A new look Aug 31, 2011

Yesterday I survived laser eye surgery, which was quite an act for me.

I was thinking about it a long time (money was another concern, of course), and it would apparently go on and on for indefinite time, but a chance turned up made me resolve to try.

The savemyday.nl website is essentially yet another Groupon clone. Nonetheless, I stumbled upon a very good deal while reading a free newspaper on the train (as I often do) on my way to work.

IntraLASIK laser surgery (claimed to be the most advanced one) in IRIS Ooglaseren, regular price € 5000 (includes preliminary examination, the operation itself and subsequent checks), was offered at 60% discount for € 1999. I decided to grab this chance: the discount is substantial, and the advanced technology drastically diminishes a risk of later complications.

The IntraLASIK method is more advanced because instead of the metal surgical knife it engages a femtosecond laser to make a corneal flap. The flap is folded back, revealing the stroma, the middle section of the cornea. Then another, excimer laser remodels the shape of the stroma, and the flap is repositioned:

But before that I had to go down a long path of attempts of buying the coupon. As SaveMyDay.nl has just started at that moment, it put a number of odd things on my way. They used MoneyBookers payment system, which can be a really good one on itself, with the only downside that a newly registered user has one-transaction limit of € 500. Whereas I needed, as you remember, to pay € 1999. In order to raise the limit the address of your residence has to be verified. Which is also no problem on itself: the send you a verification code by snail mail, which takes 3 or four days to deliver. Now the problem: a deal is active on SaveMyDay.nl during one day only, before midnight.

After a short struggle against MoneyBookers' interface I gave up and expressed my disappointment in an email I sent to to SaveMyDay.nl, where I described all the problems I happened to have.

SaveMyDay.nl responded exactly the same day when I received a letter with the confirmation code. The said they apologised for blah-blah-blah, they would look into other payment possibilities, and, by the way, that my deal was reopened on the website. Which I successfully made use of.

Since laser surgery is not applicable to everyone (which depends on a lot of factors like cornea thickness, eye blood pressure etc.), SaveMyDay.nl would repay if the examination proved surgery to be impossible.

Both examination and operations took place in Amsterdam clinic. Examination takes about one and a half hour, during which all the relevant factors are being investigated and measured (using auto refractometer, ocular response analyzer, orbscan, topolyzer, refraction, miscroscope eye examination, Schirmer's test, pupillometer etc). They also apply a pupil widening solution to your eyes, which makes blurry everything around and you get very sensitive to bright light.

After gathering all the data the doctor draws a conclusion on operation possibility. I was lucky enough, I was told I could be treated, and I could have a perfect eyesight within one year with 90% change (it turned out the maximum allocated value).

The operation was scheduled a few days later. There were three of us. In the preoperational room we were given special coats and caps, as well as instructions (the meaning of which was mainly "stay calm and relaxed, and it'll help"). Then we got anaestetic eyedrops and lined up for treatment by the first (femtosecond) laser.

For this procedure the eyeball is fixed using a special suction ring, and the laser bursts many very short light impulses making a circular line in about 20 seconds. Then the same is repeated for the other eye. You don't feel, hear or see anything during this process. After that you have to wait about fifteen minutes in the waiting room. You can then see things around, although not clear.

After this break you're invited to the second operational room, with another doctor and an excimer laser. You get a plastic film to your face (the film has holes on the eye areas). The eye gets disinfected and the doctor folds back the flap (you can see that quite well). The eyeball is not fixed for this procedure, you should concentrate on the red dot yourself instead while the laser reshapes the cornea. It produces hum, and you can also smell burnt flesh. Judging from the sound, the treatment consists of two phases, a rough and a fine one. It takes about a minute per eye, after that the doctor applies some drops, washes it, repositions the flap and smoothens it. The plastic film is peeled off your face (a free peeling procedure as the nurse called it), and you have to wait about half an hour. After a quick check you're free to go.

At this point all you can see makes a very blurry image, and eye whites are scarlet. But the best part begins in about thirty minutes after that, when the anaestetic's action fades away. The next four hours all you want is to jump out of yourself, and you have to survive that. Curious is that it's easier to bear with your eyes open, perhaps because then the eyelids don't press against the eyeballs. At the same time, you cannot stand looking at any light source, so the best solution is to stay in the darkness. During all this time tears are streaming out your eyes.

After about four hours the pain subsides, the whites get white again, and you get a desire to live again. You can even see the light.

The next morning I had a mandatory check at the clinic: my eyesight improved from -4.5/-4.75 to -0.25/-0.5; I was told it would become perfect in a few weeks.

You have to apply antibiotic eye drops during one week, and "artificial tears" once every hour during a month after the operation. You're not allowed to swim, do heavy sports or sunbathing for two weeks. You have to refrain from rubbing your eyes for 6 weeks. But the next day you may already read and use computer.

The first night I had to sleep with this gear on my face:

Update. Here are the results a year later.