I explained a part of the process in Part I and I will explain the rest and my personal experience here. This is a loooong post, so grab a cuppa!
So, I was told that the surgery will have two processes involved. Process one was done on May 10th and is called LPI- Laser Peripheral Iridotomy and my actual ICL surgery was scheduled on 12th June to give me enough time to heal.
Iridotomy: I won’t get into every nitty-gritty detail, as they can be googled. But essentially, they want to create a ‘channel’ in the iris to allow the fluid to flow more freely and circulate around the lens after the surgery. This is to prevent a major side effect of the ICLs, Glaucoma. Apparently, the ICL used in India doesnt need it because it has a tiny hole in the center for fluid circulation. Imagine a contact lens with a teeny hole. Yep. But it has it’s drawback with increased chances of glares and halos. They use laser beams to create the holes at usually 11 or 1 o’ clock position.
10 May 2019: We reported at the clinic unknowingly like two lumberjacks in similar flannel red shirts and got a lot of funny comments about that! We started the process with numbing eye drops, continuing with pupil constricting drops. After some time when my eyes were all wonky looking, I was taken in. Before that, Mr. PB had some questions and the Doc was happy to answer everything! I was taken in and this weird metal lens was stuck to my eyeball with a gel to direct the laser beams. There were many shots of beams and by the end of it, I had tears+gel dripping all over my face! Apparently, asian irises, and brown ones, are thicker and so he needed more shots to create the hole.
After the procedure, I was sent home and was supposed to get started on Prednisolone. I could barely see anything and my eyes were quite light sensitive. I still was feeling quite good and we had lunch outside. Once we got home, I tried to go off to sleep. But within a few minutes, my eyes started to get really heavy and really painful. We thought that was because of the numbing drops wearing off, but the doctor had told us to call if there was any pain. So we did, and he told us to come right back! We rushed to the clinic again, and they measured my eye pressure, the first thing. But it was normal, and he noticed that melanin had spread around causing the light sensitivity and pain. It was a normal effect owing to my thick irises and I was advised to take Prednisolone every 2 hours for the next two days. That was it. everything was easy peasy after that.
I got a followup done after two weeks and my eye channels were looking good and Doc was satisfied. Thus began, my wait for the next surgery.
In the meantime, there was a moment of freakout 4-5 days before the surgery when I started seeing a whitish glare line when I moved my eyelids up and down if looking at a window or a source of light in a dark contrasting room or something. I googled furiously, against my better sense, and got quite scared about the rest of the side effects. We called the Doc on the phone and he asked us to come in the next morning to talk it out. He explained that the line is because of some light escaping into the open channel and eventually my brain will block it out. If it doesnt, there is an option called Corneal Tattooing where they will inject an ink right there, to act as a curtain at a door. That was it! Also, it is interesting to note that the ink is called India Ink, sourced from India, if that was not clear. About the rest of the ICL side effects, he went over each one and was very patient with us, and we really felt good about it. I also confirmed with him about his proposal of leaving a -1 in my right eye to push away the need for reading glasses by a few more years. If I was not happy about that, it would be fixable with a quick lasik within the year. That visit gave us more confidence and we were ready!
12 June 2019: I had to stop eating and drinking water by midnight because I was going to be under sedation. The previous evening was spent getting Tacos and reminiscing about my time in glasses. It was a very weird bittersweet feeling for some reason. We were nervous, but excited!
We got to the Outpatient Surgery Center and my pre-op process began with all the vitals being noted and many, many drops in the eyes. I was sitting in the chair that was going to be wheeled in and on which I was going to have my surgery. I was given Valium, the happy pill too! It kept me quite calm actually even during the IV process. Then came the moment where I was finally wheeled into the surgery room. I dont quite have any memory of what happened after I was wheeled in and remember only the point where Mr. PB kissed me and wished me all the luck in the world. There are hazy memories of people moving about me, and the doctor asking me if I see two lights and I said that I see two lights and it reminded me of the two moons from Murakami’s 1Q84. And then suddenly, I was awake and I had shields on my eyes and I was being wheeled outside. I was waiting for Mr. PB and they let him in after 5-10 minutes. The guy walked in with a beautiful bunch of flowers, impressing all the ladies around. In my doozy state, I felt a super high when I saw him clearly through the holes in the bandaged shields! It was quite unbelievable! I had some headache and I was given Percocet for the same. The doctor and the nurse gave us post-op instructions, and we went on our way for lunch and to head back to the clinic after two hours.
We walked right across the parking lot to go to an Einstien bagel, and I proceeded to throw it up within 5 minutes of having it. I had to rush giddily to the restroom while Mr. PB was inside and made him open the door pretty urgently. We were told about some nausea post surgery, so it was expected.
We got to the clinic after for a post-op followup and the doctor was happy with our progress. My right eye pressure was slightly more so he told us to watch out for any pain and to call him whenever.
We went home, and I was still quite doozy so I lied down to sleep after putting my drops. And throwing up some more. Sometime after half an hour, I woke up with a splitting headache and told the guy. The pain was unbearable and felt even worse than a migraine! My right side from the top to the jawline felt like it was being pounded on. I felt like my teeth are going to pop out and my eyeball is ripping open! I was keen on attributing this to not having eaten anything and dehydration, but a call to the doctor was made, and we were again on the way to the clinic. It was 6 pm at this point and Doc came from his home to open the doors for us. As soon as we reached though, I hurriedly jumped out of the car and threw up massively, again. We were scared shitless at this point!
A quick pressure check and my right eye showed 50, while the max allowable is 22 and 13-15 is normal. He took me in for a quick iridotomy again to widen the channel in my right eye. As soon as he did that, I could feel like my head was deflating. And then drops on drops on drops began in my right eye. the pressure was fluctuating and steadied at about 35 by 9.30 pm and we could go home. Meanwhile, my eye was so saturated with drops that it was refusing to open and was completely dried out! I was again in pain, and the same kind that I had around New Years. It was a necessary side effect though. I took some pills and he gave us some more drops to take home from his sample stash. The doc finished 3-4 whole bottles on me while we were at the clinic. Those few hours were sheer agony and all the options, even replacing or taking the ICL out were discussed and I was just in hell, until the stabilization happened.
My next appointment was the next day at 8 am and he told us it would be okay to be late if we wanted to relax a bit. But we were nervous and go there sharp on time. He kept in touch over text until midnight and even early in the morning. This time, my eye pressure came down to 19 and finally, we were out of the woods. The assistant who took us in had no idea of what had happened and when she opened my file, it took her 10-15 minutes to read everything. But finally, all was well!
What about my vision, though? Oh, it was beautiful! I could see the world and it looked brand new! The first morning after, I woke up and out of habit, I started looking for my glasses, causing peals of laughter! It was so surreal! My vision had already stabilized to around 20/15 which is pretty good. There is a two week adjustment period with some people taking upto a couple of months. But I was good to go! I spent a wonderful Thursday, Friday and the weekend, recovering from the surgery and taking care of my new peepers. Watching TV was hard and I resorted to podcasts to entertain myself.
Our followup on Monday yielded even more good news and I was finally at 13 in my right eye! I could stop the pressure drops and will get checked again soon, hoping for the best.
4 July 2019: All pressure checks are done and I am in the clear for now! In a week, I will be getting my stitches removed and I will be good to go. Honestly, more than anything, even the surgery itself, removal of stitches is freaking me out!
15 July 2019: Stitches have been removed, all’s well! I was appropriately freaked out by the weird forceps and the gentle tugging, but nothing bad. Eyes feel less tired post the removal of stitches and more comfortable. All my eye drops have been tapered out as well.
My experience and takeaway: Nothing is risk-free and guaranteed. I have learned that. The doctors kept talking about side effects, and they are so friggin’ real! What I experienced was the lowest level, and I pray that that’s it for me and I enjoy my new eyes for a loooong time to come. I have been asked to get annual checkups done to monitor glaucoma or cataract for precautions, and that is a standard procedure for ICL. I am seeing some glare in the shape of a white line through both eyes now when I look at some light source, but honestly, it’s not bad. The glares and halos while driving at night are substantially lower than what I used to experience with my contact lens or glasses. My ‘macro’ vision has reduced and I have had to adjust my reading distance, but that was because of my ridiculously high prescription earlier. I have some dry eye because I am prone to those, and because of all the drops that I was on, but it’s getting better by the day. I have slightly swollen eyelids because of the prednisolone and I hope it goes away once the effect subsides.
Would I do this again? YES! My vision is wonderful *knock on wood* and my life has changed! I can wake up any time and simply walk out without looking for my glasses. I can work out without glasses slipping off my nose. I am stress free about contact lens schedules! I can wake up, shower, get ready in 15 minutes and step out. There have been times when I have been out, and have had a couple extra cocktails and I told myself to not to forget removing contacts, and then caught myself! I don’t have to anymore! I can swim, play in the ocean, and probably cliff-jump(wishlist item!) I feel like a new person and I hope that this continues for a long time!
If you have a high prescription, and some savings, I would highly suggest getting a consultation from a good doctor. ICL surgery is a game changer and I would encourage more research to see if this would work out. Of course, nothing is 100% risk-free and due diligence is important. Find out and consult a few doctors, check their history and reviews, and then go ahead. We got a wonderful doctor who replies to our texts even at 10 pm and sends us dancing gifs. He really turned out to be the best option for us. I will be forever grateful.
I wanted to share my experience just to add another voice on the internet regarding this procedure. Like I mentioned, there were not as many personal accounts of this, as Lasik. If I could help anyone out who needs more, then why not. If there are any questions, I would be happy to help! Until then, take care!