being super easy because it hurt to even open my eyes, let alone stare at a light and I couldn't read any small text on my phone. I closed the blinds and put on sunglasses indoors and relaxed my eyes. I kept falling asleep. My eyes hurt a lot for the rest of the day. They were itching and burning and I couldn’t see much of anything at all. It seemed that every time I fell asleep and woke up my eyes hurt a little more. My husband helped me put in the prescription eye drops every four hours. The first recovery day was terrible and painful. My husband said, sensing I was miserable, "Do you regret it?"
"No, it gets worse before it gets better."
THE NEXT MORNING
I have to wear the goggles every night when I sleep and when I shower for the next two weeks. I woke up the first morning with goggle lines around my face but with no pain. Hooray! I opened my eyes and I could see...mostly. My right eye had just about perfect vision. My left eye was a little blurry but still better than before the procedure. I can see! I can see! I continued to put in the drops during the day until my follow-up appointment that day.
I said to the doctor, "I can see...mostly" and he said, "Good, one day down 5 months and 29 days to go" as a reminder that the full healing process can take six months. He said my vision will continue to stabilize over the next few days and weeks.
My left eye had a sensation like there was something in it. It wasn't terrible, just a minor irritation. The doctor looked at it and said it was a little drier than the right one. He put a contact in that eye to help shield my eye while it heals. He said I can sleep in this contact (how ironic!) I need to go back next week and they will remove it.
The pain today is completely gone. I can see better than ever before in my life without contacts or glasses and my vision is still improving.
In the end, I am glad I did it even though I don't have perfect vision and the company had shady practices. I am grateful to say goodbye to contacts and glasses forever (or for at least the next decade or so). While the sales process left a bad taste in my mouth (kind of like those eye drops. Yes, you can taste them after you put in your eyes) I am glad I went through the whole experience and came out on the other side seeing a little clearer.
The experience was a little bumpy along the way, but every experience teaches us something and makes us a little stronger.
I'll work on my wimpiness for the future.
Oh yeah, my husband is a jerk-face. Haha...As seen on his Instagram page....
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