As a Coastie, I have traveled the States for the past 20 years going from coast to coast and one amazing adventure to another.
Read on in this blog to hear stories about my experiences living the Coast Guard life, not only as a military officer but also as a small town Midwestern girl who left home to enlist in the United States Coast Guard.
I look forward to hearing what you have to say about... My Coast Guard Career.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

PRK: Day 7

Today was my first follow up appointment with the doctor. I was really looking forward to it because they were going to remove the contact bandages in my eyes. I was ready to get them out! I was doing great. In fact, I even drove to the appointment.

After they took the contacts out, my up close vision improved drastically. Much clearer. Long distance was still blurry but mostly just my left eye. During the eye test, I saw 20/20 out of my right eye but have double vision out of my left eye. The doctor says that’s normal and it will improve in the coming weeks. 

My next post will be the one month check up. Talk to ya around March 12! 

PRK: Day 5

Seriously, this is too easy! I slept great, got up with no light sensitivity at all! Still blurry vision but that is normal for several months after the surgery as my eyes adjust. Up close vision is fine - totally fine. I can use my phone for as long as I want.

I even walked to meet friends for brunch. After brunch I went for a long walk with friends and out to dinner. My eyes felt great. I’m not even going to write about Day 6 because it was just great. 

PRK: Day 4

Feeling even better! This morning I am not very light sensitive at all. I crack the blinds and turn on the TV. My vision was a bit blurry, but I could see the TV fine. Things are great, which makes me happy since USA played Russia in Olympic men’s hockey that morning and I didn’t want to miss it. My up close vision is much better today. I can use my phone for about 10 minutes at a time.

A friend stopped by and took me to lunch (since I couldn’t drive yet). It was great to get out of the house. That evening I even walked to the metro station and went in to the city (DC) to meet some friends. My eyes were great until about 10pm. I had a great night’s sleep.

PRK: Day 3

Felt great! I have pretty much a normal day. I keep blinds closed because I was still light sensitive but virtually pain free. I even did laundry, picked up the house and cooked. I also watched TV a bit but I had to wear 2 pairs of sunglasses. I was able to see up close out of my left eye but not my right. So, I could use my phone as long as I kept my right eye closed.

I take a short nap but my eyes hold up well all day. However, by about 8pm my eyes were very tired. I had a fairly normal night’s sleep only getting up about 3 times for an ice pack. 

PRK: Day 2

By around 30 hours after surgery, I am feeling pretty good - no redness, good spirits, minimal pain and decent vision. I mostly keep my eyes closed due to light sensitive but not because of pain. I can’t see up close too well, so I still can't use my cell phone to text or anything. I just stay focused on the doctor’s orders and rest as much as I can. Day 3 is even better…

PRK: Day 1

Surgery day! I was a ball of nerves. Thankfully the doctor prescribed me a valium to take the edge off. I took half in the morning with some food and the other half about 30 minutes before surgery.

When they called my name, I was taken to a pre-op room where they loaded up my eyes with numbing drops as well as put on a hair net and shoe covers. I was able to watch the person before me have surgery, which was very cool to see. It was so fast!

As I entered the room, they had me lay down on the table. They put a patch on my left eye, more drops in my right eye to keep it moist and numb, then walked me through the procedure step-by-step. First, the eyelid holder to keep me from blinking (didn’t even know it was on really). Then, the brush (about 30 seconds). Then, they lined up the laser and turned it on. As they finished counting down the seconds (like 10 seconds total), they used cool water to rinse the eye, put on a protective contact lens, removed the eyelid holder and asked me to close my eye slowly. Easy peasy! Then they repeated the same steps on my left eye.

I practically skipped out of the operating room (I’m not sure how much of that came from the valium). I wasn’t in any pain and could see pretty well. My friend drove me home. As home, I laid in bed and began the process of drops, ice packs and drinking water constantly. I figured hydration is key to flushing the body and preventing infection.

My schedule became routine – even through the night. About every hour, I would get up, drink a glass of water, grab a fresh gel eye mask out of the freezer, put in whatever drops were ordered and lay back down. This went on for about 48 hours straight, keeping my eyes closed as much as possible. But, about half way through Day 2 I was feeling quite well. Read about Day 2 next….

PRK: Pre Operation

As I mention in my first post about my PRK experience, preparation is the one thing I think is the most important key to success.

I read all kinds of articles and talked to my friends who had corrective eye surgery. I built a library in my mind of potential problems, outcomes and expectations. I mentally prepared for any situation I could think of in hopes of keeping myself calm and reassured.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Here is what I did to prepare:
  • Got dog sitters for the first 3 days, so I didn’t have to worry about walks.
  • Loaded up on easy to prepare, healthy, anti-inflammatory foods like fresh spinach salad stuff, frozen salmon meals, pre-packaged smoothies, yogurt, etc.
  • Bought gel eye masks. They don’t completely freeze and they can be worn while sleeping. These packs were so valuable! They numbed the pain and helped me sleep.
  • Took high dosage Vitamen C and Fish Oil for a week before surgery and all through recovery. Doctor says these help healing.
  • Made sure I had my favorite sleep-inducing drug of choice. For me, it was NyQuil and Tylenol PM. I didn’t want to use the narcotic prescription drugs unless absolutely necessary. I wanted to make sure I followed the doctor’s orders, used the drops as scheduled, and didn't just knock myself out to avoid the pain. 

What ended up being another crucial item was a moist, cold washcloth. It kept my eyes damp and helped avoid the residue from the eye drops. My eyes watered excessively the first few days and the drops keep them flushed. But the drops do cause a sort of crust on the eyelashes and in the corners of the eyes. The washcloth really helped and kept me from touching my eyes.

That’s pretty much it. I was ready for surgery. In my next few posts, I will recount each day after surgery.

PRK: versus LASIK

PRK versus LASIK. In one corner of the ring, you have a brush. In the other corner, you have a flap. This is the difference.

In LASIK, the "flap" is surgically cut and lifted to allow the laser access to the lens. Then, the flap is replaced and the patient only has a scar to heal. The patient can see nearly perfectly right away because the vision is undisturbed.  

In PRK, a "brush" is used to scrub away the cells on the cornea to allow the laser access to the lens. Sounds horrible right? Ya, I agreed. Until I had it done.

The “brush” is like a small floor buffer. It is black, small and the size of your cornea so it completely blocks your vision. You don’t even know they are scrubbing your eye (you are also completely numb from these great eye drops). You don’t feel a thing! I kept thinking, how nice, they are polishing my eye!

The brushing lasts like 30 seconds. It’s really fast and totally comfortable. Your eyelashes are propped open with a little springy clip. They keep your eyes moist with drops so you don’t even know you’re not blinking.

After the brush, they line up the laser and turn it on. All the hype about the laser's noise and smells is crazy talk. The laser sounds like a soft knocking on a wooden door. The “smell” everyone talks about is just the ozone being emitted from the laser. I didn’t smell a thing. There’s no smell of skin burning or whatever people say.

In a long run battle between PRK and LASIK, LASIK's flap will win when it comes to quick recovery but loses (supposedly) in the risk of the flap shifting or lifting and in the resulting dry eyes. The PRK's brush will win when it comes to no risk of a shifting flap but loses in the longer recovery time. Recovery is an individual thing and each person will heal a bit differently. But, there are many (MANY!) things you can do to speed up this recovery. It just takes a bit of planning and preparation. I will explain this in my next pre-operation post.

So, why did I choose PRK over LASIK? The military prefers PRK for all members. They only use LASIK when the patient isn’t a good PRK candidate (whatever that means). So, I really didn’t have a choice.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

PRK: My Decision

Why now? Why do PRK at the age of 39 when my vision isn’t all that bad (I am was around a -2 in both eyes).

My Reasons:
  • Glasses are a pain and I can’t wear contacts (deep set, dry eyes).
  • I love to travel and the risk of losing or breaking glasses is annoying.
  • I love ocean sports. It sure is a hard to see shore without glasses.
  • I didn’t like wearing glasses. I have great eyes and I swear men are not attracted to women who wear glasses. (Did I mention I am STILL single?? As if dating isn’t hard enough without glasses.)
  • I have spent the last year doing things I haven't made time for. Eye surgery was one of those things, and I really wanted to see if I was a good candidate for the procedure. 

Helping to ease the pain (literally!) of deciding to do the surgery was the fact I am active duty military and in the Washington, DC area where some of the military’s top hospitals are located. There’s Bethesda, Malcolm Grow and Walter Reed. My personal favorite is the Air Force’s Malcolm Grow – mostly because it is closest and easiest to get to from my house.

An added bonus is that I don’t have to pay for the surgery. The military performs the surgery for those members where vision and the ability to wear face masks is essential – like flying, combat operations, shooters, etc. So, I was a low priority and had to wait several months for the hospital to be able to fit me in. But, I was a patient patient.

In my next post, I will explain why I went with PRK over LASIK. I will also briefly explain the difference between the two procedures. 

PRK: My Experience

I’m coming out of blog hibernation to bring you the latest “big deal” from my life… PRK corrective eye surgery (like LASIK, but different). I know this doesn’t directly relate to my Coast Guard career, but I thought it was time to bring some good energy to the Interwebs about this procedure.

I was super frustrated during my research about corrective (aka refractive) eye surgery. I didn’t find a whole lot of personal reviews of experiences. Well, I guess I should say, I couldn’t find too many POSITIVE reviews. There was A LOT of negative, tragic stories of pain, infection, smells of skin burning, and unsuccessful surgeries. 

It scared the hell out of me. But, I couldn’t escape the voice in my head that said I needed to do it.

And, now that it is done, I wanted to share my story. Mostly because it was a great experience - nothing like all the negative hype. I am only on day 7 post surgery (I had my surgery Wednesday, February 12, 2014), so I am still working my way through healing. But I know it's going to be a terrific outcome, and I think it might help others have the same success.

If there is one thing that I felt was the most important part of having successful corrective eye surgery, I would say preparation. Most people don’t take the time to prepare. To prepare themselves for how to live for 3-4 days when you can't see. 

It is also extremely important to follow the doctor’s orders. I can't believe people don't. I mean, seriously, it’s your EYES!!! You only get 2 of them and there isn’t a whole lot of reconstruction or cosmetic surgery you can do to fix them if they get messed up. You have to take care of them.

So, in the next few posts, I will walk you through my experience. Let me know if you like this or have any questions.