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Aye-yay-eye

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It’s November, and you know what THAT means.

Decisions and predictions. As in those two words that give me hives: open enrollment.

For those who are fortunate enough to have a job —Β  a job with benefits — this is the time of year to decide what coverage to pay for and how much we think we’ll spend on medical expenses for the next year.

So begins my LASIK journey. Will I, or won’t I conquer my fear of cutting/burning things on my eyeballs in 2010?

Being the ultimate medical wimp, I would not have been able to consider such a thing for myself even a year ago. I was plenty happy with glasses and contacts to correct my near-sightedness, especially when the alternative was a machine grabbing my eye, slicing a flap from my cornea, andΒ  holding a laser on it, all while I would be fully-conscious. Talk about hive-inducing thoughts. *Shudder.*

I just couldn’t see it happening (yuk, yuk.)

But then, well, there’s no way to gloss-over this. I hit middle age, and my near vision also began to go. Gradually, I quit wearing contact lenses because I couldn’t read with them in. And I was always whipping my glasses on and off, according to if I was looking far (on) or near (off) or having my picture taken (definitely off!).

The discomfort with glasses grew, and I looked at my situation with new eyes (yuk, yuk). If I am going to do LASIK in 2010, I need to work it into my open enrollment decisions. Which means research.

I tweeted about it. I checked into a bunch of LASIK providers in the metro-Denver area. All were very eager to get me in for a free consultation. All had excellent references. Many were clear across town. I made appointments with three. I cancelled two. I went to one.

Last month, I spent nearly 2 hours with the surgeon (not a tech) at Denver Eye Surgeons to see if I am a candidate. Dr Kumar and his staff took topographic images of my eyeballs and let me see the colorful maps. I’m so proud to report that I have beautiful corneas — thick and healthy. More than enough to lase off the layers necessary for my relatively minor level of correction. Dr Kumar explained that the laser part of the surgery would take only 4 seconds, and that I was at incredibly miniscule risk for complications.

No dilation and no dreaded glaucoma test (hives) was necessary for this exam. And the testing went both ways. I grilled Dr Kumar on everything from what exactly would I experience the day of surgery (if I decide to go through with it), to what happens if there is a power outage during the procedure (no one had ever asked him this before; he said the equipment is designed to continue without interruption).

Bottom line? I am a prime candidate. I have the option of correcting both eyes and wearing reading glasses for near vision, or correcting only my dominant eye. This practice, where one eye sees far and one eye sees near is called monovision. It’s not perfect, but why would I have LASIK to shed my glasses, only to have to wear a different pair of glasses?

And monovision effectively cuts the cost in half. The LASIK fee at Denver Eye Surgeons is $1995 per eye (which includes a current special $300 per eye discount). Wow. That’s a lotta moolah. Now I have to figure out how to save up that much. Payment plans are available through most LASIK providers.

So, what’s the verdict? Will I or won’t I face my fear? Can I endure 90 seconds of discomfort for the promise of corrected (mono)vision? Will I prevail over the angst I feel when I contemplate the act of getting on the operation table?

I have decided to withhold $2000 as part of our flexible spending plan for next year. I think. I just need to be strong until open enrollment closes at the end of the month. Then I’ll be financially committed to this idea that gives me the heebie-jeebies but could have a nice payoff.

I’m just glad the fee includes a Xanax. I’ll need it.

Are you planning to conquer any fears in the coming year?

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Comments
  • comment avatar JoAnn November 5, 2009

    I have no plans to conquer any fears in the coming year, but good luck with yours! I’m not a candidate for lasik, but I wouldn’t want it anyway. (So, I guess I’m thankful for small favors.) Good luck!!

  • comment avatar Lori in Denver November 5, 2009

    I had mixed feelings about finding out I *was* a candidate and thus had to decide.

    For you, JoAnn, is it fear, too? Or something else?

  • comment avatar jennifer November 5, 2009

    If you can’t bring yourself to have lasik, research synergeyes multifocal contact lenses, the results are pretty good with a nearsighted patient and the cost (though high for contacts) is cheaper than surgery.

  • comment avatar Lori in Denver November 5, 2009

    Thanks for the tip, Jennifer. Just in time for me to research.

  • comment avatar JoAnn November 5, 2009

    Well, Lori…since you asked, I’ll share. I didn’t want to burst your bubble, so I kept that to myself. For as many friends as I know who had the surgery and love it, there are friends of mine who hate it and wished they would have never done it. What they found out later, was that problems like that were very common but not discussed, or were glossed over. The surgery didn’t bring their eyesight up to par, and their old glasses Rx weren’t working either. People’s night-vision is sometimes worse. Things like that.

    Does it happen a lot? No. More than I’d like? Yes. Like I said, my eye condition isn’t conducive to Lasik, but I’m happy with my glasses.

    I’ve worn glasses since 5th Grade (1985), and I actually like them. I have macular degeneration in my family tree, meaning that I could inherit the disease that steals your eyesight eventually anyway…so the thought of spending the money and then having it not last long anyway would be daunting. Plus, my eyes actually got BETTER when I moved to Colorado in 1999. Enough to stop wearing glasses? No. But enough to show me that whatever is going on with my eyes is rather fluid.

    Will this surgery stop your eyes from aging? Will you have to have it done again?

    Like I said…good luck!!

  • comment avatar Lori in Denver November 6, 2009

    That’s great that moving to Colorado improved your vision — because there’s so much beauty here to see.

    Thanks for your input, JoAnn.

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  • comment avatar Amber Johnson November 7, 2009

    I had the surgery and I love it. I did it several years ago when technology was not as amazing as it is today so my night vision is not the greatest. But it is still exponentially better. I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to wake up and be able to see, juxtaposed against my lifetime of glasses and contact lenses!

  • comment avatar Quiet Dreams November 10, 2009

    I am a total eyeball wimp. I HATE going to the optometrist. I’d rather go to the dentist. Seriously.

    I am not a candidate (my optometrist told me) because my vision is too poor (Thanks thyroid problem that made my vision even worse!). That being said, I have such a phobia about something happening to my eyes that I doubt I would seriously consider it, anyway (eye-doctor also told me that my phobia is common in people with really poor vision).

    That being said, you would be my hero if you go through with it. I’d love to see better, it’s just probably not in the cards.

  • comment avatar kbreints November 10, 2009

    I would LOVE to get Lasik…. I would LOVE to be able to wake up and not need my glasses to see the childs hand in front of my face… to not have to worry about contacts… all that sounds GREAT! I do not have insurance that would cover any part of it — so it would be all out of pocket.

    I think that Lasik is the ONLY kind of elective surgery that I would have at this point…. not htat I would not use a whole lot more… but I am not Vain enough to care about the rest of it!

  • comment avatar Geochick November 10, 2009

    FWIW I used to go to Denver Eye Surgeons and I liked them (changed when I lived/worked opposite side of town). I’m planning on interviewing them for my eyes too whenever I stop being a freak and just go get evaluated already.

  • comment avatar a November 10, 2009

    If I didn’t need to use my eyes in order to work (and moreso than in just a look-at-the-computer or fill-out-this-form way – I compare things with a magnifier every day), I would do LASIK (um, if I were a candidate). I’m totally against the idea of bifocals, since I know I will probably need them in the next few years, but screwing up my ability to do my job would not be a good idea either.

    My husband went for the free consult, and came away with the idea that he didn’t want anyone cutting into his cornea, because it never really completely reattaches.

    Good luck deciding!

  • comment avatar Lori in Denver November 10, 2009

    Quiet Dreams — I’ve been saying, “No way” ever since the technology became available. Not sure why I’m open to thinking about considering LASIK now.

    KBrients — I’m not aware of insurance that DOES cover it. You can get vision supplemental, but the premiums sometimes don’t cover the cost of the LASIK. Seems like if you want it, you gotta pay for it.

    And I’m fine with that.

    Geochick — good to know!

    A — scared again. Oh, how will I decide?

  • comment avatar Sunny November 10, 2009

    I really debated about this myself. I haven’t been evaluated yet, so I don’t even know if I would be a good candidate. (Wouldn’t it make the “decision” much easier if I was just denied?) I too have a fear of the procedure, but I also hate wearing glasses and contacts, so I could probably get passed it if I really wanted to. But my main concern is that my eyes will change and all that money will be wasted. I am the type of person who gets horrible headaches if my prescription is slightly off, so if it’s not fixed 100% or whenever my eyes change again, then I still fear I’ll be a slave to corrective lenses.

  • comment avatar Dora November 10, 2009

    I’m not a candidate, as I have low, uncorrectable vision in one eye, so lasik could only correct my “good” eye. Because of the risk, most reputable surgeons would not touch me. That said, I do know a few people who’ve had it done and were happy with it, but I’ve also heard of others who had complications. Here’s an interesting perspective, I go to one of the top opthalmology practices in the country. This is a practice of extensively published, highly lauded eye surgeons. These drs are still wearing glasses. One would think if lasik was so great, they’d be doing each other. Just a thought.

  • comment avatar Dora November 10, 2009

    Oh, re a’s comment about bifocals. The old bifocals with the line in the middle are hardly ever prescribed anymore. I have “progressives,” which have a small reading portion on the bottom of the lenses. You cannot see any demarkation. I love them! Got used to them very quickly.

  • comment avatar chicklet November 10, 2009

    Up to you what you do cuz like the people above, I know people who love it. I also know a few people who don’t love it – who have had problems with their tear ducts ever since, requiring lots of drops, regularly. It’s not common, but I know enough that have had it happen that I’m noting it just so you know one more thing to ask.

    For me, personally, I don’t know if I’m a candidate or not. I’ve always had an easy time with my contacts and my glasses, so I’m not real into lasers and/or knives near my eyes no matter how experienced these people are at it. I’ve got this “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” theory where I really really like my eyes and that they don’t bother me, so I worry that “fixing” them would be a risk I don’t need to take. If yours are driving you crazy though, that’s definitely harder to decide.

  • comment avatar Mel November 10, 2009

    I’ve always been on the fence about it, and I’d need a nudge like a change in eyesight situation to push me over. It scares me, but I’d love to be glasses-free.

    Go you πŸ™‚

  • comment avatar battynurse November 10, 2009

    Funny you mention in an above comment that you had mixed feelings finding out you were a candidate. I’ve felt like that before. Whatever you decide I hope it works out.
    PS If I could afford it I would definitely do it.

  • comment avatar Melissa G. November 11, 2009

    I have two close friends that did Lasiks, and have never regretted it for a second. But I can completely understand your apprehension on the financial and physiological aspects.

    Hope it works out for you too!

    (11/11)

  • comment avatar Kristin November 11, 2009

    I desperately want to get my eyes done. Have you ever hears of corneal ring implants? I looked into that as an option but, unfortunately, the money just hasn’t been in the budget.

  • comment avatar Sheri November 14, 2009

    I can “see” both sides of this argument. My hubby had LASIK done 8 years ago and he swears by it. But lately, he’s also had to start using (the over 40) reading glasses anyway.

    If you ask him, I think he’d still endure the procedure and the cost to see as well as he does…without glasses or contacts most of the time.

    I’m excited to hear what you will decide!

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