PRK Surgery: My Experience

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Hey there!  Even though we’ve got a much-changed living room over here, I’m going to sideline home progress and DIYs for a hot second to discuss PRK – the eye surgery I had a couple of weeks ago.

I’ve read and heard several bad experiences with PRK in the past few months.  For one, an Instagrammer I follow had it done and wrote about her horrible experience.  Then I read a bunch of the comments on her post and a lot of them were similar experiences.  I also reached out to an aquaintance right after I found out I’d have to have PRK vs. Lasik and was told that “the first few days [after PRK] were excruciating pain”.  Eep.  That all made me a little nervous.  Just a little though.  I really have thee best doctor in the whole world and in him I placed all of my trust.  In the end, I was glad to read and hear how hard of a recovery it can be because I was fully prepped for the worst on the day of my surgery.  However, in saying that, I made sure not to go out seeking stories because I knew my horse might bolt if I did that and I’d be stuck with glasses forever thanks to that pesky little thing we all know as FEAR. 

If you were born with perfect vision like my lucky husband, good for you.  You have literally saved thousands of dollars.  I’m praying hard our kids got his good vision genes.

Then there’s me.  I’ve been in glasses/contacts since fourth grade.  At the time, I was dying and wishing and hoping for a pair of glasses.  I thought they were the COOLEST!  (WHAT WAS I THINKING?!)  My vision wasn’t horrible and I could see the wipe board at school but I remember telling my mom I really needed to get my vision checked because things were “kinda” blurry.  She took me to an optometrist and he told her my eyes weren’t really that bad and that I could probably get away without glasses but if it made me feel like I could see better, he’d give me that super low prescription I needed.  Did I ruin my vision forever by begging for them?  I don’t know.  Either way, fast forward lots and lots of year to when I ran out of contacts last December.  If you are a wearer, you know that they can be expensive.  I was blessed with an astigmatism on top of my poor vision so I have to wear special contacts that cost even more.  Yay!  It costs me about $200-250 a year to wear contacts.  I prefer them whole-heartedly over glasses because I hate feeling like I’m looking through glass at all you people like you’re an animal at the zoo.  I know it sounds dumb but I really just hate the barrier.  And I hate how they slide down my nose all day long and knock my kids in the face when I’m going in for a cuddle.  And on a superficial note, I hate when I get all dressed up for something and then I get to top off my rad outfit with…glasses.  Fantastic.  Anyway, I digress.  I ran out of contacts and luck had it that we had just paid off a bunch of loans.  So my next thought was, well, I could buy another years worth of contacts or I could put that money towards surgery.  That’s the great thing about getting your vision corrected btw, you’re going to spend the money either way whether it’s on doctors’ visits (mine were $150 a pop) or on glasses/contacts so why not just spend the money to fix your eyes, right? 


You probably get the point and I feel like I’m dragging this out so let’s just get to the nitty gritty.

Why PRK?
When I went in for my consultation, I was actually going for Lasik since I have four kids and need the least amount of recovery as I can get.  But, as it turns out, my cornea’s are borderline too thin for Lasik and my doctor recommended PRK instead.  I’m not one to argue with someone much smarter than me as far as eyeballs are concerned, and so I took his recommendation and we scheduled surgery for the summer, when Anthony would be done teaching and could be home for a few days while I recovered.  You can read more about PRK here.

Surgery Day
That summer day rolled around and, while I was SO excited, I was also SO nervous.  I really just didn’t know what to expect as regards the process of the surgery and I didn’t want to google it (you never know what horror stories or images will pop up!) so I just kept myself in the dark.  My heart was beating out of my chest though as I walked into the surgery building and sat waiting for the nurse to come tell me to take the Zanax pill I was prescribed to mellow me out.  Speaking of, I was also really nervous about the Zanax.  I’ve never taken any anti-anxiety anything or had any experience with it so I didn’t know if it was going to completely knock me out or make me act drunk or what.  Haha!  No idea.  As it turns out though, I think I was just so anxious that it really just brought me back to normal (vs. bringing a normal person down to the mellowed out level) because I didn’t feel super mellow throughout the surgery and I remember everything that happened clearly.  My doctor was so good at explaining what exactly he was doing and what was going to happen next and I think that that REALLY helped me.  Honestly though, the procedure isn’t as big of a deal as I thought it would be.  Numbing drops were put in my eyes to numb them and I was swiveled underneath this big ‘ole machine where I got to stare at a blinking light.  He did my right eye first and then my left.  The lasers that reshape your eye sound like small blasts of air and aren’t seen...by me anyway.  I was expecting a lazer light show across my eye…nope.  Too bad too.  A rave effect might make it all more exciting.  WINK WINK  Oh and speaking of winking, my eyelashes were taped back and a contraption placed under my eyelids to hold them open so there was none of that going on.  But that part wasn’t as awkward or uncomfortable as I had envisioned it might be.  I remember getting out of the operating chair right after and being able to read the time on the clock on the wall.  It felt amazing!  Anthony had dropped me off at noon that day and then taken the kids home to a babysitter who was coming.  I was done by 12:50 and had a great time chatting with my nurse until he got back. 

Post-surgery, my instructions were to go home and take a nap.  That’s great and all but I’m not really a nap-taker so that part was hard.  I laid down and just couldn’t go to sleep so I ended up, eyes closed, just sitting in the living room listening to the kids play.  Until…      

Recovery
I started to feel tension in my eyes.  It was like all of the muscles in my eye were contracting and trying to focus even though my eyes were closed.  In reality, I don’t know what was happenening in there but that’s what it felt like.  No pain though.  Just that tense feeling.  I also could not keep my eyelids open.  It was the weirdest thing.  And light, I was pretty sensitive to bright light.  Overhead lights were the worst; open window light didn’t bother me that much.  Around 3:00 or so on the day of surgery, that tense feeling was getting to me so I took a pain pill I had been prescribed to relax and slept for about three hours.  I woke up right after everyone had had dinner, ate myself, and then just sat on the couch with a blanket over my head while the kids played.  Eventually bedtime rolled around and Anthony and I watched one of our go-tos, Parks & Rec, until I passed out on the couch.  The next two days were much the same – my eye muscles felt really tense and I really struggled to open my eyes.  The fourth day after surgery saw me being able to open my eyes more though my vision was horrible.  Normal though, don’t worry!  There are several cell layers that have to grow back post surgery and the first one (or few…can’t remember) grow back pretty unevenly so your vision is pretty bad.  It’s not until they’ve all grown back that that clear vision arrives.  At least it’s something like that…I’m giving you the non-medical explanation.  ;) 

Vision recovery time varies from person to person.  It can take several days to several weeks.  If my eyes were animals…

this would be my left eye:prk
and this would be my right:prk2


I felt a little bit of the that tense-muscle feeling in my left eye the first day and nothing since.  I was a little dry on days four through six but not bad.  Really, it’s pretty much acted like nothing happened besides a flake of dust or two getting into it.  Crazy.  My vision right now is crystal clear on this side most of everyday.  (My vision is always the best in the morning right after I wake up and tends to weaken as the day goes on.  That should improve as time goes on.)

On the other hand…err, eye, my righty has been mad.  The tense feeling was the most intense there and it’s been so dry.  Refresh drops have been my best friend with this one.  My right eye was always the better of the two.  The astigmatism in it was a recent development and so I feel like it feels betrayed that I would go “fix” it when it was “good” to me throughout my life.  Haha!  It’s like the always-good kid committing a crime and rebelling when they realize they’re getting the same punishment as the really bad kid who always gets into these messes.  I’m weird, I know.  But when you live life behind closed eyelids for a few days, a little bit of loopy just might find ya.  ;)  Either way, my vision is slightly blurry currently but even still, not too shabby.  I can make out street signs with it but I can’t quite read the clock on our microwave from across the room.

Recovery Comforts
There are a few random things I felt helped me cope during recovery.  For one, pressure applied to my forehead seemed to take away from the tense feelings within my eyes.  I don’t know if it was just a distraction technique – you know when your mom used to pinch you when you were getting a vaccination growing up, just to distract you from the pain of the shot?  No?  Only my mom?  Well, maybe it was something like that kind of thing.  Or maybe not but either way, it seemed to help me.  For this reason, I was most comfortable in the corner of our sectional with a blanket pulled tightly over my head for those first few days.  It was dark and the pressure helped. 

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You would think that, while recovering, you’d want peace and quiet.  But in this case, in peace and quiet with closed eyes was when I was most uncomfortable because all I could do was…nothing but focus on nothing with nothing on nothing nothing nothing and feel the tension in my eyes.  Sitting in the living room under my blanket while the kids were their crazy selves was such a needed distraction.  I also got to hear “Mommy, I’m so sorry your eyes hurt and I hope you get better soon!!!” a thousand times and it made my heart melt every time. 

Along with being amidst the happy chaos the kids could bring, it was nice to sit and listen to a show Anthony and I had seen before.  I knew what was happening so it was easy and distracting to listen and picture what was happening in my mind.

I tried to sleep (keyword, tried) as much as I could those first three days because that’s obviously when I felt nothing and all was grand in eye world.  I didn’t need the pain meds I was prescribed for the pain but they were so awesome at relaxing me to sleep at night after laying around all day long and having lots of pent up energy.

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If I’m being completely honest, the hardest part of this whole thing for me was having to wear my glasses for six months between that first consultation and surgery.  Technically, I really only needed to wear them a few weeks before surgery (if I remember correctly) but I didn’t want to shell out money for contacts so I begrudgingly wore them daily…and I’m SO GLAD I’ll never have to again.  :)   

As a matter of fact, I’ve got this whole box of vision goodies for my sisters to use…until they make the Lasik/PRK investment.  ;)IMG_8234


Hopefully my good experience with PRK throws a good light onto the many bad experiences out there.  I think it’s one of those things where, if you have a bad experience with something, you shout it from the rooftops, but if you’ve had a good one, you just take it and continue living.  My one piece of advice to anyone considering it is to find a good doctor.  I actually looked into Lasik in college.  I drove an hour into Pittsburgh at the time to a Lasik doctor just to find out if I was a candidate and how much it would cost me so I could start saving.  As it turned out, I was a candidate but I remember them really trying to sell me on it – like trying to get me to schedule the surgery asap with monthly payments being the budget-friendly option.  They also told me that my time was running out to have the procedure done.  If I didn’t have it soon, I’d never be able to because of the shape of my eyes.  The whole experience and their pushiness rubbed me the wrong way and I walked out and never went back.  You shouldn’t be pushed or prodded into it as if you’re just another paying customer on whom their income relies.  Find someone who really cares about your best interest and that of your eyes.  If you’re in the Mobile area, Dr. Richard Duffey is the best of the best!   

I don’t know if I’d be much help with questions, but if you have any burning ones on the subject, I’m only an email away – beaninlove@gmail.com  And, I’m always here for moral support!  If you’re tired of the monotony and inconvenience of contacts and glasses, I highly recommend looking into getting your vision fixed with PRK or Lasik! 

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3 comments

  1. Hey... great story as a glasses wearer forever...
    at the end of your story you said Mobile... as in Mobile, Alabama?

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  2. Great story! I just had prk 5 days ago and am doing great! Had slight discomfort on day 3 but that was it. I didn't have to take any pain meds at all. I did have some slight light sensitivity. I was prepared for the worse after reading so many prk stories. Should have just stopped reading after I read your great story!

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    Replies
    1. That's so good to hear!! Thanks for sharing! And CONGRATULATIONS! It's such a good feeling!

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