Thursday, February 7, 2013

My Lasik Journey (Part 1)

me being a dork in glasses I started wearing glasses when I was 8 years old. I'm pretty sure my attraction to big shiny CRT monitors and my tendency to stare directly at the sun contributed to that fact. I hated glasses, because I already felt like a dork, and when I wore them, I felt even dorkier. (See photo for evidence →)

So in late middle school, when it is of the utmost importance for a young girl to feel as least dorky as possible, I started wearing contacts. I hated actually putting in contacts - I'd come out of the bathroom with tears streaming down my face every time - but once they were in, I could keep them in for months and months, never taking them out, and my eyes would never dry up. I could even wear just one contact at a time, and I could see just fine - as I would oft demonstrate by doing a one-eyed cartwheel down the balance beam.

Fast forward 15 years, and things change. Now, my eyes notice the contacts, and I find myself noticeably affected by how dry they are. I even go to bed early just to give my eyes a rest. And I still hate glasses. As much as people tell me, "but glasses are cool!", I immediately feel like a dorky 10-year-old again when I put them on, and my confidence starts to wane.

Last week, my glasses broke, my contacts ran out, and I decided that it was time to do something I've been thinking about for a long time: Lasik surgery. I don't want my eyes (or lack thereof) to be something that I think about every day for the rest of my life, now is as good as time as any to start the rest of my life. Plus, I have health insurance again, thanks to Coursera. ☺

So, here's what I've learnt in my Lasik journey so far, and I hope that it helps you with your own decisions.

What is Lasik?

intralasik diagram

As it turns out, there are multiple types of Lasik-esque surgeries. Here's my layman's description of them, but note, I'm not a doctor!

  • Lasik: In this surgery, the doctor cuts a corneal flap using a microkeratome knife, and then uses a laser to shape the cornea to fix your vision. Most doctors do not offer this anymore (at least the ones I talked to).
  • IntraLasik: This one is all laser, all the time. The doctor creates the flap using a laser, and then does the shaping with a laser. It is considered safer and more precise than Lasik, and is the preferred technique.
  • PRK: In this surgery, there is no flap creation at all. Instead, the doctor reshapes the cornea by modifying the top layer of the eye. The healing process is longer and more painful for PRK, so it is only recommended if your eye's surface is already misshaped.

Will insurance cover it?

This was a big question I had, because I knew Lasik was an expensive procedure ($5K-$10K seems to be the range). What will my insurance actually cover? Apparently, in the VSP network that we're in for our insurance, we always get 20% off the procedure, regardless of which one we go with. And that's it. Oh, well, it's "elective" surgery, so I'll be thankful that anything is covered. (I could argue that I could potentially die one day while wearing glasses and biking in the rain at night, but alas).

What doctor should I go to?

After money, the big concern around Lasik is safety and success. It involves putting a freaking laser in your eye, after all. So, you have to figure out: who is the best equipped person to put a laser in your eye? I did my research the usual way- emailed my colleagues, tweeted out to followers, perused Yelp reviews. In the end, I got multiple referrals for Dr. Ella Faktorovich of Pacific Vision Institute, and after having a great chat with them on the phone where they answered all my questions, I was convinced.

Am I eligible?

Not everyone is a good candidate for Lasik surgery. Or atleast, that's what Dr. Faktorovich believes, so her office puts you through a series of checks first to make sure. It's the usual stick your head in a contraption while they shine lights on you thing, and they use the results to determine if you are a candidate, and for which surgery (IntraLasik or PRK). As it turns out, my eyes are "boring" (to quote their chief engineer, who put up with my never ending array of technical questions), which means that I get to go for IntraLasik, the surgery with the fastest recovery. Woot!

How much will it cost?

The cost varies per doctor, but for Pacific Vision Institute, the final cost for me will be $6900, which includes the 20% VSP discount, the $300 discount for coming from a referral, and a $300 discount for me coming from an awesome university (I think the doctor threw that in because her daughter goes to USC and I was sporting my Trojans shirt today!).

What's next?

My pre-op visit is next Tuesday, where they'll dilate my eyes and I'll try to avoid staring at the sun, and then my actual surgery will be on Valentine's Day. (Not to jinx myself but...) Best date ever?

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