I finally took the plunge and got LASEK! I’ve been wearing glasses/contacts since 4th grade, and it was getting old, fast. My eyesight was pretty bad, -4.5D in my left eye and -5.25D in my right, with an astigmatism of -1.0D as well in my right eye. While that’s only considered “moderate” myopia in the minds of doctors, it was damn near blind to me. I couldn’t see 2 feet in front of my face without my glasses or contacts. I needed my glasses to find my glasses in the morning!
I really wasn’t worried or freaked out about eye surgery, as I had already had much more serious eye surgery when I was 15 years old for a detached retina- I figured this couldn’t be any worse than THAT.
This is how I saw the eye chart at the doctor’s office, without glasses:
Notice how the prescription of my right eye went beyond the range of the simulator.
Normal, 20/20 vision
Previous, uncorrected vision
Yikes! Notice how even the close-up things were blurry.
So anyways, I kept thinking of how amazing it would be to wake up and be able to see, without needing to find my glasses first. Or how awesome it would be to lay in bed and watch a movie at night without worrying about breaking my glasses or squishing my face with the frames.
I was tired of taking out my contacts every night before bed (and the nasty feeling I’d have in my eyes when I forgot). I was tired of bringing an arsenal of eye related supplies with me on every vacation or overnight trip (contact case, contact solution, glasses for after I take my contacts out, an extra pair of contacts just in case, etc).
SO. I decided to get LASEK! I did a lot of research on LASIK vs. LASEK, and ended up deciding that I’d prefer LASEK. I’d like to get back into taekwondo and kickboxing at some point in my life, and I didn’t want to take the risk of the LASIK corneal flap lifting up or getting displaced if I received a blow to the head. LASEK is generally a safer procedure, as no corneal flap is created. The downside to LASEK is that the recovery is much longer- I was warned that I would need at least 3 or 4 days off of work, that I wouldn’t be able to see properly for a week or two, and that my vision would go in and out for months afterwards.
With LASEK, the doctor removes a tiny layer of the epithelium before using the excimer laser to resurface the stroma of the eye (the step that corrects your vision), and then replaces the epithelium flap and covers your eyeballs with a bandage contact lens for a few days while the epithelium heals. In LASIK, a much thicker corneal flap has to be created first before the excimer laser can do it’s thing. LASIK offers a much shorter recovery time, but there is a much higher risk of complications such as dry eye, night time halos/starbursts, and future flap issues, since the flap never heals 100%.
I visited two different clinics in Gangnam for consultations after I decided to go ahead with the procedure- Dream Eye Clinic and Seoul Eye Group/Glory Eye Clinic. Dream Eye Clinic came highly recommended by other foreigners, as they have staff that speaks excellent English and are very professional. Seoul Eye Group was having a pretty significant sale for foreigners, and came recommended by a few people on a Facebook group I’m in.
After consultations with both, and a LOT of research, I decided on Seoul Eye Group. I did feel like the pre-surgery exams were more thorough at Dream Eye Clinic, and I loved how welcoming, informative, and involved they were. Surgery there came with a hefty price tag, though- 1.7 million won. Still WAY cheaper than in the U.S., but more than I wanted to pay. With the sale at Seoul Eye Group, my total was 1.1 million won. I think their normal price is 1.6 million, and I was confident in the surgeon’s skills. He has been performing refractive eye surgery for over 15 years, and is one of the leading eye surgeons in Korea.
I ALMOST went with Dream Eye Clinic, but then I learned that at Seoul Eye Group, they do three extra things with their Premium All-Laser LASEK that help promote corneal healing and better vision recovery- autologous serum eye drops (eye drops made from your own blood), amniotic membrane, and cyclotorsion correction. Although Dream Eye also offered the autologous serum drops, they did not offer the second two. Through lots of research (I felt like I was back in college, reading peer-reviewed journal articles!) I learned that the amniotic membrane in particular really improves recovery speed and quality. Since I only had the weekend to recover, I wanted the easiest and fastest recovery possible!
I got the procedure done on a Friday evening after school. The surgery itself was a piece of cake. They did a few last minute tests, then took me up to the surgery floor. We waited for about 20 minutes, and when it was my turn the whole procedure lasted maybe 10 minutes tops. Awesome!
Getting prepped to start!
My right eye on the computer screen, while the doctor was removing the epithelium layer. See the wrinkly, jelly-like stuff?! That’s the top-layer of my eyeball!
The excimer laser doing its magic on my left eye. It was so strange to see my vision get increasingly worse as it worked. I had to stare at a green dot the whole time, and as the laser moved around my eye the dot got larger and larger, blurrier and blurrier.
Afterwards, they looked into my eyes to see that everything looked good and drew my blood for the autologous serum eye drops, and then that was that! Things were pretty blurry, but I could see better than I could before without glasses or contacts, so I was happy. I collected a bag of 4 different types of eye drops (cost 40,000 won) and they sent me on my way!
That evening was pretty brutal after the numbing drops wore off. I expected some pain; I did NOT expect constant burning, or tears streaming down my face. No, I wasn’t crying in pain, my eyes just wouldn’t stop watering! My wonderful, awesome friend Brittany helped me maneuver my way through the craziness that is Gangnam Station on a weekend night, and made sure I got home safe. I’m sure we got a lot of strange looks in the station, as I was wearing sunglasses inside at nighttime. I kept my eyes closed for most of the subway ride, and when I got home I collapsed into bed. My eyes burned too much a that point to keep them open.
When I woke up on Saturday, I could definitely see better than my previous uncorrected vision, but it wasn’t great. I REALLY struggled to see my phone screen or see what I was typing on the computer, so I just laid in bed all day and alternated listening to the Tina Fey Bossypants audiobook and taking naps. I wasn’t in a ton of pain, although it was definitely there. It was mostly that my eyes felt tired so I needed to keep them closed. If opened them for too long, the burning came back.
Sunday was much better than Saturday. I woke up and could see!! It was still blurry, but much much better! The pain was just about gone, and I wasn’t experiencing any dry eye. Of course, it helps that I was putting in eye drops round the clock. By Sunday afternoon I was able to watch TV shows on my laptop (holy crap, Orange is the New Black!!!!) and venture outside to take my foster dog on a walk. I was amazed with how well my eyes were doing, but also apprehensive- I had been warned that Monday (day 3) would be the worst for pain and comfort.
Monday morning rolled around, and I felt great. I didn’t even think twice about going to work. Beforehand, I had 100% been expecting that I’d have to call in for work. So many teachers had told me there was no way they could work the following Monday after getting LASEK done on a Friday/Saturday. I was pleasantly surprised! My vision was also continuing to improve- it was nearly as good as my corrected vision pre-LASEK.
Now, it’s 9 days after LASEK. My vision is excellent. I had the bandage contact lenses removed on Wednesday. My surgeon told me my vision would go in and out (better one day, worse the next), however I really haven’t noticed it. I think my vision is fantastic. I’ve been more than impressed with how quickly my eyes have recovered. I’m still putting in prescription eye drops 4 times/day, and artificial tears as often as I remember- usually every 30 minutes to one hour.
The constant eye drops and painful first night/day don’t bother me, because now I can see. Every single night I think “crap, I have to take out my contacts before bed.” I’ve even started walking towards my bathroom to do so. Then I remember- NOPE! Not anymore!! This is now my vision, 24/7! I can see my alarm clock when I wake up. I can see my foster pup across the room at night. I can watch movies on my computer while laying down in bed at night- while being able to clearly see the screen and not be squishing my glasses against my face!
It’s absolutely amazing. Totally, 100% worth it.
For anyone in Korea who is considering LASEK/LASIK, I definitely recommend Seoul Eye Group. To contact them, call 010-7191-9769. Jeff, the manager, speaks perfect English. He will likely be your main contact before and after the surgery.
To get to Seoul Eye Group/Glory Eye Clinic in Gangnam: Come out Exit 12 from Gangnam Station (Line 2/Sinbundang Line) and walk straight about 30 ~50 meters. You will pass an Artbox and Daiso. Seoul Eye Group clinic is in the building right after Daiso on the left. Take the elevator or stairs up to the second floor, and the doors will open straight into the clinic!