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Eye stories: My ICL experience… Part II

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!

2

Eye stories: My ICL experience… Part I

After 31 years and a few months of looking at the world with anything but rose-tinted glasses, and feeling almost blind all the time, I am off any vision correction! I had been considering eye surgery for the longest time, but procrastinating over it. But, my eye troubles in the last few months finally pushed me over the edge and I decided that now was the time! I took one last look at my bank accounts, sighed dramatically, and kicked off the endeavor!

My regular ophthalmologist that I was consulting during the inflammation phase, had told me that they charge $400 for consultation and that the fee can be adjusted towards the surgery if I go ahead with it. I did not feel upto it to put in any money until I was sure that I was a candidate. So I called up an eye surgery center near my home, that was suggested by, ahem, one of the boys that I dated. I set up my free consultation, and off I went! (Thank you, you password-protected boy!)

Unfortunately, that appointment turned out to be a damp squib, except for the part where they gave me another referral for my high prescription case. They basically told me that I would not qualify for the lasik that they did, since my prescription was way higher. The doctor sounded so upset that I ended up consoling her that I was very well aware and I also had researched enough on what my options were. So, that led me to my next appointment at the referred clinic.

I looked at the background of the clinic and the doctor that I was going to for my next consultation and they sounded really, really good! That gave me some confidence and I booked another complimentary consultation. I was told to stay off my contacts for 4 days before that Friday appointment and I obliged. The boy ended up proposing on that Thursday and hence, all my pictures are in glasses! I used that as my strong reasoning at the clinic to make my case for ‘I dont want glasses anymore!’

The visit went really well, actually, even though they re-iterated the fact that I would not qualify for lasik. But they suggested another treatment plan, the one that I already knew was going to be my only option. IOL! Intraocular Contact Lens! Also called ICL, and a plethora of names. Basically they are a combination of collagen and polymer and they go right over the natural eye lens. I was going to be a bionic wonder woman! Well, almost. The doctors did every possible test on my eyes with a gazillion different drops and instruments and did a thorough exam of my corneas. I was quite happy with the way they conducted the examination and in no way, they sounded like they were out to make a quick buck! They left the decision to me completely! Well, I also got the taste of what it’s like to be newly engaged when they suggested to also consult my ‘fiance’. Eesh!

My procedure was to be done in two steps. Phase 1 involved making tiny piercings in my irises for glaucoma prevention, and after a gap of a month, phase 2 involved the actual implants. Eye implants, you dirty minded but normal fellow! Without wasting much time, but after asking enough relevant questions, I went ahead and booked my appointments!

There is not enough chatter about this otherwise very well-documented, researched procedure on the internet. I found a few blogs listing their personal experiences, and so I decided that I wanted to log my experience as well. This is not an easy procedure like Lasik, and I am hopeful that my experience can help someone make some decisions. These couple of months of preparations, precautions and care may totally be worth it for years of freedom!

In the next part, I will cover what went on with my Phase 1 and Phase 2 and what my experience has been overall. I also will want to document my future eye exams, just so that I know where I stood, and what changes have taken place.

This has been a life-altering decision for me, and I am really hoping that everything sails smoothly! I hope the same for you! If you are in San Diego, and would like to talk about it, send me an email. I will give you my honest opinion about the doctors that I have seen. If you decide to go ahead with it, I wish the absolute best for you!

29

Of tear-ible times…

Ever since I posted about my eye troubles in my new year post, I have not received a single question about it. So I am going to talk about it of my own accord. I know none of you care, BUT YOU MUST!

In the beginning of December, my contact lens started to get uncomfortable and I would be constantly blinking or trying to move my right contact around to make it sit better. I was washing my eyes all the time because there was this feeling that something is stuck in there. My eyes were drying out too like no tomorrow! That feeling of a foreign object being in my eye started growing into eye pain where keeping my lids open were really bothering me. I tried a couple of lubricating OTC drops, but there was no improvement.

Finally, I made an appointment with my primary care doctor, and I had to wait for 2 days, because legendary American healthcare system. I went in, got my eye prodded and poked at, dyed, rubbed vigorously with a Q-tip, but the doctor said there really wasn’t anything. She just asked me to continue with my OTC lubricant eye drops and discontinue contacts for some more time. She did give me an opthalmologist number, in case I didnt feel better in another week.

By the time that week ended, I was crying most evenings out of the pain. I would weep while driving to work, and bawled while driving back home, because the pain was becoming insufferable. My eyes are anyways too sensitive and the high prescription makes it even worse. I am pretty much blind without glasses or contacts and they do hinder my lifestyle in some way or the other. It’s a very sensitive subject for me, even if you leave the vanity part aside. My short sighted friends do agree that it definitely affects confidence and self-esteem. As shallow as that sounds, it is true.

Finally I took the eye doctor’s appointment and went in, another 2 days later. Meanwhile, my insurance decided to play games with me, and that very month increased specialist visit rates by $30. Again, legendary American healthcare.

The optometrist took a look at my eyes through a slit lamp and told me that my tears were evaporating as soon as they were forming, and my eyes were extremely dry as a result. The oil glands seemed to be underperforming majorly and she wrote down names of two more OTC eye lubricants. I noted that down, and asked if that would also make that foreign object feeling go away. She looked at me, and asked me to come back to the slit lamp. She flipped my lids over and declared that it was full of inflammation and bumps. She prescribed some anti-histamine eye drops and asked me to see her in another month and to not use contacts until then. She also asked me to heavily consider switching to disposable contacts in the near future. Holiday season, looking good, makeup, got flushed down the drain. I asked her about estimated recovery time and she gave me between a week to a month and said it was hard to say. Ugh, more bummage.

That evening after the doctor visit, I had to go to a shopping mall to finish some last minute holiday shopping. I think I bawled all the way to the mall and some more while I waited in my car at the parking lot. I spoke to my folks too, and there was a good deal of tears for around an hour. There was some more breakdown in a Banana Republic store, the classy chick that I am. I had had enough! My eyes were hurting like crazy, they were prickly, I had to continue looking dorky for holiday pictures, the drops were $200 and with insurance $80, and I had to handle all that sh*t by myself during that time. Meanwhile, I convinced myself that I am never going to get better and never be able to go back to contacts. I simply lost it.

I did calm down the next day and with a peaceful mind, started researching my condition and all my options. Turns out I have something along the lines of Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis(do not Google it!) which affects most soft contact lens users. Steroid drops, anti-histamines and disposable contact lens help with the condition. You could be wearing contacts for years, and one fine day, your eyes decide to go rogue on you. Such betrayal! My doctor did not prescribe steroids yet, so maybe it’s a good thing? I did some more research and have managed to find a substitute OTC anti-histamine till my drops get to San Diego through someone. Meanwhile the prescribed drops just got into my hands me through a friend, from my father, because they cost a paltry $5 in India! Yep! The same brand, some composition, and it even says manufactured in the US and imported to India! Once again, all hail American healthcare.

I have used my new drops for 2 days, and my eyes are in pain again. Probably because I had skipped a day to switch from OTC to prescribed and the irritation had started again. I am sitting here annoyed by the pain and I know I am being dramatic, but I feel like my life has come to a standstill. I was happily prancing around in my contacts everyday, and had a nice thing going on. It’s all gone out of the window. I don’t want to constantly whine about it to the people who I spend time with, but the fact that I can CONSTANTLY FEEL MY EYEBALL AND EYELID is extremely annoying. So, hopefully this post takes care of the crying and the whining part.

Atleast I have learned to swiftly take my glasses off whenever someone wants to take a picture of me. I am getting used to going to the gym in glasses, even though it’s a real pain to run blindly on the treadmill or risk shattering expensive glasses if they fly off my nose. It’s not the end of the world, and there are bigger problems in my life. With time, and medication, hopefully I can get back to my contacts, and perhaps think of a permanent solution to the problem. Let’s see how it goes.

Hope you all have the answers to the questions that you did not ask. Thanks for letting me rant!

PS- I know you all do care about me. 🙂 I promise, I was only joking when I accused you all of not asking anything, but the scolding seems to have brought all my old-timey favorites back! So yay! “My scolding brings all the bloggers to the yard…”

PPS- I had a follow-up on 1/21 and eyes are getting better but the bumps are still there. The doc prescribed new steroid drops to be used along with the anti-histamines and another visit which will include a prescription and new lens fitting exam. Post all my research about my condition, I had asked my dad to send another kind of drops with Pataday from India, just to be safe. Guess which one she prescribed? I am smart!

6

A tragedy called ‘the college diet’.

My buddy at work is sick. He has something that I will not mention, but it is because of his terrible diet, complete lack of physical activities and him thinking that he is an invincible 24 year old. I have already given him earfuls about how he is ruining his health by giving him my own examples from my early days in USA.

Continuing with the nostalgia from my SDSU days, I had a trip laughing my glutes off about some of the weird habits I had developed in year 1. Obviously, I was away from home, and had to make all my decisions myself, that included lifestyle choices. Add to that the facts that I was supremely lazy, loved sleeping, and was practically jobless, broke, and had classes on alternate evenings at night. Things were okay in Lonavala, because the college mess/cafeteria was really good and provided healthy food. I had developed a very weird day cycle for myself. I would sleep at 3-4 am and wake up by 1-2 pm everyday. This continued for a while till I got a Grader position finally. I bucked up and started going to school at 10 am even if I had nothing to do there. I would simply sit in the library and work on my assignments or watch shows when I had nothing to do. There was this nice secluded booth that I preferred, where I could eat my lunch in peace.

Speaking of my lunch, it usually looked like cat food. I barely got a month to learn cooking before I moved away from home and my food of choice was Khichdi(rice-lentil stew). I would make as much as my pressure cooker would allow and put it in tupperwares and refrigerate it. Anyone who makes khichdi, knows that it is disgusting even after an hour, so please use your imagination to think what 2 day old khichdi could be like. Or dont.

I had totally failed to learn how to make roti/paratha(indian bread like tortilla) while at home, and I was left to my own devices. I had tried tortillas from the store and ready-to-make roti, but something about the preservative smell really grossed me out. It is not an easy task when making the dough, rolling it and cooking it is involved. So I would make around 10 paratha at once that would be enough for 3 meals, and freeze them. That had to be the worst idea ever because they would get insanely hard and crispy flatbread like when reheated. Abhi used to laugh at my parathas and still remembers the crumbly mess I would make while eating them. I gave up pretty soon, and switched to bread instead.

I was eating in the worst possible ways. I would eat milk poha for dinner(Abhi remembers that as well and never fails to make fun of me for that, rightly so). I would skip lunches and eat a giant meal of rice with a variation of lentil-potato curry made by whichever roommate’s turn that night was. I had forgotten about the concept of breakfast. I would sometimes simply have coldstone creamery’s strawberry cheesecake icecream for dinner.

All this lead to my amazing metabolism from my teenage years breaking down completely, and I had invariably packed on an extra 25 lbs. My face looked ridiculous, I got wayyyy curvier and I was huffing-puffing if I had to walk another 10 minutes or climb another flight of stairs. Finally, it hit me that I was no longer fit. That’s when I decided enough was enough. That, and vanity. I tossed out the terrible eating habits, started including breakfast and a snack in my diet, switched to green leafy salads for lunch and cut down my dinner portion to the right size. I still was overloading on carbs, so I started walking to school which was a good 2 mile away, and joined the SDSU gym. That’s where the health bug bit me. Things are okay now. I still over-indulge, but maintain some discipline during the week, and I work out. I am happy where I am with respect to health. *Touchwood*

It is hard. It is difficult when you are thrown into the unknown when you leave home to reach for your dreams. We have all lived such sheltered lives, that it is so easy to forget what is important. Everybody tells you to study hard, be successful, be good, but your own body gets forgotten. Assignments, jobs, commutes pile up, and health and fitness become secondary. Sleep becomes a nuisance and black coffee becomes our best friend.

So dear Mr. Chia, unless you want to be fed with a tube for the rest of your life, get your running shoes out, and stow away all your instant ramen packets. Get on it!

Auntie PB, signing off!