Cutting into the eye – my experience with ICL surgery

It took me three years to decide.

I had hoped to have Lasik done to correct my vision, as a reward for a goal reached. Sadly I was given the news that I was not a candidate for Laser surgery.  I was given other options, but at the time nothing seemed like a good idea. They all seemed so….   dangerous and scary.

I thought about it off and on over the next three years, always wishing but never seriously thinking I would do it.   Finally, there was no longer denying it – It was time to shit or get off the pot because I was swiftly moving towards bifocals or progressives or what ever pretty name they want to give to the symptoms of “you’re getting old”

To me this meant bigger lenses.  Heavier lenses.  More pain in the ass.   I already had a hefty prescription at -8 and -7.5.   Headaches plagued me.  Sore ears.  Sore nose.   I really just could not imagine wearing heavier glasses and making all of those things worse.  So finally…  finally, I went in to talk to the doctor about my options.

I nervously attended my first appointment, not really knowing what to expect.   I’m sure the people at the clinic know that it’s a big decision and one that is quite scary, and they are pros at putting you at ease and explaining all the procedures to you, and how the procedures are performed.

When I talked to the doctor, I was presented with two options.  The option that seemed to make the most sense is called ICL.   This is, basically, cataract surgery, only they don’t remove your original lens.  They implant new ones along with your own. So, yeah, still 4 eyes… 😉

I went home and I thought about it for a while. I did a little research, both on the procedure and on my doctor.   I finally was ready to make my decision to go ahead and have it done.   I had heard very good things about Dr. Rocha from friends and acquaintances and I knew his qualifications were very high.  I decided to let go of my fear and put my trust, and  vision into this man’s capable hands.

I had surgery on two different days.  The right eye was done on the Thursday and the left was done on the Friday.   I had to use eye drops for 3 days in each eye before surgery.  I checked into the hospital and went through some basic procedures then they prepped me.   On Thursday I had only a pill to calm my nerves.   To prep my eye I sat in a chair and they froze my eye with drops.  Then they took a tiny piece of sponge that had been soaking in a numbing agent and placed in into my lower eye lid, and I was to then keep my eyes closed for 15 minutes.   When they removed it I was ready to go.   My pupil was dilated rather large.  I really had very little iris at this point.   I couldn’t see a damn thing, not that I would have been able to anyways without having my glasses on.  You see, I could only see 3 inches from my face before the surgery.

When they took me into the surgical suite, everyone was very friendly and talked to me, keeping me calm and comfortable.  My head was taped to the table so that I couldn’t move it, and I couldn’t help but think of that movie “Fire In The Sky” where the guy gets kidnapped by aliens and they lay him in a table and do all that stuff which I won’t get into here..  anyway…   after being taped into place, my eye was taped open, and I was draped with just my eye showing.   All along they kindly kept my eye hydrated, and I’m assuming they also used a disinfectant at one point because even though my eye was frozen, I could still feel a burning sensation, but it wasn’t very bad and only lasted a moment.

Then came the bright light with really made any vision impossible.   Dr. Rocha told me most of what he was doing along the way.   I couldn’t feel a thing other than some pressure and my eye being pushed around a bit.   The procedure probably only took about 10 – 15 minutes and it was all done.    I had a clear eye patch taped over my eye and I was wheeled back to the ward. Fifteen minutes later I was free to go, with an appointment to see him again later that day, and instructions to come back again the next day to do it all over again.

I could see somewhat, but not very well, because, don’t forget, my other eye was still at -8 and I couldn’t wear my glasses any more.   I went home and slept for a while, and waited for my pupil to shrink.   It took a long time, and was still enlarged when I went for surgery the next day.

The second surgery went exactly as the first, except that I got my calming potion by IV that day.   Really, it was all the same – given the choice, I’d probably pick the pill if I had to do it again, especially if you are the nervous type – as you get the pill right away, but you don’t get the IV until you are actually in the room on the table, so you may feel calmer sooner with the pill. Once the second eye was done, I could see better, though both pupils were dilated still, so things were quite fuzzy.

First eye
Second eye

It took almost three days for them to close up, which I think is a bit longer than the usual.   One of the ladies in the OR told me that she’s never seen anyone’s pupils get that big.  She said she had to keep looking at me because they were so big.   It concerned me the first night but I emailed Carley from the office and asked her if it was normal and she reassured me that it was ok.   What great service.   It was 9pm and she still responded to my concern.   It really put my mind at ease.  I had a few worries that I wanted to check about and I was never made to feel like I was a pain in the ass or inconveniencing anyone – even though I knew that I was.

I very much appreciated the professionalism of everyone involved.  I can’t say enough good things about Dr. Rocha.   He was wonderful!

The day after surgery we went to the grocery store, and I had these great big sunglasses they give you to protect your eyes.  I took them off while we were wandering around and a lady was standing there giving out samples and I looked up at her and she almost dropped her fork.  I think my freaky eyes scared the hell out of her!  I promptly put my glasses back on… IMG_5511 As for what to expect after….   Well, some blood spots.   It looks to me like my iris was a bit deformed in the photo taken the day after the second eye was done.  It’s round again now.   There was a little bit of pain off and on but more often than not it was just uncomfortable.   Itchy and scratchy, and I realized how much I normally would touch or rub my eyes!   It was a feat to keep my fingers out of them – but at the same time – if you even touched near your eye you knew to stop because they are so sensitive that you don’t WANT to touch them.

I had to put eye drops in 4 times a day for 4 weeks.  The worst of the uncomfortable feeling is probably the first 3 – 5 days.   Then things start to settle down.    What was worst for me was just adjusting to these new eyes.   My brain needed to learn how to use them all over again, it seemed.

Where I used to see three inches in front of my face, I could now see a mile away, but my “old” eyes still needed reading glasses.   I used to be blind in the shower, and I would have to feel my legs while shaving to know if I missed any spots, but holy crap could I see the stubble in my arm pits!!!  My close up vision was amazing!  If you ever needed a sliver removed I was your girl!!!    Now..   well, I look down and I can see it all (yikes!!!  not the best feature of the surgery,) but I can no longer see my arm pit and I have to feel for the stubble there.  And I am no longer the best sliver finder around, sadly 😦

My first day back at work was horrible – I am a picture framer.  We work on precision and exact measurements and I couldn’t see any of it.  I went to the store and bought 4 pairs of reading glasses – one in every strength because I had no idea what I needed.   (I now have 11 pairs of glasses around my house and work.)  That day I questioned my decision.  I thought to myself “what have I done??!! omg!!!”  It took me a good sit down and a reminder to myself that I just went through a major change and like the doctor told me, I had to be patient.  I was simply overwhelmed and I needed to just relax and take things as they came.

It can take months for my vision to stabilize. Even now, I have days where I can see better than others – and it’s perfectly normal.  My brain and my eyes are still learning to work together.  I’ve been seeing that way since 2nd grade..   that’s … uh..  40 some years (ok I’m not going to tell you everything…) and I can’t expect for it all to make sense in 3 days. Every night that week I just wanted to go home and hide, but by the next week the headaches were going away, the nausea from putting the reading glasses off and on all day subsided and I started to enjoy the freedom of sight.

I had to tape my clear eye patches to my face every night before bed.  Oh baby..  talk about feeling sexy..

I’n only posting this photo small because I look so ridiculous…

If you’ve never worn glasses maybe you won’t understand what it’s like.

What it’s like to go to bed and not take them off last thing every night, and wake up and put them on first thing every morning. You might not know what it’s like to not be able to go out into the cold and go for a walk with your dog or go snowshoeing or anything, really, because you are unable to put on a scarf because your glasses fog up and you can’t see. What it’s like to walk into a building full of people or stairs and have to wait for 5 minutes to be able to see. What it’s like to lie on your couch and watch tv and have your glasses dig into your head and nose. What it’s like to go to a class at the gym and have to take them off 3 times in an hour and try to wipe the sweat off of them using your already sweaty shirt (I’m a sweaty girl, ok?!) or have to push them up your nose every 5 minutes. Not fun trying to do that while you’re doing renegade pushups… What it’s like to wear or even buy sunglasses for the first time. Or to just see yourself in the mirror while you put lotion on your face every morning. Oh how you go to hug or kiss someone and end up hurting either yourself or them or both of you because your glasses get in the way. To not be able to hug someone and be able to bury your face into their neck and deeply breathe their scent.. because your glasses are in the way.

In some ways I felt naked without my glasses. I mean, I’ve worn them my whole life. They can kind of become like a security blanket; something you can hide behind. Bags under your eyes? no one can see them. Been crying? No one can tell if you don’t look them right in the eye. Feeling nervous – fiddle with your glasses…. all those things I was afraid I’d miss. And I suppose in some ways I do. I always tied them to my identity. I thought of myself as “the girl with the dark hair and the glasses”. The way I think about myself has changed now. I’m not sure how to refer to myself now. The girl with the dark hair, I guess *shrug* I still find myself trying to take them off before bed or a shower. It’s weird- grabbing at your own face for no reason and I laugh to myself every time.

My vision was 20/16 at my last check up. I’m now used to my reading glasses and in fact having fun with buying funky ones and wearing them at the end of my nose. They are so lightweight, and they give me that little bit of security blanket feeling from time to time. My vision will continue to adjust and improve over the next few weeks or months, and I’m looking forward to a life of freedom.

I now wake up in the morning and I look around my room and marvel that I can see it. All of it.  Would I do it again?   Absolutely.  Without doubt.

I wrote this blog because I’ve had so many people ask me about the procedure and tell me how they have dreamed of doing it, but have been too afraid. I thought I’d share my experience and it might help people to have a bit more information – some personal experience. If you have any questions maybe I can answer them. Save the technical stuff for your appointment, but if you want to know what it’s like, please ask away!

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