Laser Eye Surgery – My Experience
Well, it’s time for a more personal blog post.
I’ve always wanted to do laser eye surgery. I’ve been wearing glasses since I was in grade 4. Sitting in the back of Mrs. MacLean’s class, not realizing why the chalk board was all fuzzy. Mrs. MacLean asked me to solve a math question. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t see from where I was sitting (near the back of the class). So Mrs. MacLean figured out that I may have an eye problem. A trip to the eye doctor resulted in my diagnosis: nearsightedness. My vision has gradually gotten worse over time (I blame university and, in particular, law school and MBA, where I spent a lot of time reading books and looking at computer screens). I always used to say: “All this schooling is really bad for my eyes!”.
Anyways… a few years back I looked into doing the surgery. I understood the risks (nothing is guaranteed to work) and the rewards (no dependency on glasses / contacts, more aesthetically pleasing) and the costs (anywhere from $500 to $2500 per eye). But the costs don’t really matter when you’re dealing with your eyes: you want it done by a competent, skilled and experienced doctor. You also need a good optometrist on your side throughout the whole experience.
And so, fast forward to about a week and a half ago. I was in the Bahamas on a client trip. I was, as usual, wearing my glasses at the beach. I saw one of the members of our group – Dr. Stelios Nikolakakis – entering the wavy waters and then turn around. He had forgotten to take off his sunglasses. I laughed at him while getting up. I yelled over: “C’mon Stel! I go into the water all the time with my glasses. It’s never been a problem for me”. Well, Karma (if you believe in that sort of thing) came back to bite me in the ass. As soon as I entered the water, a giant wave came crashing down on me, almost knocking me to the ground. WOW! I though. That’s pretty powerful. As I stood up, trying to tie my bathing suit, another – even bigger wave – came down crashing on me. I had no choice but to duck underneath and hold onto my glasses to prevent them from being swept away. But it didn’t turn out that way at all….
There was little I could do. As I crouched down underneath the water, holding onto my glasses, the wave snapped them in half and took one-half away. Dr. Stelios Nikolakakis was beside me, but couldn’t grab the other half in time (another giant wave came down). So I ended up losing my sunglasses and having only one-half of my glasses. That sucked, big time.
I laughed it off and thought to myself: I guess it’s time to do the laser eye surgery. I spent the rest of the vacation without any eye care at all. And I didn’t want to be in that position of not seeing clearly again.
After returning to Toronto, I immediately saw Dr. Stelios Nikolakakis in his office and he gave me temporary eye care. But my mind was already made up: I was getting laser eye surgery. I contacted the Bochner Eye Institute (apparently, the most reputable guys in the industry), and scheduled a time to do the consultation and surgery. They told me they were booked until February, but they had a cancellation that week! Lucky me. Things are meant to be for a reason, I guess.
After doing some more tests with Dr. Stelios Nikolakakis (a great optomitrist by all means – I even wrote him a testimonial, which I include in this blog post below) and with the doctors at Bochner’s, it was time for me to go into surgery. I was a candidate for the Lasik procedure. This was great news for me because the other procedure (PRK) apparently took much longer to heal from and may not always give you as perfect vision as Lasik does. I met with Dr. Raymond Stein before going in. My concerns were with sleeping, sweating in my eyes while exercising, and being able to read (because I was in the midst of doing some transactional work for clients). He reassured me on all accounts that life would be back to normal in a short time.
Looking back, I met with a number of people during my short time at Bochner’s: consultants, doctors, technicians, optometrists, etc. I felt that I was in good hands.
The surgery took place in two parts. First, they used a laser to make a small flap in both of my eyes (FYI, my prescription was -3.75 in both eyes, which is average). Second, they would use a laser to smooth out the inside of my eye to allow for clear vision. Both procedures lasted about 5 minutes. Dr. Raymond Stein gave me constant reassurance (it’s not everyday that your eyes are being subjected to this kind of treatment).
FYI, I declined to take the Valium prior to going in because I wanted to feel the surgery without any muscle relaxants.
During the surgery:
- You’re given anesthetic drops so you don’t feel anything other than a bit of pressure when they’re making the flap;
- Your vision will go dark (black or brown for me) when your eye is being squeezed through this kind of plastic spoon (which is necessary to keep your eye in place while the laser makes the flap);
- The laser that makes the flap only goes on for about 16 seconds and you don’t feel a thing or see much of anything other than some spinning gray and black shapes;
- The laser that re-shapes the inside of your eye only lasts about 10 seconds and there’s a smell of burning toast (it’s normal: that’s the smell of the laser);
- Dr. Raymond Stein gently and carefully repositions the flap back to its original state and within a short time it naturally heals and sticks back to your eye.
For the next little while, you’re told to keep your eyes shut. Then they give you a loot bag with sunglasses (for outside and bright areas) and different kinds of eye drops. There are steroids, antibiotics, natural tears, and freezing drops. You need to spend the next few days constantly adding drops. It feels as though you’re wearing a dried out pair of contacts after surgery.
But the best part is: you can now see very, very clear. I am not in my 4th day after the surgery and my vision is better than I’ve ever had it. Computer screens and outdoor light are still a bit too bright, but it’s getting much better as time goes on. I’ve been told that it may take some time (a few weeks) before my vision is completely back to normal. Luckily, the only normal but negative symptoms I’ve experienced have been dry eyes. It’s not always the same with everyone: some people get swelling, irritation, redness, blurred vision, glare, etc.
I am EXTREMELY satisfied with my new vision and I look forward to never having to wear glasses or contacts for a long time (i.e. until I get reading glasses, but Dr. Stein said I wouldn’t need them for at least 10-15 years).
FYI, here’s my testimonial about Dr. Stelios Nikolakakis – who I would recommend in a heartbeat for those thinking about laser eye surgery:
“I have nothing but good things to say about Dr. Stelios Nikolakakis. When I was in need of emergency eye-care, he made sure that I wasn’t left in the dark (literally). He brought me in to his office first thing and provided top notch services. I was so impressed by his professional services that I asked him if I would be a candidate for laser eye surgery. After running some extensive tests, he approved me for the procedure and suggested that I speak with a laser eye surgery consultant. Before the end of the week, I was booked to do not only do the consultation, but also go ahead with the surgery! Both before and after the surgery, Dr. Nikolokakis contacted me to make sure everything was OK. He saved me a lot of time and money on getting this procedure done and was very reassuring throughout. When I went to see him again after finishing the surgery, he told me that everything went perfectly and that I should be 100% in a short period. I would highly recommend Dr. Nikolakakis as a competent and compassionate optometrist. It’s always good to have a skilled optometrist in your corner, and Dr. Nikolakakis is simply the best. Thanks again Dr. Nikolakakis!”