20(/20) Years Later: an interview with the post-refractive patient
Tamara Sumney: So I’ve got a reasonably short list of questions here for you. Feel free to answer as many as you’d like in as much detail as you’re able. Basically, we’re going to talk about your experience before and after you had your laser vision correction with Dr. Gelender and some things that led you to make that decision to move forward with surgery, and how you found your vision afterwards. I know it was quite some time ago, so I’m sure a lot of our readers would be curious to read that.
So question number one is, what do your hobbies and interests include?
George Amundson: I used to do a lot of competitive shooting, track and skeet, and most recently in the last few years, my main interests have been swimming, biking, and running. I do endurance triathlons; long-distance triathlons.
TS: Okay, and what does that entail? I know a triathlon is three events, do you want to talk a little bit more about those?
GA: An Ironman triathlon is a 2.4 mile swim, generally in an ocean or a lake, followed by a 112 mile bike ride, followed by a 26.2 mile run. 
TS: Oh, wow, so that’s a lot.
GA: 17 hours to finish.
TS: Goodness, okay, and were you involved in these same hobbies prior to your refractive procedure with Dr. Gelender, or was that something that you took on later in life?
GA: I had been a runner for many years; I had run, oh, at least a half a dozen marathons by the time I’d had that surgery, but I was so near-sighted that I didn’t feel confident to be swimming. Especially in any kind of open water. I wore contacts and if my goggles had been knocked off and I were to lose a contact, I would be so near-sighted I could get lost out in the water, and I wouldn’t know where the land was. So, consequently, I was afraid of open water and once I had the LASIK surgery, I could see. And I knew I could see, and at that point I started taking swimming lessons and ultimately got to the point where I can swim miles. I feel because of so many years of being afraid of water, I still am not super confident, but I know I can do it and without the LASIK I would never have been able to do it.
TS: So it’s safe to say that [LASIK surgery] heavily impacted your quality of life?
GA: It did. It was a life-changing event.
TS: Excellent, okay, had you been considering refractive surgery for a long time?
GA: I had been considering for a couple of years. Back at that time, LASIK wasn’t this--not as many people were doing it as I believe they probably are today. It was something that was relatively new. A few of the people that I worked with had had it done and I was pretty much amazed at their results and that got me to thinking about it. My eye doctor that I see twice a year actually suggested seeing Dr. Gelender and that’s how I ended up seeing Dr. Gelender.
TS: Oh, so you were referred over by your existing optometrist, I’m assuming? What made you finally decide to move forward with surgery?
GA: Also, my wife and I were married thirty-some years ago and we went on our honeymoon in Hawai’i. In fact, we like Hawai’i so much, since we’ve been married we’ve been back 28 times. And in some of my earlier ventures to Hawai’i, I loved the water, I wanted to be in the water, but I was afraid of the water. Again, because without being able to see if I lost a contact, I would be in big trouble.
That was something also that made me really want to be able to see and swim and be able to enjoy the water in Hawai’i. The Ironman race is in Hawai’i, the World Championship, and the swim is in Kailua Bay. It’s a gorgeous, gorgeous body of water. You can see the bottom of it the entire 2.4 miles, even when it’s 80 feet deep. You can see the bottom, you can see coral and turtles and all that, while you’re swimming. I felt like I could do that kind of swimming then, but I really didn’t have the confidence before the LASIK. When we would go and do a snorkel trip or something, my wife would be the first one in the water; I’d be the last one in the water, holding on to a boogey board because I just didn’t have the confidence to be out there alone, not being able to see.
TS: Had you considered any other doctors? I know you mentioned that your primary care eye professional had referred you over to Dr. Gelender, had you been to anybody else?
GA: I had not.
TS: So it was sort of a one-and-done deal with Dr. Gelender?
GA: [he laughs] Yes, ma’am.
TS: And how did you feel about the pre-operative process? Your workup, the staff, the doctor, and your counseling session afterwards? How did you find that? 
GA: It was extremely good. As a matter of fact, I recommended some other people see Dr. Gelender because I was so pleased with, you know, how things went.
TS: That’s wonderful to hear. How was your actual procedure, do you remember any interesting details from surgery day?
GA: I do. For a couple weeks before the surgery, because I had been wearing contacts, I had to wear my glasses, and I was so near-sighted, I always felt like I was inside a barrel looking out of a couple of knot-holes. And I had no peripheral vision. The thing that I noticed just immediately--and before the surgery I was laying on the little bed, they put the drops in my eyes to deaden them, then did the LASIK surgery--I could see! I’m getting choked up, you know, thinking about it.
TS: It must have been a big change to have it happen so quickly.
GA: Oh yeah, it was pretty amazing.
TS: What was your visual recovery like? Do you remember any particular instances in which you really noticed the difference in your vision, or in day-to-day activities?
GA: After--I forget how long I had to not do anything contact-wise, but it wasn’t very long, a couple of weeks, I think--but after that I immediately felt like I could do other things. The other thing I noticed was in my competitive shooting. When you shoot trap and skeet, your depth perception is extremely important because you’re shooting at a moving target, and now with the LASIK I pretty much had 20/20 vision out of both eyes. It improved my shooting, too.
TS: Excellent. What has your follow-up process been like with Dr. Gelender as the practice has continued to grow? I know that when you had surgery with him, it was a much smaller practice. Have you noticed any changes since the practice has expanded?
GA: You’ve got a nice, new, big, beautiful facility! But my right eye, I was so near-sighted with my right eye, he actually had to enhance my right eye, I think, twice before I ultimately got to 20/20 in the right eye. But the enhancement was a pretty--pretty simple thing.
TS: Did they go in and lift the flap for you?
GA: Yeah, they didn’t have to re-cut it, they just lifted it. It was not--I say not that big of a deal, but it was a pretty big deal--it wasn’t as complicated as starting from scratch. 
TS: How has your corrected vision held up over the years? I know that you mentioned your right eye needed to be enhanced a couple of times, but overall?
GA: Until the cataract thing started happening, my vision has been extremely good. You know, I’ve just been delighted to see as well as I can see. When the cataract thing started, it affected my right eye before--sooner than my left eye, and it got to the point where I really didn’t feel comfortable driving at night in places where I’m going to have to read signs to know where I’m going. 
TS: If given the choice, knowing what you know now, would you go back and elect to have the surgery again?
GA: The LASIK? Absolutely. Without a question.
TS: Is there anything else you’d like to add about your experience, anything else you can think of?
GA: No, other than it totally changed my life. Since I retired that’s what I do; I swim, bike, and run. I’ve done 9 full Ironman races, I’ve done 11 Half Ironman distance races. I’m 76 now and I haven’t given up. I’m still training, I want to do more. If I hadn’t done this cataract surgery when I did, I’d be doing a half Ironman race in Galveston, TX this week, so. I haven’t been able to train to do it, so. I probably will do a half Ironman race in Lubbock, TX at the end of June.
TS: Wow, so you’re not wasting any time.
GA: No, no. I’m chomping at the bit, ready to start training in earnest again.
TS: Well I’m glad that anything we may have done helped with that, it certainly sounds like you’re living to the fullest.
GA: I’m glad, too. The good Lord has given me a good life and I don’t want to waste it.
TS: It certainly sounds like you’re not doing that.
Since its foundation, Dr. Henry Gelender and his partners at Cornea Associates of Texas have performed over 11,000 refractive procedures. We operate out of our own refractive laser suite at Dallas Laser Center at The Eye Institute of Texas. If you or someone you know is considering refractive surgery, Cornea Associates and offers free consultations to assess your candidacy.
Please contact one of our Refractive Coordinators at (214) 261-5966 with any questions, concerns, or to schedule your free consultation.
Mr. Amundson’s Surgery Counselor at the time was our very own Jennifer Fleming; she has since risen through the ranks at Cornea Associates and become our Practice Administrator.
 Enhancements are typically performed no sooner than 3 months post-operatively provided the patient’s residual refractive error is significant enough to warrant it and the patient has a thick enough stromal bed to support it. This occurs in approximately 5% of patients and can often be performed by lifting the existing LASIK flap and applying treatment underneath it, though in some cases the surgeon may elect to perform PRK on top of the LASIK flap.
 The development of cataracts is inevitable with age and is in no way attributable to refractive surgery. While there are certain risk factors that may contribute to the accelerated development of cataracts (UV exposure, retinal conditions or treatment, steroid use, etc.) refractive surgery is not one of them.