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And now we can see...

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Where to begin? [Nov. 7th, 2009|04:00 am]
And now we can see...

lasik

[bohemiancloud]
I was born 85% blind, and even though I've been wearing corrective lenses since I was old enough to run into tables, my vision is still, in short, sucky.
At my last check-up, they said I had somewhere around 20/400, with an astigmatism. My only options with contacts were gaspermeable or not at all. With the odd shape of my eye, getting them to fit right was damn near impossible, not to mention painful.
My doctor said I was a candidate for LASIK, with an estimated result between 20/40 and 20/60. I was also told that if I did not get the surgery, my vision will only get worse; I'll be blind before I'm 30. I'm not sure if this is true or not, but anything regarding my eyes terrifies me. My father decided he didn't want to pay for the surgery, and went on vacation instead. Such a loving family.

I'm 20, and I realized the other day that I couldn't accurately depict what my vision was like to my best friend because I simply didn't have anything to compare to. I've never seen sharply, and the mere fact that I've spent my whole life with smudged faces half-smiling at me makes me cry.

So when my mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I told her I wanted LASIK more than anything.. Even though I doubt she'll actually pay for it (there's a reason I'm on the coast when everyone else is back east), I want to plan everything out so she can if she decides to keep her promise.

So I ask, where do I go from here? I have insurance (at least for another four or five months), but I don't know of any eye doctors out here, or where I'd even go to get an evaluation again. Should I call my insurance provider for a referral? Should I go with a payment plan? Anyone know any good surgeons in the Bay area of California? I'm pretty lost, and scared. I'm afraid if I go to the wrong doctor I'll loose my sight for good. I couldn't live if I couldn't see... I wouldn't be able to draw anymore...

Help? Please?

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Comments:
[User Picture]From: reasonjo
2009-11-07 12:57 pm (UTC)
I can't help you with advice on the how-to's - I'm in Australia and the American health system makes no sense to me.

My eyesight was bad before I had surgery, and I had astigmatism in both eyes. I won't insult you by pretending that my eyesight was as bad as yours is. I was +6.0 in one eye, and +5.5 in the other, astigmatism was 3.25. No idea what that is in terms of 20/20, but I remember my optometrist saying something about 6/24 and 6/18 (6/6 is the same as 20/20, so guessing 20/80 and 20/70?)

My doctor told me that he couldn't guarantee that I would have perfect vision after the surgery. He also told me up front that the condition of my eyes and some difficulties I've had with them over the years put me at higher risk of complications. I had many complications from the surgery, the most significant being having to go in for a second round of surgery on my right eye due to ingrown epithelial cells, I had an eye infection that nearly cost me my left eye and I also now suffer severe dry eye in both eyes. I didn't get perfect vision from the surgery. I can drive safely without glasses now and I can pursue outdoor activities without glasses, I wear glasses for computer work, reading and watching TV because I choose to, things are just that little bit clearer.

I don't tell you this to frighten you, although I acknowledge that it does sound scary. I'm telling you because you need to weigh up the risks for yourself. As with any surgery there are risks. A good doctor will tell you the risks before you have the surgery. I decided that the risks were worth it. The way I saw it, it couldn't be any worse than wearing coke bottle glasses and suffering heat rash (i live in the tropics) on my nose 9 months out of the year from the little nose things. I'm glad I made the decision to have the surgery. If I could go back to the day I got the surgery, knowing all the complications I was going to suffer, I would still do it again. The improvement to my vision, even thought it's not perfect, was worth it.

I'm sure someone in the States who understands your health system will be able to help you with those other questions. Good luck.. I hope your Mum comes through for you. xo
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[User Picture]From: sweetpiglet
2009-11-07 02:47 pm (UTC)
I was very blessed when it came to my surgery. My vision had stabilized by 18, and when my opthamologist cleared me for it, he only said "Don't go to the mall to get it done." He happened to be one of Florida's leading refractive surgeons, so that wasn't going to happen. I didn't meet the requirements for LASIK- my corneas were super thin- but the center had just gotten some new equipment that I met the requirements for, so that's why I ended up with Laser PRK. At one of my follow-ups, Dr. Z said that I had done well beyond the expectations- 20/20. When I cited the stats I had read for that surgery (95% end up with 20/20 or better) he said "That's 95% of people with vision better that yours."

I hear the horror stories from people who get LASIK and aren't satisfied, and I realized that I could have been one of them. Quite frankly, I would go for a second opinion. No one (with ethics) is going to perform LASIK on someone who's vision isn't stable- and telling you you'll be blind before you're thirty means he doesn't think your vision is stable.

Contact some respected eye care centers. Ask if they have ophthalmologists who are also refractive surgeons, how long they've been performing refractive surgeries, how frequently they get training on new equipment, etc. If you can, find out who DOES the training- is there a doctor in house who does the training and knows all the equipment? That'd be the one you'd want to want to talk to most at that center.

If you set up an appointment for a consult, let the consultant and the doctor know that you are aware LASIK isn't guaranteed to give you perfect vision, and that you've kept yourself abreast of the risks. Also, they'll probably charge you a fee for the consultation, but will most likely apply that fee to your bill if you decide to go with them.

Ask about the frequency of follow-up appointments, and how long follow-ups will be considered "part of the LASIK." My opthamologist is still giving my free yearly check-ups and calling it part of my surgery cost (although who knows how long that will continue).

I'm sorry if this is information overload, but it's so scary and I was going through it at a little younger than you are now, and I wish I had known a young person who'd had it done, instead of my dad's boss and his wife who went to someplace and got one LASIK free and the other half-off and are still suffering from the consequences. But it DOESN'T have to be that way. Make informed decisions, and it'll show. Best wishes, dear!!!
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