I feel lucky and privileged to be be able to perform refractive surgery. Everyday I bring a life-changing experience to people, and that’s very satisfying. I truly understand how amazing LASIK is because I had the procedure performed on my eyes. I also understand the nervousness and skepticism with which some patients approach LASIK.I started wearing glasses for the blackboard at school in the seventh grade. Like many people, I seemed to need them more and more as I went through adolescence. Each year, as my body grew and changed, my eyes needed more prescription to see clearly. I had considerable near sightedness and a lot of astigmatism. It became difficult to function without my glasses, and that made playing sports challenging. I also wasn’t happy with my appearance in glasses, which was particularly difficult during adolescence.
I got contact lenses around age 15 and wore them almost daily for the next 20 years. Contact lenses presented their own set of problems. They were expensive and needed to be replaced regularly. When you have as much astigmatism as I had, you have to have special contact lenses. The lens had to sit in just the right place on the cornea or I couldn’t see clearly. It took multiple contact lens fittings to get the right pair, and they were very expensive. In addition, if I got tired or my eyes got dry, the contact lenses would shift and I couldn’t see. They also became rather uncomfortable at times.
When I learned about refractive surgery, I was immediately intrigued. I was starting medical school and was playing guitar in clubs in New York City to help make some “pocket money.” I would sometimes work for 36 hours straight, and then go and play a gig. The glasses and contacts were really getting in the way. However, it was the early days of refractive surgery, and the techniques were different. The procedure worked wonders for many people, but I didn’t feel it was safe enough for me. By the time I was in my ophthalmology residency, laser technology had arrived, and the results were very exciting. The thought of no more glasses and contact lenses seemed almost hard to believe! I really wanted to do it, but I have to admit I was nervous. Can you imagine an ophthalmologist with poor vision after LASIK? The more I learned about it, the more I knew it was extremely low risk, with extremely great results. When I started to perform the surgery and saw how painless and easy the procedure was, I knew I had to get it done.
For a couple of weeks before my LASIK surgery, I was told not to wear contact lenses. It was difficult and unpleasant, but it made me want the procedure even more. It was summer time, and going to the beach with glasses or contacts can be a real pain. Even though I knew the surgery was safe and painless and quick, I was a bit anxious as the day approached. Finally the day arrived and I couldn’t wait! The procedure went really well, and it was just as easy as I thought it would be. By the next day I was seeing well enough to drive without glasses for the first time in almost 20 years! I had no pain, but my eyes were a bit dry at night for a while. I used artificial tears and the dryness got better with time. It’s been over 6 years and I am still seeing well and am thrilled.
Everyday when I’m meeting with patients for the first time to explore LASIK refractive surgery, I’m reminded of my own experience. I understand how they’re feeling because I went through the exact same thing. Everyone’s vision is important to them, and as a surgeon, I want people to know that I understand that personally. I want each patient’s experience to be as easy and comfortable as mine was. I take time to answer all questions and concerns, so that they can be excited about the procedure and not too worrried. During the LASIK surgery, I also make sure that the experience is a great one. I guide each patient through the ten minute (per eye) surgery, talking to him or her, and making sure they are fine. After the procedure, patients often tell me how quick and easy it was, and I take a lot of pride in that. I want each and every patient to have the same great experience that I did, and to end up with great vision without dependence on glasses or contacts.