My PRK Experience, Part II

PRK recovery is much longer than LASIK. Much.

With LASIK you can drive to your post-op appointment the day after the procedure. I’m over two weeks past my procedure and I’m just barely coming into the legal limit (20/40) to drive. But PRK, though long in recovery and much in pain, is the safer and more reliable procedure of the two. It’s preferred by fighter pilots (required rather, I believe it is their only option). The results are also much longer lasting, I shouldn’t require a touch up later in life. I wouldn’t do it again anyway, and I’ll tell you why.

Day 0 – Surgery took place around 4:30pm. Got home around 6:00 or so and slept on and off the rest of the day and night. Not much pain nor discomfort.

Day 1 – Fuzzy, a little harder to see. Was surprised that I was still able to use the computer. Went to my post-op appointment and both eyes checked out fine. It’s the night where it took a turn for the worse. That night was horribly painful. The doctor warned me that I would experience a “foreign substance” feeling in my eye. It was like having an eyelash stuck to the front of my corneas combined with the feeling of chlorine in my eyes x10. I stayed awake, just sitting in pain. Good times.

Day 2 – Set up camp in the closet (it’s a big walk-in closet with no door, but it’s the darkest room in the house except for the bathrooms. I faded in and out of consciousness all day, listening to music and popping pain pills. This was the first day I used the Tetracaine (the eye drops that can blind you, I was desperate!) Caleb referred to me as the “Gloom Monster”, since I couldn’t open my eyes and I just sat in the dark closet all day. I was rather gloomy. “Back to the shadow, from whence you came!” 

Right around the 35 second mark. 🙂

The night of Day 2 was the worst of the whole experience. I woke up in the early morning hours in excruciating pain in my left eye. Spent the rest of the morning getting up to use the Tetracaine drops and rocking myself back and forth. A low point.

Day 3 – Called the doctor and asked for help with the pain. They couldn’t do anything for me (they could have given me a real oral pain killer like other doctors, but no, just the Tetracaine. I would have preferred a prescribed narcotic rather than eye drops that threaten blindness, but whatever.) I went in for another check-up to make sure the pain was normal. They determined that the bandage contact on my left eye had glued itself to my eyelid in the night, so when I tried to open my left eye it tore my cornea. That set my left eye back a bit in the healing process. It terrified me thence forth to fall asleep and forget to blink my eyes open regularly. Commence barely sleeping for 4 more days. Not being able to keep your eyes open more than a few seconds and not being able to sleep is just mean.

Day 4 and 5 – Walrus began to find me very boring at this point. I’m usually the one that plays with him, but now all I did was hold him if I felt him pass by. These days were very, very dull. So dull. Afraid to sleep, unable to keep my eyes open for more than a blink, and I couldn’t listen to audio books because they kept putting me to sleep. So I assumed the same position for 2 more days–hunched over the couch with my face down and listened to music (which for some reason didn’t put me to sleep, mostly because I was choreographing aerial dance routines in my head). Pain was still pretty high, and my eyes felt like the Gobi desert. I developed a pure loathing for the bandage contacts and my surgeon who said I would be able to see fine in 5 days. Ha.

Day 6 – First follow-up appointment with my regular eye doctor. She could take care of the rest of my care as she is partnered with Omni Eye Specialists (the center that headed my care). I thought I would get the contacts out, but alas she said the abrasions hadn’t healed over enough. She did replace them though, which was not a fun experience. While the contacts were off my eye lids felt like sandpaper on my corneas. The good news is that I got some sleep that night due to the new, more moist contacts.

Day 7 through 9 – Still spending my days doing basically nothing except sitting in silence, sometimes bumbling around the house trying to clean (“bouncing off the walls” had a whole new meaning), a lot less pain now but still severe sensitivity to light. Continued my 9 eye drops a day.

Day 10 – Same old, same old. Light-sensitive, less dry eyes, and another visit to the eye doctor. My vision was 20/100. All I could see was the giant E. Wasn’t 100% what my doctor looked like at this point. She took out the contacts though, my eyes felt a little uncomfortable for the next 24 hours, but they adjusted. I had the first peaceful night’s sleep since the procedure.

I’m starting to lose track of the days now, but basically recovery has steadily been increasing. Around Day 12 I was able to comfortably use a computer (zoomed in and inches from my face, while squinting). I’m just shy of 3 weeks and I’m hovering around 20/40. It may be a few more weeks until I reach 20/20, possibly longer. I’ll let you know when I can finally see better! [Edit: I’m still only slightly better than 20/40 ten months later, but there’s still hope]

Advice to anyone considering PRK: It hurts more than they say it will, also, you won’t be able to return to work 5 days later. Some people can, but I honestly wasn’t able to look at a computer screen for a decent amount of time until 2 weeks out. Use caution, and prepare for a longer recovery than you’re told. I mistakenly thought I’d be seeing results by 2 weeks, but I’m still waiting. Others have said it’s a very frustrating recovery, and indeed it is!


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