On March 1, my life changed forever.
No, I did not have another child. Better! (Arguably.)
I underwent VisianICL, a vision correction surgery that improved my vision from worse than 20/800 to 20/20 within 24 hours. A lot of people have asked me about my experience, so here’s my story.
The Girl With Glasses
I got my first pair of glasses in first grade, and I probably started developing nearsightedness prior to that. So I can’t even remember seeing without corrective lenses. By the time I was in second or third grade, I had bifocals to try and slow the deterioration of my vision. You can guess what this did to my self-esteem and popularity in elementary school.
(To be fair, I also threw up in school at least once a year from first through third grade, packed weird Chinese sandwiches for lunch, and couldn’t dress myself very well, so my odds of fitting in and being popular were…slim.)
Life Change #1
My eye doctor and parents finally decided I was old enough for contacts the summer before seventh grade. This was literally the best news of my life, followed a few months later by the announcement that I needed braces. I still remember crying in my parents’ living room, literally thinking, “I just got contacts and finally look like a normal kid, and now I have to get fucking braces,” except without the profanity because I didn’t swear back then. I know lots of kids get braces in middle school, but it felt like insult to injury at the time. And now I have receding gums because of the orthodontic work, so overall, I still kinda resent it. Anyway.
I had to get rigid gas permeable, or hard, contact lenses, in an effort, again, to stabilize my eyesight. They were not disposable, required a lot of maintenance, and hurt like crazy whenever I got anything in my eye, but I took care of those things like they were my ticket to fame and fortune. Which they weren’t, but at least I felt a little better about myself.
I switched to soft contacts when I started teaching because I couldn’t very well double over in pain and tears every time I got chalk dust in my eye. I also went to a consultation for Lasik, but was told that my corneas were too flat for the amount of correction they would need to do for my high prescription. They told me about Visian, but it was a newer procedure at the time and more expensive than I could afford.
Time’s Up for Myopia
Fast forward almost ten years, and I decided that, after 25 years of glasses and contacts, it was time to make a change. (This may or may not have been precipitated by my child sitting on my face and bending my glasses.)
[squeamish alert from here on out]
For those who don’t know, Visian ICL involves implanting a biocompatible collamer lens into the eye. The lens is folded up and inserted through the pupil (which is just a hole in your iris, remember). It then unfolds and is tucked in place in front of the natural lens. The procedure is intended to be permanent but reversible should the patient need or want the lens removed at a later time. For more information on the Visian ICL procedure, click here.
I asked around locally for recommendations and testimonials and chose a highly recommended eye surgeon. At the initial consultation, we verified that Visian was indeed the best option given my prescription. Two weeks prior to the procedure, I had a pre-op appointment that involved putting a lot of drops in my eye, taking photos of the surface of my eye, checking the eye pressure, and using ultrasound to measure the size of the space behind my iris. This involved putting a water bath around my eye, which was one of the weirder experiences of my life up to that point. My eyes were also dilated for approximately 12 hours afterward, which brought an unexpected but welcome break from work. I had to use three different eye drops for two weeks prior to surgery: corticosteroid and NSAID drops to reduce inflammation and antibiotic drops to reduce the risk of infection.
[severe squeamish alert below]
On surgery day, they put numbing drops in my eye and checked a variety of factors one last time before operating. People have asked if it was scary or painful. I couldn’t really see what was going on (hence why I was having the procedure in the first place), and the numbing drops were pretty effective. My discomfort tolerance level and ability to stay calm (when I want to) are fairly strong. Both of these skills have served me well in various stages of my life like childbirth and teaching teenagers. I would say the most uncomfortable part was the device holding my eye open, and the partial iridotomy, which is the cutting of a slit in the iris to relieve eye pressure. I would describe the discomfort as minor pressure and a dull pinching sensation rather than any sharp pain.
[/end severe squeamish alert]
I can see clearly now…
My most vivid memory is when they completed the first eye and the world swam into focus. Suddenly I could read the operating room clock on the far wall: 3:13pm. I can’t even remember being able to see something across the room without glasses or contacts. I was so excited I almost jumped off the table. Fortunately, I did not, but I did kind of strut back to the pre-op waiting area. On the drive home, I giddily read road signs.
My vision was about 20/40 when I left the operating room. The next morning it was closer to 20/30. The dilation had worn off so I could actually read close things again. Within 24 hours, my vision was 20/20. I will continue the corticosteroid and NSAID eye drops until my one-month post-op appointment in 2 weeks. I do have 0.5 diopter of astigmatism which was not corrected by the procedure, but my doctor did not think it was necessary and I haven’t noticed any issues from it. (And really, anything is an improvement from where I was before.)
Note: Most patients take Valium as a sedative. I elected not to because sedatives and anesthesia have always hit me pretty hard and I wanted to be functional when I got home. The doctor said I did remarkably well without sedation, but it did take a lot of energy to stay calm. I think I had a bit of an adrenaline rush after the first eye, followed by a crash later while I was at home. So much for being functional. With all that in mind, I might not have chosen to do the procedure without sedation if I were making the choice again. But as they say, hindsight is 20/20.