Hello, thanks for stopping by! My name is Sheena. I’m 26 years old, a wife of almost 4 years, surfer, rock climber, photographer, writer, and a senior digital marketing director born and raised in southern California. I have wanted laser eye surgery for years- glasses and contacts just didn’t work for my active lifestyle. It’s now been one month since my corrective laser eye surgery, so I’m sharing my experience, the good and the bad, in hopes it’ll help others decide what’s right for them. So here it goes…
I went to consultations for almost every ophthalmologist in San Diego County (found through Google, radio ads, & referrals), but never felt 100% comfortable with any of them. I came across Dr. Tracy of Carlsbad Eye Care through a Groupon ad over a year ago and decided to at least go in for the consultation. Dr. Tracy and his wife Natalie (who works in the front area) were incredibly nice and attentive. Dr. Tracy spent over an hour with me- examining my eyes, explaining my options, and answering all my questions. This was very unique, as most of the other companies I visited had what seemed like a sales person spend the most time with me, mostly explaining my different payment/financing options, with the doctor only coming in to say hello, then leaving after a minute or two
Dr. Tracy was also the only doctor I consulted that recommended PRK corrective eye surgery instead of Lasik. He said both would provide great results and that it’s ultimately my decision, but that PRK was his recommendation because it doesn’t create the “flap” like Lasik, leaving my eyes much more stable and better for my very active lifestyle. I left the consultation a little wary, mostly because PRK was a new idea for me and of course, I found the guy on Groupon! Haha.
Some life events (a back injury, specifically) kept me from moving forward with the surgery, so almost a year went by before I decided to consider PRK or Lasik again. I did some research on Dr. Tracy, and I was happy to find tons and tons of amazing reviews from his patients over the last year! Reading about so many other patients’ wonderful experiences completely calmed my nerves about both PRK and the idea of finding my doctor through Groupon. So I reconnected with Dr. Tracy towards the end of December 2013 and fast-forward about 3 weeks, I’m now in the first few days of recovering from my PRK corrective eye surgery!
Before giving the green light and also in the few days leading to my surgery, I did a ton of research on what to expect- I literally found one site that was helpful. One! You can read this guy’s PRK experience here. Since I had such a hard time finding information about the PRK experience and recovery process, I decided to document mine! So here it is- I really hope this helps you in your search of the right corrective eye surgery for you! Please ignore any grammatical errors, I’m mostly blind while typing all this. 🙂
Day Before PRK Surgery: My nerves kicked in about 24 hours before my scheduled surgery. I’ve been super excited for the last few weeks, then all of a sudden I started thinking about what was actually going to happen to my eyes. Then came some intense worrying about what could go wrong. Actually, it wasn’t even so much what could go wrong, but more fear of the actual surgery process. Other than getting my wisdom teeth removed, this was my very first surgery.
Natalie, Dr. Tracy’s wife, called me to finalize a few things and make sure I picked up all 5 prescriptions (2 types of pain relieving pills & 3 different eye drops)- she asked how I was doing & when I shared where I was at, she really did a great job of explaining how minor of a procedure PRK was. Unlike Lasik, where they create a “flap,” she said PRK is basically like getting a scratch on your eye, and that really nothing can go wrong. Talking with her helped reassure that I would be completely fine, so I finished my day of work and I made sure we stayed in that night. Steven and I made a healthy dinner, a drink to calm the nerves, watched a movie, and then I took an Advil PM to ensure I would sleep well. It worked.
PRK Surgery Day – Jan 30, 2014: I told Steven that according to my surgery instructions, I’m not supposed to have caffeine within 4 hours of my surgery, so I planned to wake up at 6am (when he wakes up for work) to have my daily cup of joe. I ended up rolling at of bed at about 6:26 am and went straight to the kitchen only to hear Steven say something like, “Sorry babe, you woke up too late. I dumped the coffee down the drain.” Are you freaking kidding me?? Hahah. I was so bummed! Luckily we had some decaf on hand—and yes, I pouted until he made it for me (it’s biblical: Hebrews ??). 😉
Tammy (Steven’s amazing mom) picked me up at 9am and we headed down to the San Diego Eye Bank surgery center. A nice lady took me into a room for a few quick tests before sending me into the examination room. She offered for Tammy to watch the surgery, so I grabbed her before heading into the room. Dr. Tracy arrived a few minutes later, chipper & happier than ever. He gave me one Valium (what he joked about as “candy”) and chatted for a few minutes. Then another guy came in and put some numbing drops in my eyes. Before I knew it, I was heading into the surgery room on the other side of the window (where Tammy would watch from).
Dr. Tracy’s assistant helped lay me down on the bed and position my corrected under the machines. I remember telling them that I didn’t feel anything from the Valium yet and was worried about not waiting long enough or not taking enough. Dr. Tracy said not to worry since they’d be taking several tests to make sure my eyes are ready. His assistant gave me a teddy bear to hold and they joked that it made for a good picture. Having the teddy bear was surprisingly helpful since it gave me something to squeeze and laughing kind of distracted me.
The assistant put a patch over my left eye and then Dr. Tracy got right to work on my right eye—first some pressure, asking if I felt any pain. Then some tool that held my eye open (can’t remember what it’s called). Still no pain at all, just some pressure. Then some more pressing, eye drops, and what seemed like he was ‘sweeping’ my eye-ball. Then Dr. Tracy slid the bed to the right and just said to star directly at the blinking light. The bed’s head-rest sort of held my head in place and Dr. Tracy placed he hands on my forehead and held my head in place. Nothing was said about starting the surgery, so I assumed this was just another test. I heard the assistant say “15 seconds,” then I noticed series of blue light and a slight burning smell, then the assistant said “5, 4, 3, 2, 1.” It was done before I knew it. I couldn’t believe it.
Dr. Tracy then went through a series of steps- putting some sort of sponge over me eye for a few seconds, some “sweeping,” then sprayed freezing cold water on my eye (this was the only thing he warned me about and was probably the only somewhat bad part- the cold water just sort of ached for a few seconds, kind of like a brain freeze on your eye-ball). He put a non-prescription contact lens in, which he said protects the eye and acts like a bandage.
The patch was then moved over to my right eye and Dr. Tracy went through all the same steps on my left eye. The second eye was just slightly worse (just nerves, really) only because I knew what was coming. I also kept rolling my eye back during the prep process, so it took a few seconds longer. He said that’s pretty common though and he said the name for it (again, can’t remember what he called it).
They sat me up, brought me back into the exam room, taped on some goggle-like eye protectors, went over the instructions again, gave me a goodie bag, and sent me on my way! My vision right after the surgery felt no different that pre-op, except for the fact that I had these goggles that made everything kind of blurry. Overall, I felt great. No pain at all. I did fall asleep on the drive home, which they said is the best thing I could do. The more I rest, sleep, and keep my eyes closed, the faster I will heal.
Once home, I had lunch and fell asleep for a few hours—the Valium was clearly working. As promised, Natalie called to see how I was doing and remind me to take my medications. I was asleep when she called, but she left a voicemail that I listened to when I woke up. I then put the 3 different eye drops in, took the 2 pain pills (Percocet and another that increases pain thresholds), and fell asleep for another few hours. I woke up for dinner, hung out for a little, took all the meds, then went back to sleep for the rest of the night. Overall, the surgery day was a breeze!
1 Day After PRK Eye Surgery: I slept well & woke up feeling great- no pain and no real change in my vision. There was some sensitivity to light and a little blurriness, but that was all expected. First thing I did was get the meds taken care of. Tammy picked me up at 10am for my follow-up appointment and she was even surprised to see how good I was doing. I guess you’d expect someone to look pretty horrid the day after, but it was like any other day for me (except no work and no makeup).
When we got to Dr. Tracy’s Carlsbad office, even Natalie seemed impressed with how great I was doing! Dr. Tracy brought me back for a few short tests and examined my eyes- he said everything looked perfect & was healing very quickly. He said being young and following all the post-op instructions makes a huge difference in how quickly the recovery process is. I told him I had zero pain so far & jokingly asked if he’s sure he turned the laser on. Haha. One of the eye drops stung like crazy on the surgery day, but thankfully stopped stinging, or at least lessened, the next day.
I asked him about what to expect the next few days and he explained that my vision would get worse over the next few days as the eye heals, the get better and better after that. He said it takes 1 week for the layer to heal back, but that the new ‘skin’ will be very sensitive, so I should still take it easy into week 2. I was hopeful to be back to surfing after one week, but I’m okay with waiting 2 weeks—don’t want to take any chances!
Natalie scheduled me for my one-week follow-up and they sent me on my way. Oh, the best part was they said I didn’t have to wear the goggles all the time- only when sleeping was fine! I actually went to Costco with Tammy right after the appointment (I told her I felt great & wanted to get out of the house). I definitely noticed my vision was worse when I went into the store- I could barely read anything and the lights were all super blurry. I kept my sunglasses on which really helped with the light sensitivity and kept me from accidentally rubbing my eyes. Everyone probably thought I was just a snobby white girl, but whatever. 😉
I felt great when I got home. Probably a little antsy and not tired at all, so I decided to clean up the house. I vacuumed, changed all the sheets, did all the laundry, and then completely crashed after lunch and the second set of meds for the day. I still wasn’t super tired, but just wanted to rest. At about 2pm, I put a movie on, taped my goggles back on in case I fell asleep, and the next thing I know, Steven’s waking me up at 5pm. I felt good again, and decided I wanted us to go to our friend’s birthday dinner. Dr. Tracy said I only needed to take the Percocet if I had pain (which I still didn’t have), but I decided to take it just in case going out was too much. Needless to say, I felt great. I guess I told Steven that I felt like I was on a cloud! Haha. Yep, first time on any sort of heavy narcotic.
2 Days After PRK Eye Surgery: Slept well & woke up feeling good again! My eyes felt extra dried-out when I opened my eyes. I still have the contact lenses in (Dr. Tracy will remove them at my 1 week post-op appointment), so I think having them in so long and sleeping in them causes some discomfort, mainly dryness. I went straight for the 3 eye drops that I kept in the fridge (the coldness felt good on the eyes)- I learned that it’s best to do the one that stings a bit first to get it out-of-the-way. The stinging is pretty minimal at this point. I waited about 5 minutes before the next drop (as instructed, so the drops aren’t just washed away), and for some reason my eyes went crazy after the second eye-drops (the milky one). I couldn’t really open my eyes because it stung so badly and the light really bothered me. I even seemed a little dizzy when I tried to open my eyes, and it was like I couldn’t control my eyes.
I went straight for the couch and put a blanket over my eyes to shield from the light. Steven closed all the curtains and brought me my sunglasses and a hat to help. It’s been about 30 mins now- I’m still wearing the sunglasses and hat even though my house is pretty dark with all the windows covered. I’m able to open my eyes and the burning is going away. The vision is kind of going back to what it was before I put the drops in, but I’m definitely noticing more blurriness. Dr. Tracy said this would happen through Saturday and into Sunday (this is Saturday morning, so it’s exactly on time). Steven is making me my favorite breakfast (French toast!), so that’s probably helping me feel a little better, too. 😉
I should also mention that I have my laptop monitor zoomed in to 200% in order to type all this. J
Update: I just thought to close each eye, one at a time to compare and it turns out the blurriness is all coming from my right eye. I can see pretty clearly (close to my normal, pre-op vision) out of my left eye, but the right eye is terrible. No pain, just very, very blurry. I almost wonder if there’s something like dust or a cat hair caught under the contact, but Steven doesn’t see anything and the artificial tears don’t help with the blurriness. I assume this is just the eyes healing at different rates.
Update #2: My right eye was bothering me so much (blurry & itchy, still no pain though) that I decided to investigate. I gave it a good flush with the regular eye-drops (artificial tears), but that still didn’t help. I then washed my hands & moved the contact lens around with my finger tip, then sprayed a bunch more artificial tears in (enough that it was pouring down my cheek like I was crying). I blinked a bunch, then moved the contact a little more, and then heard/felt a little pop… if you’ve worn contacts before, then you’re familiar with little air bubbles getting under the lens. I’m not sure if there was something actually under there (dust/eyelash/etc) or if it was just the air bubble. It felt better and the blurriness went away somewhat, but still wasn’t as comfortable/clear as the left eye. It might just be a little irritated. I decided to put one drop of the numbing eye-drop in and it’s feeling better and almost as clear as the left eye. I’ll have an update as soon as anything changes.
Update #3: Okay, this is actually the next morning. I now have the monitor zoomed in to 500%. Needless to say, the blurriness is worse. The rest of yesterday was pretty bad- lots of ups and downs, and I literally spent the entire day on the couch without going outside once, in my PJs with my sunglasses and a hat on (felt like a vampire scared of the light). The light sensitivity was pretty intense. I was mostly comfortable, but then some intense burning would kick in, especially after any of the eye drops. I think my mistake was not sleeping enough. I took a Valium to help me sleep, but I just wasn’t tired at all. I occupied the day with movies… like 5 of them. Haha. I finally fell asleep in the late afternoon and woke up feeling much, much better. My eyes needed the shut-eye. We considered going out to dinner with friends, but decided it was best to stay in just in case it would be too much.
The main thing I found myself questioning was whether this (the burning/stinging) was the pain I was told I’d experience. To me, pain refers to more of an aching, throbbing thing (which I had none of). What I experienced was more of intense itching (likely from very dried-out contact lenses) and the burning/stinging (think cutting onions x10). Closing my eyes was the most effective relief, so it makes sense why the doctor’s orders were to sleep as much as possible.
3 Days After PRK Eye Surgery: I woke up feeling pretty good again. My eyes were super dried out, almost to the point where they felt glued shut and I couldn’t open them. No pain though. Again, I went straight for the sunglasses, hat, and couch. I knew I needed to get the meds going, but yesterday I did them immediately after waking and the pain was pretty intense so I decided to wait a little longer today. Steven brought me coffee (like the amazing husband he is J ) and I focused on blinking a bunch to get moisture back in my eyes. The burning/stinging/itching came back within minutes- probably worse than yesterday’s.
The worst of it passed in about 10 minutes, but there was still a good amount of discomfort so I decided to go for the numbing drops. I try to not use them unless absolutely necessary (since Dr. Tracy said that they can delay the healing process), but I knew the stinging would get worse with the medicated drops. I waited about 5 minutes for the numbness to kick in before getting to the first of the three drops. I already felt way better; the itching/stinging/burning went away and the light sensitivity wasn’t as bad. I could actually open my eyes (only w/ my sunglasses on though). I’ve found that there’s only one room in my house that I can take my sunglasses off in order to put the drops in- a bathroom in the middle of our home that has no windows and lights off.
Feeling pretty good now, but still lying low this morning. I should mention that it’s Super Bowl Sunday and we have plans for a big get-together later today, so I plan to rest as much as possible now, then take the pain meds before heading out… along with my sunglasses & hat, of course!
Update: Again, I writing this update the next morning since it was a long day yesterday- not necessarily from the discomfort, but more the get-together for the (horribly played) Super Bowl game. Poor Broncos. Vision is still really blurry and my monitor is still zoomed to 500%.
The rest of day 3 was pretty much the same- I’d do really great for a few hours, then the intense itching would kick in, especially in the right eye. I was again convince something was under the contact lens, so I washed my hands and went into the darkest room with a mirror (at the parents house at this point). I used the regular artificial tears to flush the eye from all angles, then tried to move the contact lens around with my finger tips (this helped a lot of day 2), then more flushing.
After a few seconds of this, next came the “oh sh*t” moment. The contact lens folded. As a former contact lens wearer, I knew I just had to blink a bunch to get the lens to slide to where I could grab it- normally not a big deal at all, but obviously this was way different and a little scary. I was able to easily get the lens onto my fingertip in its proper, unfolded shape and put in right back in, then flushed it with the artificial tears. As scary as those few minutes were, I felt so much better!! I don’t recommend removing the contact lens bandage, but this accidental ‘removal’ ended up resolving the constant feeling of something being caught under the lens.
I still had the sensitivity to light, so I headed to the neighbor’s Super Bowl party with my hat and sunglasses on at all times- I was the “rock star” for the evening. I also made sure to bring all my meds with me and kept the drops in their fridge, making sure I stayed up on my drops routine. I decided to take a Percocet and use the numbing eye drops so I wasn’t miserable at the party. Overall, I felt pretty good and even took my sunglasses/hat off once the sun went down. Our hosts were also conscious of keeping the lights pretty dim for me. Everyone was glued to the game anyway. The one bummer was I couldn’t really see/follow my favorite part of the Super Bowl- the commercials! I’ll have to watch them on YouTube once I can see. I was able to watch/enjoy the halftime show though! Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers killed it! Best half time show I’ve seen!
There was only one point at the party where I felt I needed a break, so I went into their guest room for a nap and told Steven to get me up in an hour. It ended up being only 15 minutes, but the dark room and shut-eye felt amazing and really helped me get though the rest of the night. I felt pretty good towards the end of the night (especially once we got home), but my eyes just felt tired. Probably from the overuse. I did the eye drops routine and headed to bed early.
4 Days After PRK Eye Surgery: Today is Monday. I slept well and had planned to be back to work today, but my vision is so blurry there’s just no way. Driving is obviously a bad idea and I’d be useless at work since I’m in digital marketing/SEO and am in front of a computer most of the day. My eyes seem slightly more comfortable today and I haven’t had to use any pain relievers (numbing drops or Percocet), so I’m hoping this means I made it through the worst part of recovery! I’m still lying low, resting and keeping my sunglasses on for the light sensitivity.
Update: It’s 12pm now and I’m happy to say that the first half of the was the best I’ve felt since the PRK surgery. My vision is still horrible, maybe slightly less blurry than the last two days. My monitor’s zoom is now back down to 200% instead of 500%. J I still have the annoying itch/burning of what just feels like very dried-out contact lenses that I’ve slept and in just generally worn way too long (which is exactly the case!), but it’s definitely not as bad as the last few days.
I’ve finally been able to take my hat and sunglasses off when in my house, though my eyes are still very sensitive to any light- again, just not as bad as the last few days. I tried opening a few curtains in my house too, just so I didn’t feel so cooped up—I could handle it for a little bit, but ended up closing them up again. If I didn’t make it clear, I needed absolute darkness the first 3 days after the PRK eye surgery. We closed every curtain and blind in our house and it was still too bright, even with my hat and sunglasses on. I often resorted to just covering my entire head/face with whatever blanket I was using… pretty miserable. Today is much better. I’m about to do my second set of drops, which tends to be when things get worse so I’m really hoping today’s progress continues. Fingers crossed! J
Update #2: The rest of today was pretty good. I only had one flare up right when Steven got home from work at about 4:30pm- he joked I must be allergic to him. Haha. I assume my eyes were just tired and the medicated drops had worn off by then, considering it was just about time for my third dose. This flare up was pretty bad though- like one from day 2 or 3 with the crazy light sensitivity and itching/burning feeling. Again, mostly if not all coming from my right eye. At this point I’m pretty convinced the contact lens in my right eye either has a scratch/tear in it, or that the shape of my right eye doesn’t fit well with the lens. So frustrating. I just want to take the lens out, but of course I’ll resist… not going to chance anything with my vision. Heading to bed semi-early again, after my fourth dose of drops and I plan to take a Valium again to help me rest. I’m really, really hoping to be back to work tomorrow, but it all depends on where my vision is at. Now, at the end of the 4th day after my PRK eye surgery, my vision is still very blurry… definitely worse than pre-op.
5 Days After PRK Eye Surgery: I can’t believe it’s been 5 days since my surgery… it’s all just been a blur (pun intended J). I slept okay last night- good up until I had to use the restroom at like 3am and I just couldn’t get my eyes to be comfortable enough to fall asleep. Eventually I did, but I woke up with a headache this morning. Again, my eyes felt extremely dried out this morning, so I took my time kind of half-way blinking and rolling my eyes to get moisture back in. The itching/burning started up within 20 minutes of waking, mostly from my right eye of course. :/
Before my first dose of medicated drops, I flushed each eye (mostly the right) with artificial tears.. That seemed to help a little. I feel like this whole process would be such a breeze if it wasn’t for my right eye! L I’m about to do all the medicated drops and at this point, it’s looking like I’ll be staying home again- everything is still just too blurry.
Update: Getting the medicated drops in helped ease the discomfort through the day, but my vision has still been very blurry. Natalie called me in the late morning to see how I was doing and confirm my appointment for the next day. I explained where I was at with everything and she said that it sounded normal for the most part, but that I shouldn’t really be having any pain by now and that the light sensitivity should be mostly gone. Since I was still experiencing both, she said to keep my eyes as moist as possible with the artificial tears and the numbing drops, as needed. From what she explained, it’s basically like a bandaid that dries and sticks to a wound, then when removed part of the scab pulls away. So the bandage contacts kind of stick to my eye (specifically, the very new/healing epithelium layer) when they get dry, especially after sleeping through the night, and then move when any moisture it added (irritating or even ‘taking’ some of the new epithelium with it). None of this image is scientific, just what I believe is happening & causing the burning/discomfort based on my conversation with Natalie. She also explained that “protein” can build up under the lens and cause clouding as well. Since I just had one more day with the bandage contacts in, I took her advice of using the numbing drops as needed (which before I tried to limit) and the rest of the day went pretty smooth. Still stayed inside, curtains closed, and sunglasses on for most of it. I was able to get some work done and was fine to hold a client call, but everything took a lot more effort than normal since I had to zoom everything in so much. One clever coworker jokingly emailed me in super huge font, which actually helped a lot! J
6 Days After PRK Eye Surgery: I slept pretty well last night, but woke up extra early- probably excited for getting these dang bandage contacts out today! My eyes felt okay, still pretty blurry, but I decided I’d try to go in to work today. I felt safe enough to drive for about the first half mile away from home, but quickly realized this was a very bad and dangerous idea. The brightness killed me and everything was just too blurry. I slowly made my way home, thankfully without incident. I expected my vision to be bad for a several days after surgery, but I didn’t realize it would be this bad. I know my eyes and vision will eventually be better than ever, but I’m now worried about how my employer to taking this unexpectedly long amount of time out. :/
Update: As it turns out, I’ve had a slight setback with my recovery. I went in for my one-week-post-op appointment today, excited for the relief of getting the contacts out, but Dr. Tracy said that my epithelium has not fully healed. He asked if anything had happened (getting hit in the eye, accidentally rubbing my eyes, waking up without my guards on, etc.) and while none of those things happened, I shared everything I’ve experienced so far. Nothing stood out as the “cause” except for the few ‘episodes’ of really intense burning/stinging. We think that my eyes must have gotten overly dried-out when sleeping (causing the contacts to stick to the very new epithelial layer), so the contact essentially removed the layer when I opened my eye. Sounds horrifying, I know, but it really wasn’t anything crazy. I only experienced the stinging until I put drops in my eyes.
In any event, this was not good news. My eyes weren’t healed yet and the bandage contacts seemed to be the problem. Thankfully, Dr. Tracy decided to remove the contacts in order to let my eyes heal without them—my eyes immediately felt so much better! Unfortunately this meant that my recovery was lengthened by about a week and I now have to treat the next few days as if it were days 3 and 4 post-op. While the extra time off work and stuck in my house was a bummer, it was a huge relief to hear Dr. Tracy say that no long-term consequences would be caused… just a little longer recovery.
Days 7-13 After PRK Eye Surgery: My eyes have felt so much better over the last several days. Things are still very blurry and I’m still on my eye drops regimen, but I think things are really starting to improve. I have my follow up appointment tomorrow… hoping to hear that everything’s back on track!
2 Weeks After PRK Eye Surgery: Good news – Dr. Tracy said that the epithilium finally healed! So now, 2 weeks post-op, I’m where I should have been a week ago. Oh well, at least I’m on the right track and I’m no longer in such discomfort. I am supposed to continue using the artificial tears as much as possible, as well as the Prednisone 4 times a day. My next checkup is 2 weeks out.
Days15-22 After PRK Eye Surgery: Things are lookin’ up! I’m happy to report that my vision has improved dramatically & I can’t wait for my next follow-up to see where my vision is at. There’s still a lot of fluctuation with my vision- sometimes it gets blurry and takes a few seconds to focus. I’ve also noticed that my eyes keep flip-flopping by the day as far as which is more clear. My eyes also seem to get more tired and dry, but this was expected and should improve.
25 Days After PRK Eye Surgery: I had my almost-1-month post-op follow-up this morning & I’m seeing 20/15!!! Still some fluctuations and dryness, which Dr. Tracy expects will continue for the next several weeks with my vision getting more and more sharp over the next 2 months. Everything is great, I’m seeing better than ever, and my next follow-up isn’t for 3 months. I’d be more than satisfied even if everything remained as it is today. Eeek!! So happy right now! 🙂