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A vision of hell

Written By: Jenn - Mar• 01•10

So that was fun. Not.

As most of you know, I underwent PRK Advanced Custom Wavefront laser eye surgery last Monday. Following that has been, in all honesty, the week from hell.

A quick [simplified] lesson in the differences between Lasik and PRK surgeries:

With Lasik, there is a flap of tissue lifted on your eye, which is then treated with the precision laser, and then the flap is replaced. It is painless, quick, and recovery time is negligible.

With PRK, there isn’t sufficient corneal tissue to create a flap (there may also be other factors), so the top epithelial layer is removed entirely, the precision laser is used, and then a protective contact lens is placed over the area while the epithelial layer regrows, which usually takes 3-5 days. The procedure is also painless and quick, but the difference in recovery is where we part company with the happy Lasik treatment.

As much as I was excited and so looking forward to this surgery, had I known the agony I would be in for 3 solid days, I am not so sure I would have opted to undergo this procedure.

Understand that I have a very high pain tolerance, and I’ve also been through 2 painful pregnancies, one of which culminated in an extremely unpleasant birth. This, my friends, was worse. The literature and clinic staff did very little to prepare me for what was to come. They said there would be “mild to moderate discomfort, while a “small minority” may experience a lot of pain”.

They lied.

I would be considered one of the “small minority”, but now that I’ve been speaking to more and more people who have had this done, including a couple of the clinic techs, I’ve come to realize that the norm is extreme pain, and the “small minority” experience moderate pain. I don’t think the “mild pain” recipients even exist. They appear to be trained to minimize the discomfort in their literature and preop consultations, and use words like “uncomfortable” rather than “painful”. Granted, every person walking into their clinic represents $2,000 – $5,000, and money is obviously their goal here. Telling them the bald-faced truth would have the PRK candidates running for the hills.

In retrospect, the pain wasn’t my only issue with this experience. The surgeon who did my procedure also added to my nightmare. Yes, he was the best, and yes, he did a bang-up job. But the man was a machine, and treated me like a piece of meat. Zero reassurance, zero bed-side smarts. He didn’t warn me at any point or explain what he was doing, which was beyond disconcerting, and extremely traumatizing. So I was probably in shock too, wrapped tight in multiple warm blankets in my dark bedroom, shaking like a leaf for the better part of 3 days.

I debated whether or not to go into great detail about the procedure, and I think I’ve decided to spare you the details. If you really want to know, you can email me [jenn@… my domain name: you can figure it out] and we’ll chat.

Confession: I love Codeine, and would have married Codeine last week had it been possible. Even if I am a teensy bit allergic to it, and got the most amazing rash after using it, and even though, for a time, it only took a tiny bit of the edge off. We parted ways on Friday once the worst was over, but Codeine will always have a special place in my heart. I love you, Codeine.

My hubby got major bonus points and pretty much made up for a dismal Valentines by taking very good care of me while I was laid low and blind. He gently woke me every couple of hours for multiple eye drops or mega doses of pain pills until I was able to take over and do them myself. He made me eat when I didn’t want to, just to keep my strength up. I don’t know what I would have done without him.

And then there were my sweet friends: ShaMoo, J-B, and Knarf. Always there for me; true blue. ShaMoo showed up on day three to deliver this gorgeous fruit bouquet from the three of them:

I was just able to get a shot of it with my cell phone before Wee One got going on it. There were, after all, chocolate covered strawberries involved. She managed to get a couple before I got the phone out, you’ll notice. Yes, I did manage to get my fair share of it, if you’re wondering.

So you’re probably wondering what the results of the procedure was, unless I miss my guess? Well, I haven’t reached the final results yet. The recovery takes time, and I’m only at the 1 week mark. It could take at least a week more before my vision clears to where it’s going to settle. Yes, I see better. Some things are clear. Some things are not. It’s a little frustrating to be honest, considering what I went through last week. By mid-evening I’m still experiencing pain and fatigue, and I still need migraine strength pain medication to fall asleep. My eyes are unbelievably dry, to the point where I need to pry open my bottom lid and insert eye drops just to get them fully open every morning. Not fun. I will need reading glasses, and did in fact purchase my first pair just this morning. I’m ok with that though – there are some damn cute reading specs out there!

I’m not driving yet, although I suspect I’ll be ok to do that this week, at least during the day. Night time driving will take a while longer. I’m thankful to J-B for offering to be my ride home on nights when we’re out together at rehearsal! Like I said: True Blue. Hope he doesn’t get sick of me…

With PRK there is the potential for regression, so down the road I might find that my vision needs to be “enhanced” again. As long as I have corneal tissue, this is possible. Enhancements are also included in the initial cost, so if I do opt to do it again, I don’t have any further out of pocket expenses past medication. But wow. Would I do it again? Honestly? I don’t know. I’d certainly have to think long and hard about it. If I could fix it so I would be completely unconscious for 2 days, I just might! Time, as they say, will tell.

I am definitely going to enjoy not wearing glasses anymore. Of that I am 100% certain!


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  1. quilly says:

    You have just assured that I will never have this done! I hope you heal soon and that your vision is all you want it to be.
    .-= quilly´s last blog ..Visiting Massachusetts, Part I =-.

    • Jenn says:

      Yeah, I debated on how much to share about this. I don’t want to turn people off if they have a chance at phenomenal vision and a better life, but in the same breath, I felt that I was lied to about this procedure. I’m all about transparency where things like this are concerned. You NEED to know exactly what you’re getting in to so you can make a fully informed decision. Too late in my case, and I’m hoping the final result will make what I’m going through “worth it” in the end.

  2. Thom says:

    Well I hope that this is all worth it for you. If you can just get through this shitty part I’m sure it will be. It’s too bad they didn’t really tell you that most experience the worst instead of vice versa. You know when I had my shoulder done by my surgeon he treated me like a slab of meat also. I think all surgeons are like that. They only do the surgery and that’s all they care about. They are the prima donnas of the medical world if you ask me. Think positive my friend. I know it’s hard to to now but you got to. I’m so glad your friends helped you through this and your husband as well. Just remember next Valentines Day I’m going to remind you of this ROLFMAO!!!

  3. Hi Jenn,
    I am glad you are past the worst of it, although it seems like you still have a way to go. I hope your recovery continues well. It sounds like a nightmare week, but hopefully it will be worth it, it will be amazing to see without having to wear glasses all the time.

    I agree there are some pretty cool reading glasses out there, my Mum has some amazing ones, there’s a picture of her zebra print ones at the end of this post

    Do you think if you knew how painful it would have been that you would have changed your mind about doing it? Or just been better prepared?

    I love that fruit bouquet I’ve never seen anything like it before! And chocolate stawberries too, no wonder wee one was straight at it!

    Keep going, you’re nearly there, pleased to hear you’re being well looked after.
    .-= Jade @ No Longer25´s last blog ..My Monday Memory: Edinburgh Botanic Gardens =-.

    • Jenn says:

      If I knew how painful it was going to be, I’m not sure I would have gone ahead with it, no. Or I would have searched out better pain relief methods… talk to me in a week or two, and see how happy I am (or not) and I’ll have a firmer answer for you ;)

      Love your mom’s reading glasses – will she send them to me you think?!

  4. Jan says:

    So glad that you are feeling better now – and thanks, you have given me a greater appreciation for my own specs! Haha!! :)

  5. ShaMoo says:

    I’m so glad those horrid days are over for you…. I’m sure as things get sharper, the “worth it” factor will improve substantially! Onwards and upwards :)

  6. Jenn, I’m with Quilly — now that I know, my perspective is more fully informed. And I’m REALLY allergic to codeine so that would be a problem for me.

    Still, I will pray for you to continue to heal and to have ZERO side effects (those scare me almost as much – dry eyes, halo vision at night, I have that already!).

    Thom is right on one thing. My brother is a surgeon and my husband is a fighter pilot. Surgeons are the fighter pilots of the medical community. ARROGANCE – R – US…they have to be to get where they are. It is a survival technique but quite unpleasant for the rest of us. Kind of like trial lawyers who are the same for the law profession (spoken as a trial lawyer).

    I love the bouquet too — I was sent one of these for my birthday last year and it was YUM! I hope you got at least ONE choco strawberry!
    .-= southlakesmom´s last blog ..Microfiction Monday =-.

  7. Annie says:

    Wow Jenn, that’s wild. Who would have known it would be so painful and traumatic? Your blessed to have such a loving husband and friends. I use reading glasses too. But mine are ugly and make me look like a granny. Hang in there. Hopefully, it will be all downhill from here. Hugs.
    .-= Annie´s last blog ..we’re eating on tv trays =-.

  8. Joey says:

    I had just enough cornea for LASIK. Sounds like that was even more of a blessing than I knew at the time.

    Hope you get to 20/20 soon!

  9. Betty says:

    So sorry this was so painful for you! But I know what you mean when you say some doctors treat people like meat. My dentist was like that. When he gave me a pain injection, he just shoved the needle right up there into my mouth without the numbing cream or anything!
    I really hope this will be worth it for you, though. Maybe it´s like having kids, once you see them you forget the pain of having them…. :)
    But I think it´s good you told the truth.
    .-= Betty´s last blog ..Long weekend coming up =-.

  10. Nessa says:

    Wow. I am glad you are getting better.

    I was thinking of getting Lasik and didn’t know there were two kinds. Thanks for letting us know. Most surgeons are not known for their bedside manner.

    Good hubby.

    Sensational Haiku Wednesday – Chrysalis
    .-= Nessa´s last blog ..Chrysalis =-.

  11. Polly says:

    Oh my goodness Jenn! Thank you for being truthful. I am not a candidate for Lasik and was going to ask my doctor about this procedure since my eyesight seems to be deteriorating rapidly. I’m a wimp about pain and would probably try to OD on friendly Mr. Codeine myself (I happen to love him like no other, which is why, when they give me a prescription, I ask for half the number of pills since I have addictive tendencies)
    God bless you (and especially your hubby for being your knight in shining armor!)
    .-= Polly´s last blog ..Monday Musings-March 1, 2010 =-.

  12. Wow, Jenn! This is unheard of; what a horrible experience. I hope that you have recovered well and have great vision now (despite the terrible circumstances.) How are you doing two years later?