With lots of anticipation (read: terror), Nathaniel and I went in to the UW Eye Institute this morning for his procedure. They started with a quick consultation to go over the procedure and answer last-minute questions. They went ahead and explained the eye drop regimen Nathaniel would be on after surgery. then they brought us into the room. Nathaniel laid down on a table and they gave him lots of numbing eye drops. Then they tested the laser. They taped back and clamped his eye lids. Then, they slid the table he was on so it was positioned underneath the laser, and I could see his his eye under a microscope/camera device displayed on a TV on the wall.
From Nathaniel’s point of view, once his eyes were open, it felt a bit like he was on stage, with a ring light straight ahead, and then three lights fanned out below his eye.
I was able to watch the whole thing on the TV screen in the room, with the image of Nathaniel’s eye under the microscope. This screen had markings like cross hairs on it, I suppose for positioning the laser machine. I saw them rinse and prep his eye, and then put a small round circle of a spongy material in the middle of his eye. This contained an alcohol solution to break down the outer layer of his eye. (Different doctors have different methods for achieving this, so don’t assume this is how your doctor would do it.)
After the sponge sat on his eye for 20 seconds, it was removed and a small spatula-like tool was used to gently scrape the layer of skin off his eye. To be honest, I didn’t know what the sponge was until I saw them scrape the skin off. (which was as gross as it sounds… yet, oddly fascinating)
Next, they fine-tuned Nathaniel’s position under the laser (which was this gigantic machine that took up half the room). They asked him to look at a red light. Then they told him to stay still, and the laser did its thing. This makes quite a noise… like a loud thumping sound.Nathaniel heard a capacitive popping noise, like a bug zapper, while seeing flashes of UV purplish-blue light, and seeing a flashing orange dot drifting out of focus. This was maybe 15 seconds per eye.
After that, they moved him and did the same things to his other eye.
Immediately after surgery, Nathaniel looked up and his eyes weren’t nearly as red as I expected! He said things looked kinda hazy. He glanced at a clock in the room. It was a red digital clock, and he said he saw “quadruple” images fanned out to the bottom right of the clock. The doctor said this was normal and would improve with healing.
Nathaniel felt completely pain-free, and it was just weird that the world looked foggy or dusty.
Pain Sets In
You know how when the dentist tells you “You’re going to feel a little pressure” and that means it’s going to hurt? Well, the literature that tells you that there will be “discomfort” after eye surgery is the same way. It’s going to be painful!
It took about an hour for Nathaniel’s numbing drops from the procedure to wear off. After that, he felt pain in his eyes and developed a headache. He didn’t want to open his eyes, and when he did, tears would roll down his cheeks. Pain and tearing is normal at this step of the recovery process.
We were very glad that we had “blacked out” our bedroom, and Nathaniel laid in pain in the dark, trying to sleep, for hours. No joke—this part sucked. He didn’t feel like listening to any of the audio books or podcasts he had prepared, but he was also in too much pain to sleep. It took several hours for his Tylenol-Codeine prescription to gradually make him feel better.
10:00 through the night!
Later in the evening, Nathaniel was able to nap a little, and got up around 10:00 to look around. He was finally feeling more comfortable, and was pleased that he could see pretty clearly around the apartment. The ghosting from earlier was gone, and he was excited to be able to see the stars and the small digital clock on our oven, from across the room! He could see the clock even better than I could with my glasses. But we both knew his vision would get worse before it would get better again. And we hoped the next few days would be less painful than this afternoon!
Next Post in Series: PRK Surgery Recovery: Day 1-3
Previous Post in Series: Nathaniel’s Laser Eye Surgery Countdown: 2 days left!