Monday, April 16, 2012

I Once Was Nearly Blind... My Eye Surgery Story



Exactly one year ago I had eye correction surgery. Why did I wait so long to blog about it? Well, I'd rather give an account of the results once I'd fully healed and some time had past than when I was recovering. What better time, than on the one-year anniversary?


Let's back up a bit. I first got glasses in 3rd grade. By the time I was 35, I had a Rx of -7.50 for my contacts (which I wore most of the time) and a Rx of -8.50 for my glasses. My vision was so poor I needed to wear glasses to find the bathroom in the middle of the night. Not kidding.


For years I had no interest in really getting eye surgery. Of course I hated my poor eyesight, but the idea of someone operating (and potentially messing up) on my eyes freaked me out. I mean, what if I ended up blind afterwards? You always hear those horror stories of your Mom's friend's aunt's former neighbor who went in for eye surgery and now can't see at all.


So what changed? Well, I was in my mid-30's and quite frankly was sick of dealing with contacts and glasses. SICK. OF. IT. Also, I learned that a childhood friend (who I babysat a couple of times, but let's forget this because it makes me feel really old) had become one of the leading eye surgeons in the U.S. Also, this childhood friend was using all the latest technology and equipment to assist him with eye surgery. This friend? His name is Joel Hunter, M.D. and he and his older brother started Hunter Vision in Orlando, Florida. So I contacted Dr. Hunter (yeah it feels a little weird to call him that, but he earned that title) and asked him if he thought he could fix my eyes while my family and I took a vacation in Orlando. He thought he could, but of course would have to check my eyes first. If I was eligible for their 3D LASIK procedure, I could have the surgery and fly home just a couple of days later. So we made an appointment and booked our flight to Orlando.


Once we were in Orlando, I showed up for my consultation at Hunter Vision. They gave me a full eye exam which included 3D mapping of my eye. I'm sure it's much more sophisticated but if you want to read about it, you can CLICK HERE. Suffice it to say, it's probably the most comprehensive eye exam you can get. At the end of my exam Dr. Hunter informed me that I was not a candidate for the LASIK procedure. Apparently my corneas are not as thick as he would've liked and if he performed the procedure, it would possibly compromise my future vision. (this is probably where the strip mall doctor might choose to do the procedure on my mom's friend's aunt's former neighbor who would've eventually had vision problems)


Thankfully Dr. Hunter seriously cares about the health of your eyes. I did have one more option. If I could extend my visit for one more week (for recovery) he could do the ASA (Advanced Surface Ablation) procedure, previously known as the PRK procedure. We thankfully had a flexible schedule and were able to stay an additional week for my recovery.


The morning of my procedure they gave me some Valium to help calm me down. As personable as Dr. Hunter and the entire staff are, I was still quite nervous. When I walked in the exam room it looked like something out of Star Trek. Perhaps I would've been more comfortable if it looked more like the inside of the Millenium Falcon, but that's just me. I laid down on the bed and they got me ready. The entire procedure took approximately 6 minutes per eye. There was no cutting involved. I stared at this laser during the procedure and followed instructions while the machine and Dr. Hunter did their work. At one point he brushed away the epithelial layer of my eye (not as creepy as it sounds). There was no pain at all. Afterward I said, "That was it?" and I wondered why I had feared getting eye correction surgery for so many years. They popped in a protective, clear contact lens in each eye and within 15 minutes of the procedure I was on my way home. (Don't worry, I wasn't driving)


The recovery for the ASA is more painful than the Lasik which is why I had to stay an additional week. I'm not going to lie... for the first 3-4 days it felt like my eyes had jalapeƱo-covered sand in them, but they gave me good pain meds that made it fairly tolerable. My surgery was on a Friday. On Tuesday they removed the protective contact lenses (easy peasy) and examined my eyes. Saturday morning I returned to be re-examined and my vision was 20/15. That means I could read the tiny letters UNDER the 20/20 row on the eye chart. Later that night I flew home to Los Angeles.


I followed all the recovery instructions to a T. I kept up with my various eye drops, and wore my special glasses for a week (which I altered after a trip to Michael's to make them slightly less hideous). I'm going to petition for Hunter Vision to start offering them in "bedazzled" edition or at the very least, in purple.




I couldn't believe how well I could see. I was reading street signs I never could've read with contacts or glasses. I could even see better than my husband, who has never had to wear glasses. He thought that was a little annoying. I think he was just jealous he no longer had the best vision out of the pair of us.


Eight months later I had a quick trip to Orlando, so I decided to stop in and have my eyes checked by Dr. Hunter to see how well they had healed. My vision was STILL 20/15 and he said my eyes had healed so well, no eye doctor would be able to tell I had had eye surgery. Yay!


And now here I am, one year later. My eyes are still 20/15, and I can't believe what a gift this has been. To be able to wake up and see with perfect vision is not something I ever really believed I would have. I'm especially surprised that being a compulsive reader hasn't affected my vision.


Some might think it was crazy for us to fly from Los Angeles to Orlando for my eye surgery, but when you're dealing with something as important as your eyesight, you want to go with the best. You don't want to go somewhere that's having a sale on LASIK procedures in a strip mall, lest you end up like my mom's friend's aunt's former neighbor who lost her eyesight. Plus there might be one or two other attractions in Orlando you can do while you're there.


I can't say enough good things about my experience at Hunter Vision. From the receptionist to the nurse to Dr. Hunter, I felt like I was treated with kid gloves and felt so protected and taken care of. And one day when I'm old and have cataracts, I will return to Orlando and have Dr. Hunter and his team take care of those as well.


Thank you Hunter Vision for giving me the freedom to enjoy life without the hassle of contacts or glasses!


20 comments:

  1. Julie

    I've been hoping for an update from you! My vision is a little worse than yours, so LASIK hasn't been an option, but i have been thinking about ASA. I'm fine with my contacts most of the time, but allergy season makes it hard to wear them. Thinking harder about saving my pennies~~thanks!

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  2. I have a very similar story to you. I first got glasses in 4th grade, and my contacts were -8.5 as an adult. It wasn't until we moved from NYC to LA that I considered eye surgery, though...I guess I just got sick and tired of dealing with contact lenses, like you. Also like you, I needed PRK instead of LASIK! BUT: There are so many world-class, top-notch surgeons in Los Angeles, there is no reason to go anywhere else for any medical or surgical procedure. Seriously! Its' not like LA is some middle-of-nowhere tiny little town. :)

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    1. Jennifer, that's quite a blanket statement to say there's NO reason to have any medical or surgical procedure done any place other than Los Angeles. People in Los Angeles regularly fly to specialists for procedures all over the world.

      While I'm sure there are qualified eye surgeons in Los Angeles that could have fixed my eye sight, I'd like to respectfully disagree that Los Angeles has a monopoly on superior medical procedures and quality health care.

      The point of my post was to share my experience with Hunter Vision and how I felt it was worth it to fly to Orlando for the procedure. With their comprehensive care and support, I felt like family and not just another patient. To me it was absolutely worth it and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

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  3. So glad to hear that you did so well with the ASA. Like you, I've held off on getting any sort of corrective eye surgery because I'm concerned about what would happen if it didn't work. I'm an avid reader and the thought of not being able to read scares the crap out of me. I've always said that if I were given a choice between going deaf and going blind, take away my hearing! The second reason I've put off considering eye surgery is it isn't covered by my health insurance so the cost is an issue. Who knows, maybe some day my insurance company will start covering it. But until then, it's glasses and contacts for me.

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  4. Congratulations! 20/15 is awesome! I bet it's wonderful to wake up in the middle of the night and be able to see what time it is without putting on glasses. I had eye surgery at age 31; they realigned one of my eyes that had been turned out since about age 3. I was so nervous, but it was fine. I've been warned it wouldn't last, but here it is... way past age 32 (never mind exactly how far past), and it's still holding. I even got some depth perception back. I'm still near sighted, but that's OK for now.

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  5. Congratulations and how awesome you must feel! I may love purple as much as you... here's a little purple love for you http://pinterest.com/xoj9/xo-purple/

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    1. xoj9, Wow... thank you for sharing your purple board with me. I LOVED it! Such purplicious eye candy for the soul!!!

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  6. I had PRK done in 2001 because I was far-sighted with an astigmatism, couldn't wear contacts anymore because my eyes were growing blood vessels do to the dryness and discomfort they caused, and being completely sick of wearing glasses since I was 5. I was blind as a bat. Well, I had about 9 great years until my astigmatism started reversing my procedure. I now have to wear glasses again. It stinks. I am hoping to wait a couple more years and give it one more go. Maybe technology will be able to fight my astigmatism once and for all!

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  7. I am really interested in how all this eye stuff works. I have been fortunate not to need glasses until my forties - now I need readers. Already I am SICK of the glasses, so I can imagine how over it you have been. So glad the procedure worked for you.

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  8. Your sunglasses are freaking rad. And your purple house? You are freaking rad.

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  9. I'm afraid of Lasik even though everyone I know is thrilled with it. That is amazing that you had such great success.

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  10. I am with Yvonne - I am a chicken. Hearing your story might just lift my fears to give it a try!

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    1. Shelby & Yvonne, I totally understand. I spent many years being too afraid of surgery to do anything about it. But I guess my annoyance of dealing with glasses/contacts eventually trumped my fear. And I'm so glad it did! :)

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  11. I remember when you got this surgery! Actually, I it was when I was not a "real like friend" and still a follower!

    I am so jealous you were brave and had this done! When I finally get out to Disney World maybe I can also get my eyes fixed at the same time! I'm blind and I stopped wearing my contacts....

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  12. I have been considering surgery lately. I am very farsighted so without my glasses, menus are a blur. Your post makes me feel a little more at ease about looking into it. Can your doctor recommend one in Los Angeles? And I agree, the purple glasses are rad, the bomb and purplicious!

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    1. Maria, you should definitely check it out. It was such an easy procedure, I can't believe I was so scared of it for so long.

      I don't know if he has someone in Los Angeles he recommends. The best way to find out is to contact him at: http://huntervision.com/contact and ask. Tell him I sent you. :)

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  13. Julie, Dr Joel performed LASIK on my eyes a year ago last October. My good eye was 20/25, but my bad eye was -.375, so no glasses could compensate for the vast difference between the two, not to mention the astigmatism. I was terrified that once my good eye started to deteriorate that no glasses would help.

    It is only because God led me to Northland that I came to know Dr Joel, the younger. Once Josh and Lisa's daughter was diagnosed with her cancer, I started to read his blog daily and eventually read the whole blog from the beginning to learn about Joel's internship in KC and the brothers' dream to open Hunter Vision. I scheduled my super duper eye exam for the first month they were open. Even though I needed to wait 2 months to do the LASIK, I was amazed to know that I was a perfect candidate.

    On the day of the procedure, my boss and friend was my ride. Lucky for her, she was allowed to sit in on all of my pre-op and then view the whole surgery. I was nervous too, but Joel talked and joked the whole way through...it took the laser only 2 seconds for the good eye and 7 seconds to repair the bad eye!

    Afterward, as we were walking to her car, I grabbed my friend and said, "Oh my God!!" She was alarmed... thought there was something wrong, but I said I was ok, just that I saw a white van for the first time with TWO eyes rather than the one I was used to. I had no recovery time... just lotsa drops that first day, but I was still out celebrating that night with my new eyes!!!

    I believe so strongly in Hunter Vision and the team that
    their number is stored in my cell phone and I carry their business cards and tell everyone of my miracle. So far, I know of 2 people, including my friend, who have been helped by Hunter Vision.

    Enjoy your new vision... I know I do EVERY day!!

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    1. Cari, that's an amazing story!! I was raised at Northland. My parents helped start it, and my dad was on the pastoral committee that chose Pastor Hunter. In fact when they moved to Orlando, they stayed with us until they got a house. I remember my mom made Josh a cake for his 10th birthday while they were staying at our house. I grew up with their family and Pastor Hunter married my husband and I in 1996. I babysat "Little Joel" as we called him a few times, so it was strange to switch to calling him Dr. Hunter! :) My mom will be going to him in a year or so to get her cataract surgery done.

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  14. What a wonderful experience you had. I would LOVE to get eye surgery to correct my vision but like you, I'm afraid. I would have to do a lot of research....

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    1. Caryn, I completely understand being afraid. I spent too many years being afraid of messing up my eyes. If you go to a really reputable doctor, you will love the results!

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