The day before the lens implantation

It’s the day before. Clear-sightedness eve. The last day of having to wear thick glasses. The end of day lenses or monthly lenses that my eyes can’t tolerate anymore and that don’t come in the right strength anyway. Tomorrow I will get different lenses. Intraocular lens implants: lenses inside my eyes, between my iris and my own eye lens. No more -11 or -12, with astigmatism. No more waking up to a blurry blur of a world.
At least, I hope that that’s the case…because of course there are risks. Of course I am nervous about this procedure. It is a big step for me, and that’s putting it lightly. I got glasses when I was seven years old and I switched to contact lenses when I was 14. So twenty years of glasses&lenses, twenty years of near-sightedness and astigmatism are coming to a close.
For years I considered getting lens implants on and off, and I kept putting it off because of fear of what could go wrong, because I could still tolerate and see enough with my regular contact lenses, and because of the high costs. “What if it would go wrong?” There is chance of complications. The incision could get infected or my retina could detach….Then there would be a real risk of getting blind. Then no glasses or contact lenses could help me anymore. Being able to see has always brought me so much joy. As a HSP I can be deeply touched by a beautiful work of art or the beauty of nature (I tear up when I look at certain paintings, temples or when I see an ancient jungle tree for example). What if I would never be able to see those again? I have a very powerful imagination and am a strong visualizer, but the thought of never being able to actually see filled me with dread.

But this year I was fed up. Fed up with never being able to see clearly, not even with my contacts or glasses. Always having discomfort from my contact lenses, having to squint or blink continuously. Or my glasses getting all foggy or rained on, making it dangerous to be in traffic. So, finally, my desire to get the implants became bigger than my fear of becoming blind. It was as if a shift had been made in my head. I wanted this procedure and I wanted it now.
Yet it also kinda feels like cheating. Like I should be able to deal with and live with my eyes the way they are but I’m a spoiled coward, taking the easy way out. I am not blind, I can still see a little bit, so why can’t I just accept my limited but still present eyesight? But then again, if you reason like this then even wearing glasses or contact lenses could be considered cheating. Or getting a broken leg fixed. And not getting something fixed or a problem solved when you have the chance to is just stupid. I am definitely spoiled though, privileged for having the choice to get my eyes ‘fixed’ and I feel very grateful for that.

So here I am. Taking a sedative (mandatory pre-procedure medication unfortunately) and thinking about tomorrow, which may be the first day of a life with 20/20 vision.
In order to get here my eyes had to get tested in the same clinic first. This meant a few hours of looking into all kinds of equipment with (flashing or blinking) bright lights, getting eyedrops that dilate your pupils and make you dizzy and unable to accommodate (thus unable to see nearby). And therefore, for me, it also meant a migraine attack. But it was for a good cause. Fortunately my eyes were healthy and suitable for lens implants.
And, even though my contact lens intolerance was driving me crazy at times, it is also the reason I can now get reimbursement for the lens implantation. A happy accident.
So, I’m good to go. I’ve got all the medication I need (mostly different types of eyedrops), I have a designated driver (because of all the medication you are not allowed to drive on the day of the procedure) and caregiver ;-): my dear mom.
Wish me luck…

The day of the lens implantation

We have to get up early because it is a bit of a drive. I have to take another sedative and put eyedrops in my eyes that will dilate my pupils. Fortunately we are well on time. When I drink tea in the clinic with my mom they come to collect me for the necessary preparations for the surgery. Protective covers for my clothing and hair. Anesthetizing eye drops. Iodine in my eyes. That stuff stings. I wonder why it still stings so much when I just had these anesthetizing drops. I am taken to a room with reclining chairs where I will also recover after the procedure. They tell me that after this procedure people can feel quite unwell for a while. Why do they only tell me this now? They put my own glasses in a toilet bag. As always, I feel a slight panic because someone else is handling my (much-needed) glasses leaving me quite helpless. I think everyone with strong near-sightedness can probably relate to that feeling ;-). Then it is time and I am being taken into the operating room. I sit down and lean back in the chair. The eye doctor explains all the steps: some more disinfecting with iodine, putting a sterile cloth on my face, folding the implant lenses, making the incision and pushing the folded lens in, checking its position. One eye after the other. The iodine stings again and the heavy cloth feels unpleasant. Then the doctor cuts open the cloth around my right eye, which scares me a bit because the cutting is so close to my eye. I have to look into the bright lights overhead, aiming at one particular spot to help ensure the correct placement of the lens. I can see tools hovering over my eyes while I try to remain calm. Then I feel a sharp pain, when the doctor makes the incision, and I startle and let out an “Ow!”. I am not supposed to feel this. The doctor gives me more anesthetizing eyedrops but I still feel the pain. He gives me even more drops. It is better now but still very uncomfortable. He says that some people are just really hard to anesthetize. This happened to me once before with an anesthetizing injection that didn’t work, so I guess I’m one of those people. And, by the way, I think doctors should check if a patient is anesthetized enough before making incisions, because the shock and pain of feeling someone cut into your skin or eye is not exactly pleasant.
Fortunately the operation doesn’t take long. After both eyes are done the doctor walks me back to the recovery room. I feel a bit woozy and dizzy. I get a pill to decrease eye pressure. After a while the doctor checks my eyes and tells me I can go home. I go back to my mom and we drink tea in the lounge, waiting for me to feel better. Less dizzy, less tingling and in less pain. When a nurse walks by I express my concern over my headache and pain around my eyes. She takes me with her and gives me extra eye drops to decrease eye pressure. I am advised to go home (or hotel in our case) asap and sleep. I feel miserable and very dizzy, cannot walk by myself and almost pass out a few times. Fortunately we can already check into our room and I fall onto my bed right away. The tears start to flow when I think of the surgery, how rattled I am, overstimulated from all the sensations, and about what my mom told me; that others came back from the surgery relieved and saying it was painless and feeling fine and how different the whole experience was for me. Fortunately I can sleep well (even with the protective glasses to prevent rubbing in my eyes). The next day I feel a lot better and can see quite clearly. Back in the clinic an optometrist checks my eyes and my vision is very good. Of course I still see all kinds of halos and circles; these are normal side effects. The implants will take some getting used to. They tell me that the tingling sensations I had the day before were from the eye pressure decreasing pills and the dizziness and general malaise was cause by the sedative combined with the surgery. I wonder if it had been better to not take the sedative because it seemed to not have done me any good. We can drive back home. The ordeal is over. I feel relieved and exhausted. Now I have to recover, be very careful with my eyes (no rubbing, no make-up, no swimming etcetc) and, during the next three weeks, use various eye drops multiple times a day to prevent infection and inflammation.

About 4 weeks after the lens implantation

I thought I would be very emotional after getting these implants. Elated about finally being able to see well without glasses or contact lenses. But funnily enough, it still hasn’t sunk in yet. I still don’t seem to realize that I don’t need glasses or contact lenses anymore. Every night before I go to sleep I feel a bit restless because I think I still need to do something/forgot something, because I was so used to taking out my contact lenses before bed. Sometimes I still get a scare when I feel a bit of pain or discomfort and worry about an infection or other problem. I notice that I feel insecure about my eye health and vision. As if it is too good to be true that I can see clearly now and that it will be taken away from me again. I think this is part of the process of getting used to the new situation, learning to trust the new implants and my eyesight.
My (general) eyesight is pretty good now, although I see better/more clearly with my right than my left eye, which worries me a bit. During the past weeks, when I had to use the different eyedrops three times a day and there were a few heatwaves and a drought, my eyes suffered from the dryness caused by all these factors (and I have dry eyes anyway). Because of this my vision was sometimes more blurry with halos (especially my left eye), I had to blink all the time and use lubricant eye drops many times a day. So I could not see that clearly now that the rain had gone ;-). Now that there is more rain and I don’t need to use all the medicinal eye drops my eyes are less dry and my vision clearer. I do still need the lubricant eye drops, which is quite normal I think. In bed I will continue to wear the special glasses to prevent eye rubbing when I sleep until a month after the surgery. I will get a checkup in two weeks and I guess then I’ll ‘see’ how clear and good my vision really is and whether the incisions have healed completely.

Do you have intraocular lens implants too or did you get your eyes lasered? What was this procedure like for you? Are you happy with the result? Or do you still need glasses? I would love to read about your experiences, so drop me a comment if you want.
If you are interested in getting intraocular lens implants and have a question about options, the whole trajectory and/or my experience, feel free to send me an email at info@marloesvanmeel.nl