My Experience with PRK – 5 days post op

On Friday May 10th, 2019, I finally pulled the trigger and got corrective eye surgery at Furlong Vision Correction, as referred by my eye doctor. Due to my corneal thickness and prescription (6.50 in both eyes with astigmatism in the left), it was recommended that I get PRK instead of LASIK in both eyes to preserve more of that corneal thickness, in case I want surgery again in the future. PRK is known to have a much longer recovery process because the doctor operates on the top layer of your cornea versus LASIK where they cut open a flap of your eye and do the magic underneath. If you’ve ever gotten lasik hair removal or lasers on your face, it’s basically the same thing; it’s a laser burning off the top layer of your eyeball. I’m currently 5 days post operation and TLDR; I still can’t see well but the pain is gone and I am so energized to return to normal life after being cooped up for several days trying to keep my eyes closed as much as possible.

5 DAYS BEFORE SURGERY: I was pressured to use NowRx (in the Bay Area), a new delivery service to order my prescription eye drops needed post surgery. These are antibiotics that help prevent infection once you have an open wound. The prescription also includes Tylenol with Codeine which helps you sleep, and it’s amazing.

With my Blue Cross insurance, I still ended up paying $150 out of pocket for the prescription eye drops. Crazy right?! This was an additional expense I wasn’t properly educated on beforehand. Of course, after the fact I have been seeing ads for Goodrx.com where apparently you can find the cheapest place to acquire said eye drops. The response I got for saying I’d go to Walgreens is that “Walgreens doesn’t carry everything you need.” After re=reading the brochure from my surgeon, they do note that they prescribe specific brands that can be costly and that lower cost alternatives are available if you ask. As was the case with the actual surgery cost, this did not seem like the time to cut corners on price so I went with it.

1 DAY BEFORE SURGERY: I forgot to start the antibiotic eye drops in the morning. It wasn’t until I picked up the info packet the night before surgery that I realized I should have started the drops at breakfast. Oops! I’m here to tell you that everything will be okay if you forget. Just hop onto the schedule of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and bedtime instead of trying to jam in 4 sessions before you go to sleep. By the end of the process, you learn that the lubricating eye drops are the ones most critical to your recovery, though avoiding infection is obviously high priority.

DAY OF SURGERY (FRIDAY): My husband dropped me off at 8:30am and there were already 3 other patients signing consent forms and taking sedatives before their surgery. It’s like a money machine on surgery day, there were 4 operations completed within the 1.5 hours that I was at the office and I imagine they go on the rest of the day.

I made sure to eat a light breakfast and drink plenty of water. I was offered a sedative and said “why not”. I was offered a second while I was up to bat and at first I rejected it but then thought it would be nice to help me sleep after the surgery, so I took it..

The operating room largely consists of a big machine, this is the topography based one that my surgeon operates with. You lie on a rolling bed and get placed directly under the machine. They adjust your head so that it is at the right angle. You are instructed to stare at a green light, though the laser knows how to account for any eye movements. I have never focused on anything so hard in my life. This was certainly an instance where my ability to listen to instructions paid off.

Despite reading several accounts on Reddit the night before (panicked much?), the scary parts were actually not the parts I expected. As most people say, the actual laser piece is completely painless minus the smell of burnt hair (or eye, in this case). What was nerve-wracking to me is that the speculum to hold your eye open goes inside your eye lids and is actually quite abrasive. I could feel the skin around my eyes being stretched by the mechanism and it was a bit painful. Second, they use a brush to remove the top corneal layer and I could feel the scratching. This made me nervous that the numbing drops were not effective. I was scared that I would end up feeling the laser. I confirmed with them that feeling the scratching is normal, though it’s not comfortable. It’s interesting how the doctor and nurses have been through the process enough that they know how to calmly talk you through the whole thing so that you aren’t surprised. However, they can still be accidentally rough with their movements. For example, they use tape to cover the eye that’s not being worked on and afterwards they just rip it off. All in all, it’s not painful I would just say some aspects of it were a little more jarring and abrasive than I expected. It’s not a walk in the park and when those surprising aspects happened, it can certainly make you anxious. Thank God for the sedative and the stress (eye)ball in my hands.

Upon waking, I was expecting a “let there be light” moment and seeing 20/20 with my naked eyes. Unfortunately, this did not happen and I was a bit disappointed as it seemed like this is what others had experienced. The doctor said jovially, “So you can see a thing or two now huh?” I wasn’t quite sure what he meant by “see” here so I just quietly let him examine my eyes before exiting the operating room after a firm handshake, presumably to acknowledge a job well done.

I confirmed with the technicians afterwards that it was normal for things to be blurry at the moment and that with PRK it can take several weeks for your eyesight to stabilize. I did read that within a few days your eyes should be “functional but not perfect” but I’m learning that it’s very difficult to describe eyesight to others without a chart.

After getting home, I laid in bed for about 7 hours. The first 1.5 hours, I think I was too excited about the fact that I had done it! I had completed this procedure that I was apprehensive about. Later, I knocked out until 5pm. I ate dinner, puttered around the house and went to sleep again.

DAY 1 AFTER SURGERY (SATURDAY): They tell you the pain feels like stinging, burning, tearing (like tears, not ripping) the first few days. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t feel much of those things until nighttime. During the day, there was a bit of pain like there was something in my eye but the numbing drops they provided at surgery were completely soothing. They instruct you to use them every 10 minutes as needed and I really took advantage of it. So much so that I ran out of it Sunday afternoon! They should give you more of those; I used it like crack.

Anyway, I spent most of the day napping as much as possible and it’s the best way to pass the time. I also listened to SEVERAL audio books and podcasts that I will list at the end. I felt well enough that I invited friends over to eat dinner with me. While they were there, the stinging and tearing really started happening. Just a constant drip down my face that looked like I was crying, a lot. Light was very sensitive now when it hadn’t been up until this point. I lighted a candle in the middle of the room but had to move it eventually out of my line of sight. My nose was running and I was escaping to the bathroom to blow it every 20 minutes. Rough.

DAY 2 AFTER SURGERY (SUNDAY):  The pain continued this day but I somehow stayed in and out of sleep the entire day, with audio books running in the background the entire time. I was finally awake at 3pm and this is when I ran out of the numbing eye drops. Thankfully, I knew that this day would be the last stretch of pain. To help, I tried ice in a Ziploc bag over my eyes. Unfortunately, the coldness that creeped onto my forehead kind of gave me a headache. I switched to a damp towel that I placed in the freezer and this was much better. I was able to control where i was icing and this lasted me through the rest of Sunday. I can’t reiterate enough that the lubricating drops, the numbing drops, and sleep are your best friend these first few days.

DAY 3 AFTER SURGERY (MONDAY): First day back at work! I arranged to work from home for the first half of the week even though they advise you to take the full week off. Thankfully, the pain was GONE. I felt alive again and that I could do anything. However, I wanted to limit my amount of screen time for work since I wasn’t sure how that impacts my recovery. I came to learn at my post-op appointment today that screen time is okay since that is mainly using your eye muscles to focus, it doesn’t affect the physical cornea tissue that is healing. What is MOST important is keeping your eyeballs moist. When you look at a screen or focus, you blink less and thus less moisture is kept in your eyeball. My eye doctor advised to use drops more frequently if I was going to be staring at a screen.

DAY 4 AFTER SURGERY (TUESDAY): These first 2 days I tried to get all my work done in 3-4 hours and used the rest of the time to keep my eyes closed as much as possible. Anytime I could dial into a meeting and not look at something, I laid down and closed my eyes. Again, the pain is largely gone so it’s more about managing your eyeballs to adjust back to your normal lifestyle. The first few days, it was difficult to read text up close like my phone. But by this day, I could read my phone a lot easier and it became very tempting to presume my natural state of staring at it non-stop.

My eyesight at this point doesn’t seem to improve each day by the way, which is obviously disconcerting. I kept waking up each morning expecting to finally see at last! It did worry me that I had not seen 20/20 at all, like at all. I know i need to just be patient though. I was so eager for my 5 day post-op appointment just to get some answers about how I’m doing. Did I totally mess up recovery? Did the doctor totally mess up my surgery??? Even though you read over and over that PRK takes awhile to heal, you can’t help but want results right away.

DAY 5 AFTER SURGERY (WEDNESDAY): I woke up just so excited to see an eye professional and get a status update. My appointment was at 10am and I had no one available to drive me. They advise you not to drive for a week but…

Over the past few days, I was using certain markers as my mini eye tests. Like my bulletin board across the room or my shelf of face masks in the bathroom. Every time I sat down on my toilet, I looked across the bathtub at this sign I have that says “YOU LOOK GOOD.” Still blurry, every time. In some cases, I felt a short glimpse of “I can see!! It’s pretty clear!” but those moments were fleeting.

I had been very very nervous to step outside the house this entire time because I thought I would be a vampire and melt in the presence of the sun (not true) or that I would be so blind that I would trip and fall immediately. After getting used to my blurry vision for a few days at home, I actually felt comfortable driving. It feels similar to when I got my eyes dilated and everything was fuzzy. They advise you to get a driver when your eyes are dilated but I also did it anyway and managed to get by okay, especially when it is roads and streets you are familiar with. I would not drive at night though, that seems pretty scary to me at the moment.

The way Furlong Vision Correction works is that they co-manage you with your eye doctor, so all the post-op appointments are with your normal eye doctor. After surgery, you don’t go back to the Vision Correction facility anymore. Dr. Koo looked at my eyes and said that they are “where they should be” but he did say that my cornea is still healing. He compared it to trying to put 2 pieces of pizza dough together and wanting it to be smooth. When you first place the 2 halves together, it’s craggy and not straight. Since my cornea tissue heals from the outside in, that’s kind of what it looks like. The key for the next 2 weeks is MOISTURE. You want the middle part of your cornea to heal completely smoothly so that you don’t have hazy vision moving forward. Today’s the day I stop using antibiotics and start using gel drops which are super thick lubricating drops.

After asking him questions about looking at screens and reading books (can you tell I’m really running out of things to do that don’t require eyes?), he took my prescription. He didn’t end up giving me a number so I knew there wasn’t anything super positive to report. That’s okay….I guess. When he was measuring my eyes, he found that even though he made major changes to the prescription lenses, my view was still blurry, indicating that it’s largely the surface tissue that is still healing and impacting my vision.

He also explained that everyone’s healing process is just different. It’s possible that various factors of how my eyeballs change after this procedure just can’t be predicted. If a second surgery or enhancement is needed there is a much higher chance of accuracy because each time you do the surgery, they can get within 90% accuracy of the vision you want.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at! I’m feeling happy that I made it through the procedure safely and satisfied with my recovery efforts so far. I’m uber focused on the moisture piece for the next 2 weeks and I’m eagerly awaiting my 1 month post op appointment to see how my prescription looks at that point. Until then, I have no glasses or contacts that I can use so I’m a free flying blind person! Good thing I’m not in school, going to the movies or depending on presentations in the near future.

Best of luck to those of you getting lasik soon and I will likely be a much more useful sounding board once I’ve been through more of the healing process.

Lastly, I leave you with the audio books and podcasts I listened to at least parts of:
* for recommendations

Audio Books
*Fear – Bob Woodward
Sourdough – Robin Sloan (snooze)
*Originals – Adam Grant
Hillbilly Elegy – JD Vance
Option B – Sheryl Sandberg
Modern Lovers – Emma Straub

Podcasts
Sandra (fictional series) – Gimlet Media
H.E.R. Interview and More – The Breakfast Club
36 Questions the Podcast Musical Part 1 – Two Up
*Step into the Spotlight – HBR Women at Work
Live Episode! Peloton: John Foley – How I Built This, NPR
Billie Eilish Interview – Beats 1
Motherhood: It Only Looks Easy on Instagram – Asking for a Friend, Lauren Conrad
Logic and Chris Zarou – How I Built This, NPR
There’s No I in Tea Time but There is in Team – Channel 33
*Jumpstarting Creativity – TED Radio Hour
*Burt’s Bees: Roxanne Quimby – How I Built This, NPR
*376. The Data-Driven Guide to Sane Parenting – Freakonomics Radio
Howard Stern: Part 1 – Fresh Air, NPR
*Justin Long – Armchair Expert with Dax Shephard
Kristen Bell – Armchair Expert with Dax Shephard (just the beginning when they bicker)

2 Replies to “My Experience with PRK – 5 days post op”

  1. Hi! I am evaluating a few PRK clinics within the Bay Area. How was your evaluation process and what made you go with Dr. Furlong? Any advice is appreciated 🙂

    1. Hey! I checked out Hyver and Furlong. Furlong was recommended by my eye doctor since they do a partnered treatment method where all pre and post operation appointments are with your regular eye doctor. I ultimately chose Dr. Furlong because they emphasized their leading tech machinery and they are also part of a network of treatment centers so are taken care of even if Dr. Furlong’s office is not around in the future. Dr. Hyver’s office was a lot more cautious, stating that an enhancement or second surgery would be needed which made me apprehensive. Dr. Furlong’s office was not as forthcoming about needing an enhancement (though it is fairly common). 3 months post surgery, my eyesight is perfectly functional for my needs, I don’t feel the need to have an enhancement surgery and I’m happy with the level of care I received. Hope this helps!

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