Getting LASIK Totally Changed my Travel Life

How Having LASIK Surgery Changed My Travel Life

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If I added up the amount of time I spent fooling with my eyes for a good 15 years, I’d probably gain a solid few months back. But then I had LASIK 10 years ago next month, and my travel life completely changed for the better.

So when the American Refractive Surgery Council came to us and asked me to share my story about my own vision correction procedure, I jumped on it; after all, I’m constantly coaching friends and hand-holding fellow bloggers through their own LASIK journeys, so it seemed about time to share mine.

Getting LASIK Totally Changed my Travel Life

This post is sponsored by the American Refractive Surgery Council (ARSC). All LASIK-related procedures and costs incurred were my own.

I was just nine years old when my optometrist diagnosed me as near-sighted. I was given glasses with pink frames but never wore them because what fourth-grader wants to be singled out as “that geek” in class? (That probably wasn’t the actual case, but that’s what my nine-year-old self unjustly thought.)

I managed to “lose” my glasses, so the following year, my mom allowed me to switch to soft contact lenses, which weren’t awful but still inconvenient at best, particularly as I was just in the fifth grade. They would get folded going in, or worse, tear; I’d blink and they’d fall out. Sometimes, it would take me 15 minutes to get both of them in place properly, by which point my eyes were inflamed and irritated. From the time I could walk, I played every sport imaginable on a competitive level, so I’d be in South Carolina on the softball field when a torpedo of dust would cloud my vision and get stuck to my lens or at a basketball tournament in Atlanta when a post would come down on a rebound and elbow me in the eye, knocking out my contact. For an active kid, neither contacts or glasses were an ideal option.

I was in middle school when my doctor put me on a medical trial: corrective hard lenses that reshaped my cornea and were described to me as “braces for my eyes.” The premise was that, eventually, I’d be able to just wear them at night and then go all day without them. This was a temporary solution, but not a long-term fix, so it’s no surprise that two decades later, this type of care has long been overshadowed by laser vision correction. There would be nights I wouldn’t sleep great, and I’d wake up with subpar vision. A time or two I even scratched my cornea, meaning I had to go a few days without wearing the corrective lenses, and I was basically back to blind.

All that to say, from ages nine into my 20s, my life revolved around how my eyes decided to behave on that given day. It was mildly inconvenient as a teen, but then became downright unbearable when I started traveling for a living.

My mom had always encouraged me to pursue LASIK—after all, the success rate is astounding—and I started seriously considering it after graduating college. My roommate underwent it during our senior year, and I saw how easy and painless it was. I wanted to wake up with perfect vision, too—assuming I was a candidate, that is. But then I went to live abroad for a year, a year plagued with an eyelid infection that meant I couldn’t wear any kind of contacts, period, and the idea got pushed further back on the calendar. When I returned, I started seeing my optometrist every few weeks to make sure my vision wasn’t regressing. She made me forgo the hard lenses for six months to make sure my vision was truly stable before she could determine I was a candidate. She gave me the preliminary go-ahead, but ultimately my ophthalmologist in Nashville would have to make that call.

So at 24, I made an appointment to have LASIK.

In those months leading up to it, contact lenses were prohibited, so I reverted to wearing glasses for the first time since I was a kid, and while I didn’t hate it, it was definitely a pain when I was partaking in some of my favorite activities like running or diving; I basically had to do both semi-blind. I had never been so ready to go into a procedure in my life.

Getting LASIK Totally Changed my Travel Life
Getting LASIK Totally Changed my Travel Life

I was pumped, but also mildly terrified. I read all the information about LASIK I could find in preparation. I’d never actually had surgery; in fact, I hadn’t so much as spent a night in the hospital (still haven’t at 34). I flew back to Tennessee for the week to see our family ophthalmologist has done tens of thousands of LASIK procedures in Nashville, and I wanted to go to someone with whom I was comfortable. After seeing him for pre-op, my nerves abated some; this was no big deal, he told me, and the surgery wouldn’t take more than 20 minutes.

Twenty minutes to give me the gift of unassisted, perfect vision for the first time in my adult life? I couldn’t even fathom that.

Getting LASIK Totally Changed my Travel Life

I arrived at my pre-op hoping and praying that I would, indeed, be a candidate for LASIK/PRK. You see, many factors play a part: age (24), strength of prescription (-2.5), pupil size (massive), dry eye condition (check), strength of cornea (good). The pupil size was the main concern, as mine are 10mm, no matter how dark or light the environment. If you don’t know how big that is in eye terms, let me just tell you that’s likely three times your pupils’ size, and it causes me a lot of distress (halos, glare, people always thinking I’m on drugs, etc.). Luckily, there was a type of LASIK for me: one that accounts for this, custom-treating each spot of the eye, so after a two-hour consult, in which I likely met with five different professionals, I was cleared to go. My surgery would be the following morning.

On the day of my procedure, my mom accompanied me to the surgeon’s office. Nirvana was playing in the background, I was given a red stuffed bear to squeeze if I got nervous. It was nothing like the serious surgery environment I envisioned. My surgeon first numbed my eyes with drops, then laid me on the table and put the first speculum in my eye. While not painful, this was the only truly uncomfortable part of the procedure. You can’t blink, and suddenly you feel the overwhelming need to do so, like your entire fate hinges on your ability to blink at that given moment.

Then the procedure began and the lights went out.

Luckily, I had been forewarned that I would lose vision for 20 seconds. It still didn’t make it any less scary. But it promptly returned, just as I’d been assured, and the red light of the laser came on. I was to stare directly at it, trying not to flinch. There was a crackling sound, and it smelled of burnt hair. I could feel pressure on my eye, but still no pain. And then that was it. Dr. Shofner repeated the procedure on the other eye, which was far less daunting as I now knew what to expect, and less than 20 minutes after I entered the room, I walked back out, only with perfect vision.

Getting LASIK Totally Changed my Travel Life

It was so quick and easy. Why didn’t I do this sooner, I thought? More so, why doesn’t everyone do this?

There was zero pain throughout the whole process and very little recovery time (I was told to rest my eyes that afternoon to give my corneas time to heal and sleep in protective goggles for the coming week); I woke up the following morning as if nothing had ever happened and went surfing in Barbados just a few days later.

These days, my vision is still 20/15, a decade after I had the procedure. It’s hard to believe that my life once revolved around how my eyes were behaving that day, and now I don’t have to think twice about that.

In that decade, I’ve gone diving in more than 20 countries. I sailed around the world for four months, something that would have been a massive pain had I had to store four months’ worth of daily lenses and contact solution in the compact two bags I took with me for a circumnavigation. I’ve trekked in the jungle of rural India and the bush of South Africa, without worrying about the fact I was hundreds of miles from a pharmacy and wouldn’t need to buy emergency supplies to deal with my contacts.

Getting LASIK Totally Changed my Travel Life
Getting LASIK Totally Changed my Travel Life

Around the time of my surgery, I started running marathons; I’ve since scaled back to half-marathons, but I log a good hour on the trails several days a week and I never worry about pollen getting into my eyes and irritating my lens. In winter months, we like to ski. There’s no annoyance of trying to fit glasses under my goggles or wondering if my contacts might freeze in the extreme cold.

Heck, I love the beach more than anywhere else on the planet. Growing up vacationing on Florida’s Gulf Coast, I’d have to remove my contacts just to take a dip in the ocean for fear of a wave knocking out my lens; nowadays, I can dive in on a whim if the water looks inviting without so much as a second thought. The ways LASIK has benefited my travel life are countless.

Getting LASIK Totally Changed my Travel Life

That said, I never take for granted how I can wake up and see the clock beside my bed without fumbling to press lenses into my eyes. I travel with friends who are forever dealing with the nuisance of contacts—one of my frequent travel companions who came to visit this summer complained about a lingering eye condition that had her going to the emergency doctor more than a dozen times this year—and I’m grateful that’s no longer my norm.

I run, I dive, I sit in front of my computer for days on end, eyes glued to the screen, I sit on planes for 16-hour flights—and I never have to stomach the hassle of glasses or contacts. And I have no doubt that in the years since I underwent LASIK, it’s become even easier, if that’s possible, as the technology progresses. Have I convinced you yet? It is, in a sense, the best thing you could do for yourself.

Getting LASIK Totally Changed my Travel Life

Have you ever undergone any type of corrective surgery? If so, please share your story in the comments below!


 

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Getting LASIK Changed my Travel Life
Getting LASIK Changed my Travel Life
Getting LASIK Changed my Travel Life
COMMENTS
  • October 27, 2017

    Yes, yes, yes! I got PRK in one eye and LASIK in the other more than seven years ago and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Totally worth it! The only thing I miss about contacts is not crying when I cut onions. 🙂

    • October 27, 2017

      SO much easier to run without fumbling with your eyes, eh? I didn’t think about the onion part, though…probably because Scott’s always done the cooking around here 😉

      So why PRK in one and LASIK in the other—was one eye just so much worse than the other one?

      • October 29, 2017

        I think it had to do with the thickness of my cornea. I went in thinking it would be LASIK in both and when I went in the day before to verify things they said PRK would be better. My PRK eye is actually the one with better vision, but only by a little bit.

        • October 30, 2017

          So interesting! I don’t think they even gave me a choice; they just told me I was getting LASIK.

    • October 28, 2017

      What that’s a thing?! I wear contacts and I still can’t handle cutting onions 🙁

      • October 29, 2017

        It would burn a tiny bit back when I wore contacts, but now, without the contacts covering my eye, I cry so much. The first time I cut onions post-surgery, I was like, OMG THIS IS THE WORST THING EVER.

        • October 30, 2017

          So my eyes burn UNCONTROLLABLY when I cut onions now! I just assumed it was the onion, not me, LOL.

  • October 27, 2017
    Briel K.

    I had Lasik done too! I was 24 as well and my parents gave it to me for my college graduation. I had astigmatism and had worn glasses since I was around 7 I think. People would call me four eyes in elementary school and, being the sensitive person I am, I would cry. haha Having to wear glasses wasn’t as troublesome for me as it sounds like it was for you. The doctor told me I wasn’t a good candidate for contacts so I never had to deal with those.The only sport I participated in was horseback riding. The only thing I was ever jealous of was that people could wear cute sunglasses and I couldn’t! haha I don’t remember being too nervous for the procedure and didn’t take the pill they offered if you were too anxious. I remember they gave me a stuffed animal to hold too! It was kind of fun to watch as they cut and pushed back the corneal flap. People get freaked out when I mention that part. LOL

    I do think my eyesight is slowly getting worse as I get older (as it does for other people as well) but I don’t have to wear glasses yet unless my eyes are really tired and I want to. The glasses I have now have a VERY small prescription but they do make things sharper. Hopefully I won’t have to resort to wearing glasses again full time for many years!

    • October 27, 2017

      How funny that we both got it at 24! It was also my college graduation gift (that I cashed in two years later) =)

      Every year I go for my check-up and fear they’re going to tell me my vision has regressed (due to crazy amounts of screen time, #occupationalhazard), and every year I’m given a perfect bill of health! Even if I had to wear glasses at some point, it would still all be worth it!

  • October 27, 2017
    Paula

    It’s something I’ve contemplated. Approx how much was it?

    • October 27, 2017

      My procedure cost around $3000 total (this was 10 years ago), but there are a lot of factors that come into play. I’ve heard people paid anywhere from $1500 to $2500 an eye, but obviously that also has to do with where you choose to get it done (it was more affordable in Nashville than San Francisco so I flew home for the procedure for that reason and because I knew the surgeon personally). Here’s a breakdown of different cost factors to take into consideration:

      https://americanrefractivesurgerycouncil.org/tag/cost-of-lasik/

      Also, I was spending at least $1000 a year on soft contact lenses, so that cost analysis alone made the decision for me!

  • October 27, 2017

    YES! I got LASIK last year and I couldn’t be happier about it. Makes everything in life so much simpler. I love that I don’t have to deal with the hassle of solutions and cases and extra contacts or the waste of the dailies I had been using prior to my surgery. I love my new lens-free life 🙂

    • October 30, 2017

      That’s gonna be amazing for your upcoming travels!!

  • October 27, 2017

    ugh, so jealous! I am beyond this point now, and laugh daily at the amount of eyewear I’m toting around – at least two pairs of glasses, Rx sunglasses, regular sunglasses, contacts, etc, etc. Everyone I know who’s had LASIK swears by it, though!

    • October 30, 2017

      Oh, that’s too bad! Have you had a consult just to double-check you can’t get it done?

  • October 28, 2017
    Sarah

    Girl!!! I totally need to do this. I’ve avoided night travel for years for this same reason.

    • October 30, 2017

      My dad’s night vision is so bad that if he stayed at work past 5/6pm in winter (pre-stroke when he could still drive), one of us would have to pick him up!

  • October 28, 2017
    Christina

    Oh my gosh, I’ve been wanting to do this forever but the thought of it has always terrified me. That description of the procedure (with the loss of vision and burnt hair smell) made me SOOO squirmy hahah I don’t know if I could handle it in real life. It’s amazing how easy it was though and it was really reassuring to hear your positive experience!

    • October 30, 2017

      I know, girl! I know. I’m so squeamish, too, that it was hard even recapping it. But the point is, it’s painless and sooooo easy and quick! I almost canceled night before, I was so scared, but in retrospect, I had nothing to be afraid of.

  • October 28, 2017

    I have so many friends who say the same: Lasik has changed their lives. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • October 30, 2017

      It really is true! I can only vaguely recall the annoyance of wearing contacts for 15 years of my life 😉

  • October 28, 2017

    I am glad to hear this went so well for you! I had heard stories that the period of “darkness” during procedure is much longer, but seems it is not the case! My brother is wearing glasses, he only tried lenses once (and could manage to get only one in) and said it was so amazing to see the world as it was. I hope that some day maybe he is a candidate for this too and can get his eyesight fixed 🙂

    • October 30, 2017

      That was the freakiest part for sure, and I guarantee it feels a lot longer when you’re under the laser, but it really is a very fast procedure. I hope he’s able to do it, as well!

  • October 28, 2017

    This is awesome. I wear glasses and have thought about having LASIK done but I’m also nervous. Several years ago, my eye doctor told me it might not be the best option since I have astigmatism, but I think they’ve made leaps and bounds in the procedure and it’s no big deal anymore.

    • October 30, 2017

      I had a mild astigmatism and was able to get it done. No problems over here! I think they’ve also improved it so much that it’s no longer an issue.

  • October 28, 2017
    Rowena

    Ahh I want to because of all the reasons you listed but I’m still a bit terrified. Will have to do more research once I’m off the road and employed with insurance again

    • October 30, 2017

      I know. It’s a scary plunge to take. I felt the same way! Hope you decide to do it, Rowena =)

  • October 29, 2017
    Anisa

    So happy it has worked out so well for you. My eyesight is not great but not terrible. I pretty much only wear my glasses for driving. Still Lasik is something I have been thinking about. I appreciate you sharing your fears about it.

    • October 30, 2017

      I think I was more in your camp, Anisa, as I was only a -2, which I assumed was awful but friends are -7 or -11, so I guess mine wasn’t that bad in retrospect =)

  • October 29, 2017

    I have been blessed with (KNOCK ON EVERY PIECE OF WOOD) 20-20 vision my whole life. But my brother in law, who had terrible eyesight, had LASIK five or six years ago and hasn’t looked back since. Seems like a great option for people who are eligible. And isn’t it true that with most medical procedures, the anxiety ahead of time is way better than the actual procedure itself?

    • October 30, 2017

      YOU LUCKY GIRL, YOU. Scott is the same; he hadn’t been the eye doctor in 20 years, and I made him go with me this summer. At 43, his vision is STILL 20/20!!!

      And you’re so right: The anxiety leading up to it is the worst part.

  • October 29, 2017

    I have to admit I had no idea about what LASIK was when I clicked on your post… I got attracted by the scuba diving pic! I’m lucky to have a perfect vision. Your comment about your 9 years old self made me smile as I was the opposite. I lied when I was 6 years old and pretended I couldn’t see well to have glasses as I was the only one in my family not to have any so I really wanted mine. I chose very ugly green and round glasses that I loved but, of course, they gave me headaches and a bad reputation for maybe the rest of my life! (my mum seems to still be mad at me for this lie 25 years later ;).
    Back to your topic, I think it’s a very interesting post and I’m glad you share your experience out there to reassure those who are thinking of doing the procedure. One of my friends did something similar a few years ago and recovery was way easier than we would have expected for such a surgery. She’s been so happy since… It’s incredible. She’d highly recommend it. I know her smile when talking about how she loves not to worry about glasses and contact lenses anymore has already convinced a few to have a look at the surgery. The only down point is the price…

    • October 30, 2017

      Eloise! I’m so jealous of your perfect vision. Never take that for granted. And I LOVE that you wore fake glasses as a kid; that’s amazing!

  • October 30, 2017
    Randon Davis

    I always hear these amazing success stories from people who’ve elected to have corrective eye surgery, but for me, it was the worst decision of my life. I had PRK in 2011, mostly to make my travel and scuba diving life easier, and my vision has been problematic since. In addition to the glares and halos, I now have extremely dry eyes and diplopia (double vision), all housed under the term “higher order aberrations,” and the worst part is…it can’t be corrected. Glasses and contacts are not an option, so I’m told I just have to live the rest of my life (???!!!) with crappy vision, at least until technology has improved enough to fix these problems. I wish I’d just left well enough alone and stuck with my contacts. 🤷🏼‍♀️

    • October 30, 2017

      I’m so sorry that’s been your experience, Randon! I’ve had glare and halos my whole life, so knew that wouldn’t go away with LASIK (I have 11mm pupils so they warned me that would be a side effect), but there are glasses you can wear at night to drive to help correct that.

      I’ve also had dry eye condition since I was 15 and just now went to an optometrist who had a helpful tip: krill oil. I take 1000mm to start and then when it gets better, I scale back to just taking one pill a day or two a week (right now, I’m not taking any). Have you by chance tried that? It took about two months, but it REALLY helped me and it’s a natural supplement with other health benefits, and I couldn’t believe of all the optometrists I’ve seen the past 20 years, no one else ever told me that simple, effective tip.

      • October 30, 2017
        Randon Davis

        Ooohhh, I hadn’t heard of using krill oil…thanks for the tip! I’ve just got loads of prescription eye drops, which seem to help only temporarily, so I’ll try anything. 🙏 I think in general, corrective eye surgery can be such a great solution for poor vision; I just warn friends thinking of doing it that the risks they talk about as a result of the procedure are very real. (Incidentally, my former optometrist decided to have PRK as well and now suffers from the same issues! I’ve been told he regrets doing it.) It also just occurred to me that PRK was recommended for me over LASIK because I’m a scuba diver (something about the pressure under water and the flap in the cornea created by a laser), but so are you, and you had LASIK. It seems the ophthalmology community is sending mixed messages…?

        • October 30, 2017

          Bonus: Krill oil doesn’t leave that fishy after-taste that fish oil does (I still recommend taking it and then eating something right after, though).

          She suggested it a year-and-a-half ago, and what a difference it has made! When she tested me, the insides of my eyelids looked like a cracked river bed—they were producing no tears, period, and she suggested krill oil (and gave me a scrip for prescription drops if I needed, but I never wound up getting it filled) and the change was almost immediate. I was diagnosed with dry eye condition at 15, nearly a decade before my LASIK, and couldn’t believe no other optometrist (I have seen at least three different ones in the past 20 years) had ever rec’d that! I still have to use Refresh drops first thing in the morning and at night when I’m getting tired, but not every hour like I was doing before!

          And I actually got LASIK just a year after I started diving, so maybe that’s why they didn’t suggest PRK (I doubt they even asked)? Regardless, I’ve had no trouble diving since the procedure, and that dive trip we did right before my surgery when I couldn’t wear contacts was awful as I couldn’t see a thing underwater, ha!

  • October 31, 2017

    Such a hopeful, lovely post, but I can’t read it. Eyes scare me to bits and reading that part about the lens that functions as an eye brace and the operation freak me out! This is the scariest Halloween story I’ve read this year 😉 I’m happy I don’t need glasses yet. I’m afraid I’d be stuck with them for ever since putting things in my eyes is unimaginable.

    • November 6, 2017

      I hear ya! I’m also squeamish, so just reliving this had me squirm, ha.

  • October 31, 2017
    Kristin

    Thanks for sharing your story! I’ve wanted LASIK so bad, I’m 29, started wearing glasses when I was in 2nd grade, my rx is -9.5 & -10.0. 10 years ago I got a consult, I wasn’t a candidate for LASIK, so maybe now technology has changed so I can get it! I wear contacts during the day and glasses at night (unless I’m driving)!

    • November 6, 2017

      It’s definitely worth checking again! There was a time I wouldn’t have been a candidate due to my pupil size, but thanks to technology, eventually I was =)

  • November 1, 2017

    ‘Love this Kristin!

    I’ve been wearing glasses since I was about 9, decided that I didn’t need them when I went to university, ended up with contacts, but was told that I had to go back to glasses ‘cos of the severe astigmatism that I have in my left eye!

    My eyesight is extremely awful due to the intense reading that I’ve always done throughout my childhood, coupled with squinting, and the fact that I hated having to use anything at all!

    Ah well, I’m passed it now and will stick to glasses as I look prettier and younger, but utterly different without them!

    • November 6, 2017

      But glasses look so good on you! I wouldn’t change a thing about your look 😉

  • November 4, 2017

    An excellent post — you’ve nailed it by explaining qualifications for being a LASIK candidate and by telling how simple and effective it all is. So glad you published this, because it may be helpful to others who want to do the same thing.

    • November 6, 2017

      Thank you so much, Rusha! I remember being so terrified, so I hope others get inspiration from my story and will consider it once they realize it’s really not that big of a deal.

  • November 5, 2017

    I had LASIK done 5 years ago and I’ve to say it’s one of the best investments I’ve made for myself. I still wear reading glasses at work (to help protect my eyes from the computer screen) but I love the freedom of not having to rely on my glasses 24/7. The surgery itself was fine but the recovery process was somewhat painful for me. I’d been told LASEK was a better option but I opted for LASIK as the recovery process was much quicker and I had to move to a new country a month after the surgery. So glad I went through 🙂

    • November 6, 2017

      Oooh, glasses actually protect your eyes from further damage? I always worry that my excessive amount of screen time is going to make my vision regress—any particular kind that you wear to help prevent that?

      • November 7, 2017

        That’s exactly why I got my reading glasses, I spend too much time staring into my computer/phone screen and they’d warned me before surgery that my vision will regress over time anyway. My dry eye syndrome also worsened after LASIK (one of the side effects) so I’ve got these glasses with special type of lenses that help with my dry eyes and protect them from the lights booming out from my screen. I wear my glasses at work every day 🙂

  • November 5, 2017

    I really want to have LASIK but there’s still a bigger part of me that’s scared. I can’t imagine how easier travel would be with clearer vision especially when diving and hiking. I’m glad to have come across this article, I felt like all my concerns have been validated :))

    • November 6, 2017

      Oh, definitely, Nadine! I mean it’s effectively surgery, why would you NOT be scared? I hope you’ll seriously consider it, though, as it really was the best decision I could have ever made for myself =)

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