Adrianne can (almost) see now!

So I also got eye surgery here in Korea, over the weekend at Noon Eye Center. I had originally hoped for LASIK, like Jordan got, but I wasn’t a good candidate. Instead, the surgeon suggested I get intraocular lenses put behind my cornea.

TL;DR at bottom

Evaluation: My evaluation and consultation was the same as Jordan’s, with almost the same tests, so I won’t detail it much here. Because I am extremely nearsighted (I wear -10.50 in contacts) they did numb the nerves behind my eye (with a few stinging eye drops) and have me do some of the vision tests a second time. Apparently people with nearsightedness have nerves that overact, trying to compensate for poor vision. Once the nerves are numbed, however, the doctor can see how bad their vision truly is. And mine was bad: -12.50 in my left, dominant eye and -13.50 in my right. No LASIK for me.

Step One Preparation: Getting IOLs is a bigger hassle than LASIK, unfortunately. Step one requires drilling two holes in each eye to allow fluid to drain. When anything is added to an eye, it can build up intraocular pressure, with can give a patient glaucoma. That’s bad, so a week to a month before actually inserting lenses, they drill two holes in each iris.

At my appointment, I was given the run-through of the surgery again, signed release papers, and had the pressure of my eye checked (yes, the annoying puff machine). Then I was given a series of eye drops, all with a pretty intense sting to them: antibiotics, pupil-constricting, and numbing solution. It took about  an hour for my pupils to constrict to the desired amount. My vision went blurry and dark, because my eyes weren’t getting the light needed to see clearly, and Jordan and our English interpreter (Maria) led me downstairs to the waiting room.

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Physical check up: For some strange reason, I needed a physical done before they’d perform anything on me. So I was taken upstairs to get my heart checked, blood drawn, and X-ray taken. It all seemed like a little overkill to me, and no one warned me that my blood would be drawn (I HATE needles). It cost 28,000 won. I was approved by a doctor of internal medicine, and that was that.

Surgery: I’m not sure I can quite call this surgery, but I was nervous about it. Two nurses, the interpreter, and the surgeon set me in a chair in a dark room. They fitted what looked like a camera lens to my eye with goopy glue. It didn’t feel good. It kept me from blinking and magnified my eye so the surgeon could see what he was doing. I leaned against the table, sticking my chin and forehead on the machine like always. Then the doctor marked my eye. This part was, for me, the most painful.

Bright green, flashing light exploded in my vision. I stared straight ahead, at a light they provided for focus. The piercing green light felt like staring into the sun. It probably took about four minutes per eye. When one eye finished, they popped the camera lens off my eye (yes, it made a popping sound) and stuck it to my other eyeball.

Not gonna lie: this hurt. Imagine staring at the sun, unable to blink. Finally, it finished. They had me stand and shift to another machine on the other end of the table. Same routine: I pressed my forehead and chin against the machine, the thing still stuck to my eye.

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This time they used a real laser to punch holes in my eyes. It wasn’t particularly painful, but it was jarring. It felt a lot like the puff machine where they check eye pressure. I didn’t see anything, but felt the pressure. I “heard” the laser go through my eye. It doesn’t actually make any noise, but the laser goes right by nerves attached to my ears, so it buzzed loudly. The laser lasted for just a couple of seconds at a time.

All this time, of course, Maria is saying, “look at the light. Don’t move, don’t move” over and over. When the laser hit, I flinched. Twice. I really couldn’t help it. But by the time I flinched it was over, so I wasn’t in any danger of interrupting the operation. My second eye went a lot better under the laser. This time, I knew how the laser would feel and could brace myself for it. Also, it had rested between the markings and the laser, and so had more resilience against the pain.

They let me pull back from the machine (one nurse held my hand through the whole thing, bless her heart) and wiped my cheeks dry of the eye drops and goop that dripped down. Then I was released.

“Go eat lunch,” Maria suggested. “Jordan has paid. We’ll see you back next week for the surgery!”

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TL;DR: This was the first step to get my implanted lenses. I had to get holes drilled into my irises to allow pressure/fluids to drain before the actual implanting surgery. The procedure itself to ten, maybe fifteen minutes. The entire appointment was about two and a half hours. I had a physical checkup (an extra 28k won), my vision was checked, and eye drops constricted my pupils and numbed my eyes. Finally, I sat at the machine and had my eyes marked by green light. It was painful and uncomfortable. After my eyes were marked, they moved me to the laser, which felt a lot like the puff air-pressure machine. The laser was uncomfortable, but didn’t really hurt. Then it was over and I was released. My vision stayed dark and blurry for about four hours, and then I could use my glasses again. The entire surgery will cost 3,350,000 won.

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Morgan S Hazelwood

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