In the summer of 2018, I did something that I never thought I would.
I had been wearing glasses since I was 12 years old when I was in the 7th grade. I never took it off except when I take a shower or sleep. I attempted to give up on wearing glasses and wearing lenses instead but the attempt always failed. I cannot wear lenses as it is hard and inconvenient for me even though a lot of friends told me that I look better without glasses.
Little did I know, 14 years later, I decided to live my life without glasses. It took me a year to decide whether I should have surgery or not. I did a lot of research and asked many people to make sure that it is the right thing to do. I honestly never thought of doing it. Maybe because I am living in a country where surgery is so common. A lot of people I know had it done. Korea is known for its advanced technology for beauty surgery and Korean people care about their appearance. It is rare to see people with glasses. I thought they wear lenses but it took me by surprise that a lot of them had laser surgery. So I thought “Maybe it is a good idea to live without glasses? To see the world in HD?”
After thorough research, I decided to choose one of the eye clinics in Gangnam because of its positive reviews and lifetime treatment. As a foreigner, I got 20 percent off so I paid around 2 million won for everything including the consultation, checkup, and the surgery operation. I had an eye checkup and consultations in June 2018 and had an operation the following month. I had my LASEK surgery at Gangnam EyeMedi Vision Center.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/eyemedi.lasik.
I was consulted by Dr. Choo and had surgery done by Dr. Lee. They both are very professional, helpful, and kind. The staff’s English is great which is very convenient for me to communicate with them and understand my situation well.
There are several kinds of laser eye surgery but LASIK and LASEK are the most common ones. LASIK stands for laser-assisted in-situ keratomileuses and LASEK stands for laser-assisted sub-epithelial keratectomy. To put it in a simple word, LASIK is a laser surgery that creates cornea flaps while LASEK is a laser surgery that removes the cornea. LASIK takes only 24 hours to heal while LASEK takes approximately a week for the corneas to grow back.
Dr. Choo recommended I get LASEK instead of LASIK even though my eyes were qualified for LASIK. He said LASEK is safer than LASIK because corneas will grow back after the surgery. It does not leave the cornea flaps which might cause complications after the surgery. However, LASEK is way more painful than LASIK. LASEK causes pain for a week because the corneas take time to grow back while LASIK causes pain only around 2 or 3 hours after the numbing eye drop takes off. A lot of people go for LASIK instead of LASEK because of time constraints and the different levels of pain. LASIK has some side effects such as dryness, and discomfort, and it is risky to do extreme sports or activities because of the cornea flaps. However, there are many other types of surgery these days that are safe and less painful. It depends on the budget and eye condition.
It has been two years since I had the surgery so I don’t remember every detail. I’m trying to recall my memory to give detailed an experience as I can.
I was super aware of the post-surgery pain. I was ready for that. Nonetheless, I was scared. I only knew that it would be painful but I didn’t know how painful it could be. I cooked and prepared some food for one week because I knew that I would not be able to do it during the recovery process. As I live alone so I need to rely on myself even though I cannot see. During the eye examination, the doctor drew my blood for Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) eye drops, a special eye drops from my blood platelets that speed up the recovery process.
The operation was merely 15 mins for both eyes. I could see the whole procedure from the moment the doctor put some bandages on my eyes to removing my corneas and proceeding with the laser surgery. It was an unforgettable experience. I can never forget a moment when the doctor used a small tool like a knife to remove my corneas and a red dot of laser operating on my eyes. My hands were so cold and shaking. There was a nurse whose job was to hold my hands. I tried to remain calm throughout the operation. It was not painful at all but the fact that I was conscious and know the whole process was somehow thrilling. I was accompanied by a friend of mine. It was a walk-in surgery. The doctor put the protective lens in my eyes. I went back home after the surgery. I still could walk and see things but it was a blur.
- Don’t put makeup on for at least 1 month.
- Don’t take a shower or wash your hair for at least 1 week.
- Don’t expose to sunlight for at least 3 months.
- Don’t stay in front of a laptop/smartphone screen for more than 30 minutes.
- Use eye drops as advised by the doctor.
- Wear sunglass every time you go out.
(There was a list of what I have to do/don’t but I lost it now so I can’t remember well. It was really helpful. )
Day 1 (Surgery day): The doctor gave me bunches of eye drops and pills to take for a week. I need to set an alarm to use prescription eye drops every 30 minutes. The pain was endurable. I could not see anything because it was so blurred. I just lay down in bed and listen to podcasts and audiobooks. As I lived alone, I still need to get up and cook by myself. I am still amazed by the fact that I could cook rice by closing my eyes. Lol.
Day 2, 3, and 4: It hurt like HELL. It was when the corneas start to grow back. It was the most painful moment in my life. I had never delivered a child but this pain is indescribable. It felt like someone keeps punching my eyeballs, stabbed by hundreds of knives, and burned by the fire. It was so hard to endure. The doctor gave me emergency eye drops to use when it hurt but it was not recommended to use often because it slows down the recovery process. It was so hard to use the eye drops when my eyes were f**king painful. I cried the whole time. The pain lasted 3 days.
Day 5: The pain decreased. It was not as scary as days 3 and 4. I was able to see myself in the mirror and my eyes were swollen and red from the pain it had. I called to ask the doctor if there was something wrong and he said it was okay. I was traumatized by the pain that I experienced. It shocked me until now (after 1 and a half years)
Day 6: It got better but still blur. Very blur. I was so sensitive to the light. I was wearing sunglasses even though I was at home. Lol, I covered all the windows but still, the light was quite strong during the afternoon.
Day 7: I felt alive. I felt like I just got out of hell. I mean it. I visited the clinic to remove the protective lens from my eyes.
1 week later: I was allowed to go out but I was very careful with the sunlight. My vision was super clear at that time. It was 100% clear. I was so happy. The first thing that I did was to go to the hair salon to get my hair wash because I did not take a shower and washed my hair for one week. That one week was like hell to me. I could not do anything besides sleep in bed for the whole week. I still use eye drops every 30 minutes.
2 weeks later: My vision was a blur again. I went to see the doctor for a consultation and eye checkup. The doctor said my vision could fluctuate after surgery from 3 months to 6 months. It would be slowly improved as the recovery period of LASEK takes longer than LASIK. I changed from using the eye drops every 30 minutes to every 1 hour.
1 month later: My vision got better but not 100% yet. It was still blurred. I was a bit frustrated because I still could not see everything. I had an eye checkup every month. I was not allowed to do makeup for a month.
3 months later: My vision was almost 100% clear. I change my eyedrops but I still use them every 1 hour to prevent dryness. From the surgery until then, it was so hard to open my eyes in the morning because of dryness. My eyes were so dry but they got better when I use eye drops.
6 months later: My vision was super clear. I was finally able to see the world in HD. That was when I realize that the surgery was the right choice. I still wore sunglasses every time I go out. I was still sensitive to sunlight and I still use eye drops every day but less frequently than before.
8 months later: I visited Cambodia for 2 months for research and vacation. The weather was really hot there and I was always in the sunlight plus the air was not clean as well. As a result, my eyes had gotten worse compared to the last checkup before I left Korea. I was so worried. I was afraid that it was my final vision but the doctor told me that it would get better again. I was extra careful when I came back to Korea.
2 years later: I still go to get my eyes checkup every 2 months to see my progress and to check if there is anything wrong. I still use eye drops because my eyes are still a bit dry. The doctor said my eyes are still slowly healing. As long as I use teardrop frequently to make sure that it is not dry, it will get better. I usually use it when I feel tired after sitting in front of a laptop for several hours. My vision is almost perfect now. It changes according to my health condition. It is getting a bit blurry and dry when I am tired. I am also no longer sensitive to the sunlight but I still try to avoid it as much as possible because direct sunlight is not good for the eyes in general.
A lot of people said they eventually wear glasses again after 10 years or so. It depends on how you take care of it as well as your health condition. I don’t regret having this laser surgery. My life has been much easier without glasses.