Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My PRK Laser Eye Surgery Experience

I've worn eye glasses since Grade 6, I think. I found out when the school conducted its yearly medical check-up for all students. The doctor at the school clinic told me I had a problem with my vision and it would be best for me to go to an eye doctor. And since then, I've been wearing glasses. Here is what I looked like with glasses back in 2005, when I graduated from the U.P. College of Law:

My wife told me I look cute with glasses. But for more than 20 years I've been wearing them and it gave me some problems. It held me back in doing a lot of things. I couldn't play sports that much. I played baseball wearing normal glasses when I was in grade 7 and a ball hit me in the eye. As a result, I had to get those geeky-looking sports goggles for me to wear every game. It really looked.

I didn't (and still don't) enjoy swimming because I can't see. The grades of my eyes have jumped to 900.

It's hard for me to jog because after a while, my glasses slip from my nose bridge due to the sweat.

I don't enjoy the beach because the sea mist cloud my lenses.

I've had my share of bad haircuts because I couldn't correct the barber while he was cutting my hair.

I could never fall asleep while watching TV because I always had to remove my glasses before going to bed.

And the list goes on and on. It gets tiring, you know.

Last month, I noticed that the arms of my eyeglasses were about to break. It meant I had to buy new frames. And not just any kind of frame. I need to find one that could accommodate the thickness of my lenses. And that is a hard task. Even if I'd make 'em ultra-thin, my lenses would still be thick.

And I didn't want to do it all over again.

After 20 years of wearing spectacles, I wanted to see the world with my own two eyes. I wanted to have laser eye surgery. I've heard about this way back in 2001 and have been saving some money for this particular procedure ever since.

So I went to the Asian Eye Institute clinic in SM Mall of Asia for the screening. They checked my eyes using several machines and the doctor there told me I wasn't qualified for LASIK. (shoot!) My corneas were too thin for LASIK. I was qualified for PRK though. What happens in PRK (Photorefractive Keratectomy) is instead of slicing a flap of your cornea to perform the laser surgery, here there is no flap. The eye surgeon will perform the laser surgery directly over the surface of my cornea. In lieu of the flap, he will place contact lens. Also, in PRK the recovery period is longer (Instead of a couple of weeks, its about 3 months). And mas-mahapdi siya sa mata.

This setback didn't deter me. I told the doctor I wanted to push through with the eye surgery.

Last May 4, I went to Asian Eye Institute in Rockwell for my PRK eye surgery. They checked my eyes again using several machines, to make sure I was qualified for PRK. Then they had me put on a scrub suit. This is me before entering the operating room:

It was like a factory in there. While I was being prepped up, there was a patient in the operating room and another patient who had just finished the eye operation and was being debriefed.

Then it was my turn and Dr. Robert Ang, the Lasik specialist, called me in. It was cold in the operating room and he had me lie down the gurney. He taped my eyelids to keep them from closing. And he also put a metal contraption over my eye to make sure the tape worked. Then, for a moment, I got scared. What? You won't put me to sleep? I'll actually see the doctor cut my eye with a scapel?! I thought I was going to faint... either that or wrestle the nurses to escape.

And then I remembered laser pala. So no knives of any sort. I just saw colors. Red and green. Yun na ata yung. Kasi after a couple of minutes, yung kabilang mata naman. And then that was that. Dr. Ang dropped a few eye drops on my eyes and led me out of the OR. Sabi ko parang factory kasi while I was being debriefed, there was another patient being prepped up for surgery.

Everything happened in a flurry. I wasn't able to say good bye to my eyeglasses, eyeglass container, glass cleaner and cloth. Good bye eyeglass items. Thank you for serving me well. Though I've said many things not-so-pleasant about you, I want you to know I wouldn't have survived without you.

Like I said, if this were Lasik, I would have clear vision in a few days. This was PRK, and there were a lot of che-che-boreche. Here a few tips for those of you who are planning to have laser eye surgery (that I did not know about when I entered the operating room):

1. You will have to wear these goggles for at least one week after surgery. I think it's to protect your eyes from the elements and from glare.

2. You will be prescribed these eyedrops to be administered 4 times a day (8am, 12nn, 4pm and 8pm) hanggang maubos. And you can't drop them all at the same time. Kelangan 5 minutes apart. The big blue-green box are eyedrops to be dropped 1 hour after the first 3 eyedrops.

3. You cannot wet the eye for the first 3 days after surgery. It means you cannot have a full shower (shampoo and wash your face properly) for 3 days. Hirap maligo niyan.

4. You are not allowed to engage in sports or do strenuous activities for 1 week.

5. You are not allowed to drive the first week. Get a driver (or like me, use public transportation).

6. No swimming for 1 month.

Good luck!

As for me, within 3 months, I expect be able to wear shades without being half-blind; I expect to be able to tell the barber not to shave my sideburns; I expect to run without fear that my glasses would fall off; I expect to be able to watch the news until I fall asleep. In 3 months, I expect to do a lot of other things with my new vision.

But until then, I'd have to suffer looking like Chavit Singson's long lost son: