Aug 26, 2014: Dictated, But Not Read
I did it. I took the plunge and got Lasik while we’re here in Sarajevo. I even told some friends about it before hand. There were a few positive responses, but most were words of caution about the dangers of having medical procedures done abroad. I’ll admit, the slightly discounted price was part of its allure, but it’s not like I walked into the nearest, dingiest clinic and screamed, “lets do this!” I did my research, found a good clinic (Svjetlost Poliklinika, Sarajevo, for those interested), and met with them to make sure everything was on the up and up.
I reassured my doubting friends, and went through with the procedure. And, all in all, it’s been a great success. Even if the reality of the procedure is slightly more traumatic than I’d bargained for.
And it is. They do tell you what the procedure is. That they’ll cut a flap in the epithelial layer of your eye before using a laser to reshape your cornea. That’s all 100% factual. What they don’t say, and, honestly, can’t really explain, is how that all feels when it’s happening. The laser is the least of your worries.
They brought me into the operating theatre and had me lay down on the table. They put gauze over my left eye to protect it as they needed both of my eyes open throughout the procedure (it’s impossible to completely open one eye while the other is forcibly closed). They use a special clamp to keep my right eye open, the eye they’re operating on first, open. So far, so good. The anti-anxiety meds they gave me when I walked in are definitely working at this point. Next, they flushed my eye with water. Again, no problem. I couldn’t feel anything but cool water running down my cheek. Then, they bring out the die for cutting the flap.
Again, no real problem. I followed the directions and did as I was told. Then, the doctor said “your vision will stop for a moment, but that is ok.” Pardon? I’m mulling over what they mean when they place the die on my eye (I can still see) and push my eyeball back into my head until my blurry view of the world goes black. Like someone literally turned the lights out. And it feels like it takes rather a lot of force to cut this little flap. But ok, it’s done and they move on to drying my cornea with swabs (again, I couldn’t feel it, but it looks really weird). When they’re ready, they direct you to look at the green light for x number of seconds (23 for my right eye, 25 for my left). You comply and they go about putting your eye back together. My right eye received a “bandage contact” (a clear contact lens of no prescription, used to keep the flap they made in place while it heals), since my epithelial layer was somewhat sensitive from more than a decade of contact lense abuse.
Now, onto the remaining eye. They remove the gauze from my left eye and put a fresh piece on my right eye. Remember, I still needed to keep both eyes open. But it’s harder now, since A) I now have to keep a freshly operated eye open and B) I know what’s coming. I did my best to relax and the procedure continued in exactly the same order. Clamp eye open, flush eye, prepare to make flap. Only, this time, my eye tenses as the die comes down. This time, the pressure the doctor is applying hurts because the muscles in my eye socket have tensed up. My eye is fighting back. There’s a pause. “Can you still see?” said the doctor. “Yes. It kind of hurts, too.” I say. “That’s alright,” said the doctor, and they pushed harder until my vision blinked out and I was certain that my eyeball must have retreated to some cavity in my skull that I didn’t know existed. But no, my eye resurfaced and the procedure continued. Swab, look at green light, 25 seconds of laser, put eyeball back together, place contact bandage. The entire procedure, start to finish, couldn’t have been more than 5 minutes.
In the following hour or two (I’m not entirely sure how long, I was pretty traumatized by this point, through no fault of anyone), I am lead in and out of examination rooms and waiting rooms so they could make sure everything went and was going ok. Finally, my husband and our friend Ervin, acting as interpreter, were brought into the same room as I was and we were given care instructions. Antibiotic eye drops every two hours that day, regular eye drops as much as humanly possible, but no less than 10 times that day. No water above the neck. Wear sunglasses all the time. The remainder of my day (once I got home) was to be spent in a dark room with my eyes closed, preferably asleep. No computer, no lights, no using your eyes. Be back the next day at 8am for follow up. We head home and I sleep all day and night.
Next day, back at the clinic, they remove the contact bandage from my left eye. My vision isn’t perfect yet, but it’s pretty close to 20/20. The doctor assures me that it’ll keep improving over the next few weeks. I’m not worried. My vision is already 100 times better than usual. But they decide to leave the right contact in, it’s taking longer for my right eye to heal. Ok. No big deal. I can wait till my next appointment, two days later, to get it out.
Again, I follow all the post-op directions to the letter and return for my follow-up. By this time, I’m allowed to use my eyes, but I have to wear sunglasses whenever I leave the house. No water above the neck still. No touching my eyes (duh). No swimming, no dusty rooms, no smoke, no drafts.
I now have perfect vision in my left eye, and very good vision in my right, despite the contact. But they’re leaving the contact in till Friday. At this point, the contact is the biggest problem for me. It feels gritty and awful. I’ve been wearing it 24 hours a day since the surgery (now more than three days ago). If I look the wrong way it shifts, and feels like I’ve got grit in my eye. I’m still doing all the drops, following all the directions, but am getting antsy to have this contact out.
In summary, lasik is amazing. This clinic in Bosnia is great and just as skilled as any clinic in an English speaking country and they’ve treated me like gold. However, I was wrong to think that this wasn’t going to be like any other surgery. There’s recovery time involved and a certain element of trauma that’s inescapable when another human being pokes around your insides. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Just saying.
Just came back from what was to be my last check-up, but it turns out I'll be back at the clinic in November for a touch up on my right eye. For anyone else, this might be a problem, but we'll be in the neighbourhood (Istanbul, Turkey). So travelling back to Sarajevo for a few weeks isn't a big deal.
I'm told this isn't uncommon for Lasik surgery, and, honestly, I'd rather they have to touch up their work than have them be a little too gung ho and over-correct my vision.
Still, no real complaints on my part. My vision (as it stands) is still much better than it was before the operation, and I can tolerate a bit of fuzziness from one eye for a few months. I can function perfectly well without glasses (though, I still shouldn't drive and I don't need to).
My newest recommendation: probably get lasik a little closer to home unless, like us, you don't mind the possibility of flying back to another country should you need additional work. But I'm still happy with the service at Svjetlost.
UPDATE: Nov 29, 2014
Back in Sarajevo for an eye check-up. There's been an 80 per cent improvement in my right eye. So, no corrections are needed. They even expect it to improve further, given how well it's progressed over the past two months.
Final verdict: completely worth-while, would do again.