Undergoing iLASIK – The Actual Day

If you ask me whether I was nervous on the day of my iLASIK surgery, I can tell you I wasn’t.

Not because I was pretending to be fearless.

Not because of the half a tablet of Valium they gave me. (Never taken Valium before. It’s supposed to calm me down.)

In fact, it was work which took my mind off the surgery. I was rushing some last minute stuff for a client that Monday morning so I really didn’t have time to even think about iLASIK! (A tip if you are ever going for any elective surgery – do something else so you won’t sit around twiddling your thumbs and worry!)

I was scheduled for my elective eye surgery on Monday afternoon about 2.30pm but I had to be there an hour earlier to do some final eye check-up, settle my surgery bill (yes, that is very important – it costs RM2988 per eye) and get briefed and sign an agreement. Even though we are their website design firm, I still paid my bill because let’s face it, business is business.

It is an elective surgery so the agreement was a must. I had to understand that I didn’t HAVE TO undergo iLASIK; there were other options available to me – glasses, contact lenses etc. I understood what iLASIK was about and chose to do it. And then I signed the agreement. Immediately after, I was given half a tablet of Valium and 2 Paracetamol to gulp down. It was supposed to keep me away from pre-surgery jitters.

As I mentioned before, there are 2 parts to the iLASIK procedure. Both parts are done using laser.

Going Into Surgery

For the first part, I was brought to a smaller room where I was asked to lie down. The nurse from Sabah (I’ve forgotten her name now) was chatty enough. She talked as she worked. First she disinfects my eyes and places ice-cold packs on my eyes to numb them.

She lets me hug a pillow and covers me with a thick blanket so I look like a beached whale on the chair (like the type dentists use so you are horizontal!). After 5 minutes or so, she puts some eye drops into my eyes (which could be the anesthetic methinks). I am still awake. I hear her chatting away. She tells me that she’ll talk me through the procedure but I don’t have to answer or nod.

At this point, Dr Tah takes over. The endearing part of this is hearing Dr Tah say that he’ll say a prayer for me. Adventist is a Christian hospital so they start surgery with a prayer. I find that so sweet and endearing! Suddenly Dr Tah and his nurses don’t seem so unfamiliar. If a person can say a prayer for you, it grows a bond between strangers which humanizes the business transaction. No matter who we are, we still look to the Divine for guidance, strength and assistance.

After the short prayer, Dr Tah asks me to look at the red light in front of my eye. He and his team work on each eye individually, covering one eye up with a cotton gauze. I believe they also put a retainer over my eye so I would not blink. I didn’t feel pain; just mild pressure on my eye ball. At this point, Dr Tah was using the computer-guided IntraLase Femtosecond laser to create the corneal flap for each eye. Creating these flaps take mere seconds. And really, I didn’t feel a thing. The good thing was, I was awake throughout the procedure and the nurses told me what was going on every step of the way. This greatly reduces anxiety even though I was thinking, hey I should be worrying, why am I not worried?

When it was over, I got up but everything was blurry. Like someone misted the whole room. The nurse held me as I was guided to the surgery room (a few steps away) where I was again asked to lie down. Again, she gave me a pillow to hug and pulled a warm blanket over me. (The surgery room is cold.)

ilasik surgery
That's me getting prepped for surgery.

This was the actual part where Dr Tah would fold aside the corneal flaps and use a computer-driven excimer laser or cold laser to correct my short-sightedness and astigmatism by re-shaping my corneas.

For this second step, the nurse covered up my left eye. Dr Tah was going to work on my right eye first. My right eye has less severe short-sightedness so the laser time for this eye was much shorter – I think it was 20 seconds.

ilasik laser eye surgery penang malaysia
Looking like a beached whale before surgery - I was hugging a pillow!

My corneal flap was lifted aside. When Dr Tah did this, I was momentarily blinded.

Once the flap is lifted and pushed aside (imagine opening up a can of sardines. You use the can opener to go all around the top of the tin but not to the point of breaking the circle. Then you use a fork to push aside the top of the can so yeah, this is as close to what I can describe about the flap!), I again can see the red light above me and heard this mechanical tick-tick-tick sound. I was indescribably calm. Maybe the Valium was taking effect!

laser eye surgery adventist vision centre
That's my eye, upside down

Angine the nurse again walked me through the procedure calmly and confidently. The laser will be re-shaping my right cornea. She tells me that it will take 20 seconds and that I’m doing fine and that I’ve reached the halfway mark of 10 seconds and soon it will be over. Once the laser stops, I smell a faint burnt smell which is most likely the smell of laser on my cornea! It’s like the smell of burnt hair. Dr Tah then gently puts back the corneal flap, smoothing it out.

dr raymond tah of adventist vision centre
Dr Tah is about to begin on the other eye now.

They then cover my right eye and work on my left eye. This left eye of mine has more severe short-sightedness plus a good dose of astigmatism so it takes 34 seconds to laser the cornea. Finally the corneal flap is placed back and smoothed out.

See the tracking on my eye?
See the tracking on my eye?

(Did you know that your friends and family can view your surgery as it happens? It’s scarier for the people viewing the surgery than for the one undergoing it. You can also request from AVC to view the surgery just to put your fears to rest that it is fast and pain-less.)

And in less than 20 minutes, it’s over! I was ready to go home by 3.30pm!

Nic, me and Dr Raymond Tah, post-surgery
Nic, me and Dr Raymond Tah, post-surgery

When I get up from my horizontal position, the first thing I am asked to look at is the wall clock. While my vision was still blurry, I could actually read the numbers on the clock!

The nurse then led me out of the surgery room and put eye drops in each eye before taping plastic eye shields over my eyes.

Putting eye shields on
Putting eye shields on

She gave me 2 different types of eye drops to use 4 times a day (Pred Forte and Zymar), to be followed by Refresh Plus eye lubricants for the next 7 days. And also paracetamol just in case.

Medication, eye drops and eye lubricant for me to use post-surgery
Medication, eye drops and eye lubricant for me to use post-surgery

I was also told to go home and sleep for 3 hours with the eye shields on. I was instructed to wear the eye shields at night while sleeping for the next 3 days. I looked like Ultraman with the shields on!

Wearing eye shields and looking really odd
Wearing eye shields and looking really odd

I was scheduled to come in the next day to check my eyes. Then, a follow-up check a week later. The third checkup will be in a month’s time.

When I woke up from my 3-hour nap, I could see clearly!

And yes, I could drive and work immediately the next day though I had to go out with sunglasses (glare isn’t so good for eyes just operated on).

My 3rd check-up will be at the end of this month. So far, I’ve felt so blessed to be able to enjoy clarity after years of wearing glasses. It was a bit sentimental when I threw out my last pair of contact lenses soaking in saline. I emptied out the saline bottle. I packed up my glasses, keeping them as a memento.

Advice and Some Final Two Cents

This is an elective surgery. You choose to do it or you can choose not to. It won’t kill you to wear glasses either. It’s really up to you. If you always felt you could do better without glasses or contacts, then perhaps iLASIK is for you.

I also understand many people may be fearful of going blind (yikes) or having complications. That is why you must do your research first and get to know the facts. You must talk to people who have done it. You must go to a reputable service provider. I was like that initially. I was really scared and worried but the more you know, the less afraid you become.

And please, price should be your last concern. I know people who told me that I could get it cheaply done for less than RM4K but hell, these are my eyes!

You may not even be going to Adventist Vision Centre and this is certainly NOT a post telling you to do it there. I am telling you how the experience feels like, what I know and what I have done. But try to get the iLASIK procedure where available as it is used by the US Army and NASA astronauts. iLASIK is also about Custom Wavefront 3D mapping of the eyes where it creates a personalised treatment for your eyes.

I am presently quite happy with my 20/20 vision. I use the Refresh Plus eye drops whenever I feel my eyes getting dry (especially in air-cond areas or when I wake up in the morning). I see halos around lights at night (which I am told, will lessen over time). I need to be careful while washing my face in the first few days and I am advised not to rub my eyes.

Have healthy expectations regarding your vision.

You won’t have supersonic eyesight but you will be able to see clearly.

And you can finally throw away your glasses!

37 thoughts on “Undergoing iLASIK – The Actual Day

  1. “…I look like a beached whale on the chair…”

    LMAO!

    I think I’ll need to betul-betul jaga my eyes cuz I don’t look good with glasses, don’t want to stick finger into my eyes, and ain’t got the moolah for eye surgery.

    Btw, the sardine can analogy very scary lah…

    Oh yea, congrats on your new 20/20 vision!

    • U-Jean: You have perfect vision my dear. You don’t have to worry about glasses. My theory is, if you didn’t start wearing glasses during your school years, it means your eyes are good lah. No need to fear. Of course rabun orang tua starts when one is past 40. I didn’t know the sardine can analogy was that bad….I couldn’t think of any good equivalent. LOL.

  2. Hi Maya, congrats to u! Finally get rid of ur glasses!

    Me too…I also did mine 6 yrs back in Optimax! I m very satisfied with my vision…still havin 20/20… Hoohoo! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. hey Maya, a thank you note to you. I was apprehensive about taking the laser on my eyes and what you have written was sure an eye – opener to light…

    I took the ilasik a week ago and I cannot be more happy about my vision without the lenses and glasses. Getting up in the morning and being able to see clearly is a real bliss. I am sure you know it ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thank you and more power to you.

    Regards

    Pradeep

    • Hi Pradeep: Good to know that you can now throw away your glasses! Isn’t it fabulous to wake up to clear vision? I am happy my post helped you get over your fear. I found that there are more negative stories about lasik online – I read one about a woman’s corneal flaps falling off! Now that was scary but then again, like I said, choose your iLASIK provider carefully. She could have gone to a cheap ilasik clinic or perhaps the doctor wasn’t as efficient! Anyway, did you go to Adventist to do your iLASIK or was it another provider? Let me know too.

  4. I got mine done at Bangalore, India, where I stay. The place I went is a well known Eye Hospital. I paid a fortune, but i feel its worth every penny.

    Not sure what happened to that women… there’s a exception always even if you go to a best place. I feel whats important is you follow the post surgery instructions religiously, that makes a real difference.

    • Oh I see. Initially I thought you are a Malaysian since Pradeep is a name common here too. I guess in such matters like eyesight, we don’t want the cheapest provider! Consumer behaviour is such that we can buy the cheapest things, at least for some things. For other things of importance, we need reassurance in terms of price. Do you have dry eyes? I’ve weaned myself off the eye drops now.

  5. on a second thought its a “Maya Kirana” from you. You know what I mean.. dont you? your pseudo name is just as if its taken from the language I speak. A mystical ray of hope.

    • Pradeep – You are the first person who ‘gets’ what MayaKirana actually means ;-). Congrats on your insight. I started this blog back in 2002 and for 8 years no one has come up to me and said that. I am glad someone gets it finally!

    • How about the eye check ups with your doctor? How many times will you go back to have your eyes checked? I’ve done my eye checkups twice now. The next one is in November. Just to see if everything’s ok.

  6. Thank you for this post about your experience. I will be having iLasik done on the 11th this month and it was nice to read about your surgery. I’m having it done in Japan (husband is US military and we’re stationed here). I’m a little nervous about the language barrier but they have a translator that works for the office clinic and she will be there for my procedure.

    I am looking forward to being able to see without glasses or contacts, too. My vision is about 20/220 right now so the thought of being able to wake up and see without a contraption on my face or eyes chokes me up just thinking about it! They said they’ll be shooting for 20/12.5 vision after the surgery. I just can’t imagine what that will look like…

    • Hi Wendy – I am glad I could share my experience with you and countless others who often want to know what it really is like before they undergo iLASIK. I find that while many have undergone this experience, there are more horror stories than happy ones. Or if there are happy successful outcomes, not many will blog about it! I decided to blog about it because I feel that if one has the means (money) and is not that fearful, iLASIK is one method to regain 20/20 vision. I still marvel about having perfect vision each day. The pleasure for me is that I can now travel easily without having to bring along spectacles and contact lenses! I can wake up and see my wall clock! I can swim without worrying about chlorine getting into my lenses. You will be amazed when you wake up to perfect vision!

    • Hi Winny: That is good to know. Having 20/20 vision does change one’s life. For me, I always wake up grateful I don’t have to put on glasses anymore. When I was travelling in India recently, it made such a difference. No more fumbling with glasses or contacts on the flight, no more waking up early just to ensure my lenses are put in before the travel starts. And less stuff to carry! Good luck with your iLASIK.

  7. hi maya…
    thanks for sharing your experince undergoing ilasik..im about to undergo i lasik at adventist penang and i feel very confident after reading your experience…thanks

    • Hi Hafriz: It was my pleasure. I know most people are scared of the pain. I can tell you it was pain-free. And the team at Adventist iLasik were great and very comforting the whole time. It makes things easier knowing there are nurses and doctors who care. I have heard way too many horror stories of surgeries and felt that if I can help make it positive, it would be a great relief to those who are going to go through the same thing as I did. Wish you 20/20 vision! Everyday I wake up feeling phenomenal that I can see without my glasses or contacts.

    • Hi Chris: The eye assessment should be stress-free. All they want to know is if your eyes are stable enough for the lasik operation. Good luck to you!

  8. Hi Maya, thanks for the wishes, its been a week since my surgery. Vision is now better than 20/20 according to the doc, one eye is drier than the other and vision is still not as sharp, but this will clear up in time as advised by the doc. Other than that everything is fine. Meanwhile im just itching to get back to my sporting routine ๐Ÿ™ guess i’ll have to wait.

    • Hi Chris: Happy to hear that. I am always (still am) amazed that I can wake up to clear vision each day. Join the 20/20 club.

  9. Hi maya, i planned to go ilasik in adventist hospital as well.
    may i know more about the pre-assessment procedures and normally these all procedures are done by doctor himself or the optometrist over there?
    how did the optometrist or the doctor consults their patient when we just walked in to get more about the ilasik information?

    • The pre-assessment takes 3 hours and it consists of a slew of testing. It is done by Johan, the optometrist. He’s a very engaging guy. After the testing, you will meet with the doctor and you can ask all the questions you want.

  10. Hey Maya,

    This post was really helpful.. I’m getting iLasik done the coming monday and i was really nervous.

    Thnk You. ๐Ÿ™‚

    P.S: A small question to Mr Pradeed.
    I too stay in Bangalore, India. Can i know frm which hospital you got Lasik done? I’m getting it done from “Nethradhama”

    • Hi Kavya: Am glad my post helped you alleviate your fears. It’s a quick and easy procedure and one that is really life-changing. I figured there are a lot of scary stories going around about Lasik so it’s good to have something positive and reaffirming to share.

  11. Yes… So true. I’m so glad I happened to find your blog. Keep up the great job. I too shall let you know after i’m done with my sugery. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Thanks for sharings.

    But I’m wondering whether you need to check up with your doctor regularly although you had undergo iLasik 2 years ago?? Or you have to use eyedrops regularly??

    Thank you^^

    • Hi Wyen: My checkups post surgery was completed in the first year – I think all in all there were 3 check-ups. Other than that, I’ve not had any reason to go back for any eye checkup and I am not using eye drops either. Are you thinking of going for iLASIK?

  13. Thanks for your blog. I wish I read last week before I went for the surgery! I had mine done in South Africa at the Sandhurst Eye Clinic. It cost 34 000 ZAR for both eyes. I am now on Day 5 post surgery and although I am ecstatic with been able to ‘see’ without my glasses/contacts (I was short-sighted, -5.75 both eyes with slight astignatism) I have noticed that the reading of certain letters is not that clear although the day after surgery my doctor tested that i was 20/20 vision. Some days the vision is perfect, other days I find it a strain on my eyes especially working on computers. I wanted to find out from you if you experienced the same thing and if your vision settled/improved over time?

    • Hi Antoinette: Glad you managed to read it, even though you’ve gone for your surgery. Working on computers is fine with me but that is partly because I have been working with computers for more than 15 years – and I used to do that even when I was using contact lenses (which everyone tells me not to wear them for more than 10 hours and sometimes I used to wear them till late at night!). I am one of the fortunate few who has had no other issues with contact lenses despite long hours using them. My vision after iLASIK is good, so much so that at times I forget that I used to wear glasses. Of course I try not to sit too long in front of my laptop or use the iPad too often. Tiredness will set in once your eyes forget to blink. The only issue I had after surgery was the halo effect for 2-3 weeks at night when I drove. (You see a halo around street lights). After that my vision settled and now I am fine. My post-surgery checkups also gave me a clean bill of health. Perhaps what you are facing is a temporary effect – let your eyes rest more, blink more, and as my optimetrist used to say, stare out of your window and look at something green – trees, hills, grass. Green relaxes the eyes. I also continued eating my cod liver oil capsules daily (it contains good amounts of Vitamin A which is always good for eyes!) and I drank homemade Chinese soups made with medlar seeds/goji berries which again is recommended for good eyesight.

  14. Hi Maya!

    I wanted to thank you for writing this blog. It’s a top search result on Google when I was looking for iLasik reviews. I’ll be getting mine done in two months at Clarkson Eye Care here in the US.

    I’m not too worried, but have some deep-seated lingering concerns about the side effects that I’ve often read about. Your blog was a little re-assuring, although your case is obviously just one of many.

    Clarkson wanted to prescribe some special drops for me that were very very expensive. I told them this and they said since I’m young and healthy all I should really have to use is regular eye drops – I just may have to use them more often. Can you provide more detail on your post-surgery experience and how often and how long you had to use eye drops and any other drugs that you had taken?

    I also suspect you’re around my age, which is part of the reason I’m drawn to your answers as age apparently has a helpful impact on how easy and successful the surgery can be. If you don’t mind me asking, how old were you when this procedure was done?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Ryan: I was 36 when I had my iLasik done. I doubt you need special eye drops. I used the eye drops that the clinic gave and that suited me just fine. Although there are many traumatic cases of eye surgery especially iLasik, I have had more than 3 friends who’ve done this and vouched how wonderful life is after ilasik. Wishing you the best in your upcoming procedure!

  15. Hi maya. What do you mean by having 20/20 vision? I had ilasik 2 months ago.my right eyes not as good as my left eyes. Do you still have lubricant eye drop until now? Thanks.

    • Hi Jeanny: My eyesight has been OK. I can see perfectly. I have not used any eye drops since. Usually you can inform your ilasik doctor when you go back for checkups after the surgery. I had about 2 follow up checkups after my surgery and everything was OK. Where did you go for your surgery?

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