Getting LASIK eye surgery

This is the story of how I decided to fix my eyes with LASIK, how the experience was and how the result is turning out, written for someone like me who was considering doing it. I kept a diary of each day, this is a summary of it.

Deciding to get it

Glasses were from the start a source of frustration. I destroyed around three pairs by accidentally stepping on them. Cumulatively many hours lost with blurred searching after misplacing them. Money and time spent on purchasing not only glasses, but prescription swimming goggles, sunglasses, scuba diving goggles and bags full of contact lenses. In short, I was getting a bit fed up.

I knew that the option to fix my vision with laser surgery existed, but somehow didn't seriously consider it until much later. I had to be convinced by repeated messages. First it was casually hearing and reading about it in passing. Then a friend getting it. Googling some more about it. To be honest, finally deciding to do it was after seeing an episode of South Park where Chef recommends the surgery. Chef is always right. With the surgery, perhaps I could spend at least a decade or two glasses-free, before farsightedness will require me to use glasses again when using the computer.

Preparing for the surgery

When I say something does not hurt, it really means exactly that. Some people like to act as if pain does not concern them, but I'm in the honesty camp. Eye clinics heavily advertise that the surgery is painless, but they have an incentive to tell you so. I am happy to tell you that it really did not hurt at any point for even a moment.

Although the surgery itself takes only minutes, there are many visits to the clinic to prepare for it.
Here is what you might expect to go through. Most of the time is from waiting, not from the actual examinations.

Day 1 - Took around 30 minutes
Meeting with the doctor. He explains how the procedure will work. Basically a very tiny lid is cut into your eye, lifted up, laser goes zap zap zap and then the lid is closed. Look up google images for "microkeratome" to see some pictures that will freak you out.

Day 2 - 2 hours
Basic eyesight test. Different lenses were tried and I had to look at a board of shapes, just like when getting glasses. 
Air blown at eyes while looking at an image of a hot air balloon in the middle of a road (what is the story with that balloon?) .
Machine that rotates around eyes while shining a bright light.
Next one made me a bit nervous: a thin wire kind of thing was slightly poked into the side of my eye to see how many tears I would shed in a certain period. Sounds disgusting, but there was no sensation (honest, remember?).
Another meeting with doctor where he looked at my eyes and answered any questions I might have.
Before one of the tests, received eyedrops that made me extremely light sensitive. When walking home really wished I had brought sunglasses with me.

Day 3 - 4 hours
Another extensive eyesight test where different lenses were tried.
More air-blowing and balloon staring.
Test to see how well I can see things really near.
Another round with the rotating light shining machine.
Yet another machine that shined light in concentric circles around eye while taking pictures.
Test to see how my pupils dilate in the dark. Waiting with eyes closed for 15 minutes, then same test again.
Another thing I thought might be unpleasant, but wasn't: an instrument was physically pressed against eye, which vibrated in and out slightly. However received anesthetic drops before this. To make myself less anxious, asked for permission to touch my own eye to verify the drops work, and really could not feel my own finger touching my eye.
Received a lengthy explanation of possible risks in the operation.
Another meeting with doctor.

Day 4 - 1 hour
More staring at the balloon. I'm starting not to question it (yes, there are five lights!).
Another eyesight test with different lenses.
Another pupil dilation test in dark room.
Received antibiotic eyedrops to use four times a day starting two days before the surgery.

The surgery itself

Finally the day of the surgery came. We were supposed to arrive at the clinic at 8:30 and the surgery was to start at 9:15. As I did not want to feel nervous about the surgery, my survival plan for the day was to take enough diazepam to become totally relaxed and compliant. My general doctor prescribed the medication to me upon request. In retrospect this was a good idea.

Upon arriving at the clinic we went to their special second floor LASIK waiting room, where a nurse met me. My face was washed and the nurse explained to me again in detail each step that was to occur. I was then taken to the operating room where the doctor took a few final looks at my eyes before I was made to lay down under the bulky machine. I was given a stuffed animal to hug. Yes.

There are detailed videos others have posted online of the operation, but from the first person it is not so clear what is happening to you. First thing I remember happening is seeing lights being pointed at my eye, perhaps to calibrate the machine. My eye was mechanically constrained so that I could not close it or move around. Like that famous scene in "Clockwork Orange".

A green spot of light appeared. The doctor wanted me to practice looking at it. After he was satisfied I could maintain my gaze, anesthetic drops were put in, along with some very cold liquid (possibly just water). I had heard stories from others that they felt severe dryness during the operation, but I had no such issue. The doctor said they were now ready to use the microkeratome to cut the flap on the surface of my eye. On a normal day I might have gone into panic mode at the thought of it, but with the sedation my attitude was closer to "yeah, sure, whatever". I heard a whining sound as the blade cut a tiny slice off the surface of the eye, but felt nothing at all (not even any unpleasant pressure that I had read others mentioning). 

After the flap was done, they apparently lifted it up, which to me was only noticeable from everything becoming very blurred. Then in addition to the green spot of light,a larger red patterned splotch of light appeared. They said that they will start the laser now, and I could see a very intense bright light and hear a repeating zapping sound. I could also hear a countdown of how long the lasering would last, which I recall was less than 30 seconds per eye.

They proceeded to the next eye, and this time I felt even more relaxed as I now knew for a fact for myself (and not just from reading blog posts like these) that there would be no pain.

After the surgery

I was made to take a short rest sitting down after the surgery, then was allowed to return home. The doctor said the operation was a complete success, which made me incredibly happy. During the trip home, I started feeling a slight stinging sensation in my eyes. This was actually the first pain, but in severity close to how you might feel after cutting a huge pile of onions.

I received three eyedrops to start using for a week and received protective glasses, since my eyes are more easily injured at this point. Also got protective pieces of plastic to tape to my head while sleeping. Immediately crashed into bed after coming back, and waking up after the nap all the stinging was gone and eyes were feeling normal again. That was a very happy evening, as for the first time I could see clearly with no glasses.

Halos

Now five days later, I have continued to pay attention to how my vision has changed. I am very happy with the result, although there is a small issue of starbursts and halos. The "halo effect" I had read about before. Apparently it will take over a month for my eyesight to completely settle and to know the final outcome, and I am hoping this will pass as the healing completes. Here, let me illustrate to you how it looks like.

Here you can see a picture of the letter O on a dark background. I edited it to look exactly how it looks like to me now after the surgery, seated normally in front of a 27" screen. As you can see, to me there is a bit of halo around the letter. Luckily it is not apparent at all during daytime, but at night it seems like someone turned the bloom filter on in my life's display settings.

Starbursts

Overall, in most conditions I can see at least as well as I did with contact lenses. However in darkness with only small point lights present, such as outside at night with street lights or inside with indicator LEDs from electronics, they have an especially strong halo, which appears to me much larger than the light itself. Again I included an image to demonstrate, which was made so that it looks almost exactly like a green LED in a dark room now looks like to me.

Disclaimer

Overall if I could go back I would do the surgery again. You should not decide whether the surgery is for you only based on my anecdote. There is risk present, which I found acceptable, but you have to decide for yourself whether you are comfortable with that risk after doing your own research and talking with your doctor. Although the likelihood of success is very high, actual problems do occur.

Oh and if you decide not to and your eyesight is about -3.5 dioptres, please let me know as I have a $100 pile of contact lenses, glasses etc. to send you.