I Can See Clearly Now (the contacts are gone): an account of LASIK eye surgery
It didn’t hurt. I remember being relieved, but not surprised by this fact when I was on the operating table. I’d been counseled beforehand, of course, and warned that the first half of the procedure was likely to be uncomfortable, but not painful. I knew this to be true after working at this practice for over a year and a LASIK Center for over three years prior to this. I had counseled numerous patients before surgery in my previous position as well as worked up countless more post-operative LASIK/PRK patients over the course of my five years in Ophthalmology. I knew that LASIK didn’t hurt, but it was still a welcome relief to be able to confirm this knowledge through personal experience. I now feel even more confident when working up patients or scribing with their surgeons in expressing my thoughts on both our doctors and facilities, but LASIK in general. I can also now share in what has become a common sentiment among our patients and exclaim that LASIK was one of the best things I ever did for myself and that I am so grateful to Cornea Associates for being such a welcoming provider I could trust my eye care to.
I began my time with Cornea Associates in June of 2014 after deciding to relocate from California to Texas to rejoin my sister and niece, as well as leave a job that I had felt could not provide the work environment, career path, or opportunities that I was looking for at this stage of my life. On a lark, I browsed job listings for ophthalmic technicians in the DFW area where my sister had been living for the last four or five years and stumbled upon a posting by Cornea Associates of Texas. I began researching the practice and was immediately struck by how close and happy the staff seemed to be (a major concern of mine since I was coming from a practice of only three technicians and one practicing doctor) and how renowned and successful the practice itself was. I later came to learn that the doctor I had then been employed by had once been in practice in the DFW area at the beginning of his career and would actually refer his refractive patients to Cornea Associates for sub-specialized care!
I made contact on a Thursday afternoon and flew out to meet the managing staff that following Monday. Initially, I was a bit overwhelmed by the size of the practice and the volume of patients they treated on a daily basis. I was coming from a solo practice with two other technicians that saw, at most, 20-30 patients a day. This practice was easily seeing three to four times that in addition to operating on clinical and refractive patients Monday through Friday. There were nearly a dozen technicians flitting about between fourteen exam rooms (I had two) and two or three doctors during my working interview. Needless to say, I was impressed and, if I’m being honest, a little intimidated.
I will say that despite the business and obvious success of the practice, every staff member I came into contact with, from Reception, to the Practice and Clinic Managers, to the doctors, to the technicians, everyone was warm and welcomed me as if I was already a part of the team. I observed a level of care and attentiveness not only towards the patients (as one might hope or expect), but among the staff and doctors. It became apparent to me after my interview that this environment boasted exactly what I was lacking at my current position. Any reticence I had felt at the size of the practice was nothing compared to the comfort I felt at the prospect of becoming a part of the Cornea family, as it became obvious to me that that’s what this was.
It took me less than twenty-four hours to accept a position with Cornea Associates despite two other offers from other well-established practices. Every day that I’m here working affirms that I made the right decision, so who better to trust my eyes to than family?
I had been in glasses since I was seven or eight years old, then almost exclusively contact lenses since I was about twenty. Much to my chagrin and against the constant advice of the doctors here, I was also a rampant contact lens abuser and often opted to sleep in my contacts rather than deal with proper cleaning and storage and then fuss with my ill-fitting glasses. Despite the fact that I certainly knew better, I was reckless with my eye care for no other reason than I was young and naïve enough to think that the complications that happened to other people wouldn’t happen to me. I was incredibly fortunate, and it was good fortune and nothing else, that I didn’t. Having refractive surgery seemed like an excellent alternative to subjecting my eyes to unnecessary risks or troublesome visual aids.
Shortly after my first anniversary at Cornea Associates, I scheduled my LASIK procedure with Dr. McCall. The most difficult part about this was having to wear glasses exclusively for the two weeks prior to surgery! It was certainly quite the experience being on the other side of the slit lamp because, even though I’d worked in ophthalmology for years, I hadn’t had a complete eye exam in even longer. It went a long way in helping me understand the patients’ perspective when working with their work up technician and then their surgeon. I was also impressed with the degree of care and amount of work involved in the process; when I’m working, I am only contributing one aspect, but to see all the facets involved combining into one streamlined process was very reassuring.
When surgery day finally arrived, I was anxious, but not nervous. I knew I was in good hands because I was going into the operating room with the same people I worked with every day. I trusted myself with this staff the same way I trust them with any of our other patients. The prep for the procedure was quick. My tech, Laura, outfitted me with a surgical bonnet, sterilized and anesthetized my eyes, and reviewed my pre- and post-operative instructions. This was nothing I didn’t already know, of course, but it was nice to be treated like any of our other patients; I knew that part of the care our staff was trained to provide was thorough and they didn’t skimp on any of the details just because I was an employee. Dr. McCall even sat down with me prior to and reviewed exactly what would happen and when, and what he would do, and what I was expected to do.
At that point, they guided me into surgery (literally, as I couldn’t see much without my glasses) and through the procedure. The laser technician, Carline, was a smooth calming presence as she called out the necessary specs while the scrub technician, Veronica, smoothly doled out instruments. Throughout this, Dr. McCall was directing his surgery team and they all worked together seamlessly. Fortunately for me, as the patient, you can’t see much of what is happening beyond the bright surgical lights, other than occasional colored lights when the laser was actually activated. My vision did not fade out the way I’d been trained to expect, but instead went from white, to really white, to less white with green and red. The laser fired a staccato beat as it ablated my corneal tissue, and the rat-ta-tat noise as it did was akin to the rapid oscillation of a sewing machine. I couldn’t have been under for more than ten minutes between the two eyes, it was literally over before I knew it.
Leaving the surgery suite was like walking into an unlit house after being out in the sun. It was a bit disorienting at first, but immediately I could tell my vision had improved. It wasn’t perfect yet, sort of like I had opened my eyes under water, but it was already better than it had been going in. I was discharged with my post-op kit and sent off with a round of hugs from my Cornea family to go home and rest.
By the time I got home, my eyes felt fatigued and teary and I wanted nothing more than to close them and sleep. Those were my orders anyway, so that’s exactly what I did. When I awoke about four or five hours later, I had a bit of deja vu in the moments before I remembered I’d just had LASIK; I thought I had fallen asleep in my contacts because I woke up and could see!
I’m still getting used to the fact that I’m seeing so well on my own. I genuinely forget sometimes that I’m not wearing my contacts and get to be grateful all over again that I’m blessed with a job that treats its employees so well. I can never thank Cornea Associates enough for giving me a literal new outlook on life.
-Tamara Sumney, Cornea Associates of Texas