Do you know how it feels to be helpless? When the body cannot keep up with the head and it cannot live up to both your expectations and dreams? The powerlessness that prevents you from doing what you want and when you want. I know how it feels way too much and it is my biggest nightmare. I hate it when someone tells me that it is impossible, that I cannot or should not do it. I’ve been fighting such opinions my whole life. And they are always able to find cons of every aspect: that woman should not travel alone; that motorcycles are not for a girl; that I won’t qualify for foreign research grant…; a research scholarship in Australia – no, because they are not for psychologists. And so on. And only when I work out all of the above, they are speechless. But only for a moment, because they forget immediately and it starts all over again.
I did not get used to it, but I know how to deal with it and I know that sooner or later I will get things done. However, it is different when it comes to health. Here my influence is not as high, and while I truly believe in willpower, mind, and pushing the limits of the body’s endurance, there are some areas that even a positive attitude and determination cannot improve. For me, one of them has always been eyesight. I am a premature baby who decided to come for the premiere two months early (as the people in my life say “I wanted to conquer the world so much that I was not able to sit still” :)) Premature babies have less time for proper development of all organs and often the outcome is sight defect.
It was not as bad from the beginning. The first few years of my life were fine. But things started to go worse in elementary school. And the sight defect was accompanied by deepening strabismus. You can imagine what it is like to be a child who not only has a sight defect but also has another eye squinting inwards. You can’t function like that. For the little girl I was then, it was very stressful and the level of cruelty from my peers I had to face was enormous. You know how cruel and straightforward kids can be. I still remember when I was called squint, alien, and monster at school. It was also the time when I started my adventure with dancing and from time to time I could hear the kids making fun of me when I was performing with my dance team on stage. This led to me being pushed to the back row so as not to draw attention. As you can imagine, it is a lot for a child.
Fortunately, I was then able to have surgery that helped me to eliminate strabismus, which allowed me to function normally. It was a serious surgery with general anesthesia followed by a long recovery. The sight defect, however, remained and only worsened with age. The glasses and contact lenses were a permanent part of my reality. For 20 years of using them, I have tested all types – soft, hard, monthly, weekly, and one-day ones. I could easily become an advisor in terms of contact lenses and glasses. It would seem that if you can’t see well your whole life, you will eventually get used to it. Nothing could be further from the truth. The older I was and the more things I did, the more my sight defect was annoying.
When a vision defect makes it difficult to chase your dreams
I was absolutely the worst user of glasses in the world. They kept fogging up, I was putting them where they don’t belong, I was leaving my fingerprints and mascara on the lenses, and they kept sliding off my nose. I was a total quad when it comes to glasses, and therefore I respect everyone who knows how to wear glasses as if they don’t exist.
First, 18 years of professional dancing, and then dedication to other sports in my adult life, prevented me from wearing glasses. I couldn’t do acrobatics, run, or perform wearing them, so the other and only option was contact lenses. And those who wear them know that they are not a perfect solution. First of all, you can’t wear them around the clock. I was regularly exceeding the ”safe time” usually twice. And second of all, they are not that cheap. For the monthly supply of contact lenses, I paid an average of 100EUR, which amounted to 1200 EUR per year, and for 10 years – 12,000 EUR. Once I decided to count it and clutched my head in disbelief thinking that I could spend all that money on traveling. What a waste! In addition, countless of times I suffered from inflammation of my eyes from wearing contact lenses and the fact that they cannot always be cleaned perfectly, especially in travel.
But to be completely fair, the real problems arose when I started traveling extensively, that is, almost 12 years ago. These were no longer weekly trips, but long periods of time away from home: a year of studying abroad, another two years on foreign scholarships, and trips that lasted several months. I will never forget my five-month backpacking trip through Southeast Asia. I packed a 12 kg backpack, the entire bottom pocket of which was filled with contact lenses for the entire stay. It was a terrible solution. Sure, it was possible – but also cumbersome and ineffective.
Over time, I had to face new challenges. Traveling became more intense and I was spending over 9 months of a year on the road. I have traveled to more and more extreme places, such as Ladakh in the Himalayas, where it is more difficult to wash your hands and to change contact lenses in conditions that they require. The nature of my trips has also changed. They were more like expeditions, full of outdoor, extreme sports such as parachuting, rafting, or riding a motorcycle. I often took my lenses off at 2 am, slept for two hours, and put them back on because I had to get back on the road. As a result, my eyes were exhausted.
It started to bother me, I felt limited, tied, and dependent on my defect. And I don’t like being dependent on anything.
I had enough. Enough of thinking about it, counting how many contact lenses I need, and worrying about what will happen when they run out because the trip will take longer than expected. I had enough of dragging things around the world that were only taking up valuable space in my luggage. But sometimes, even when a person is aware of possibilities, he is ignoring them.
Sometimes you just need to grow up. In my case, I had to find the right moment and time. For the last few years, I haven’t had a break to take care of my eyes and change my situation. I treated the year 2020 and everything related to it as a sign of fate and time for decisions that were postponed long ago.
I started looking for a clinic, reading about the methods, asking my friends if anyone had vision correction done. It turned out that there were many of them. Everyone recommended it and talked about how it changed their lives. There was also one sentence that I heard over and over again: go with Optegra, because they have the most modern and least invasive methods, and the effect after the procedure are almost immediate. And so I did.
From animals to gods – we influence evolution
Let us reflect for a moment that we have lived to the time when medicine not only heals the sick but also improves the healthy. Let’s agree on something – you can live with a vision defect, but the question is why, if your life can be better without it?
The way ophthalmology is developing and what opportunities it currently offers is an example for me that despite many “buts” we live in the best possible times and are very lucky. I have a few friends who had similar corrections about 10 years ago – with other methods, using less advanced equipment. They can see great, but the recovery took a long time and the pain was an unavoidable consequence. Now that’s out of the question.
Laser eye surgeries allow you to correct the defect of myopia (commonly known as ”near-sightedness”), hyperopia (known as “far-sightedness”), as well as astigmatism, that is – a blurred vision of shapes.
Eyesight defects result from incorrect proportions in the structure of the eye. When it comes to emmetropia, that is, no refractive error, the image focuses on the retina, which allows you to see clearly and sharply. For short-sighted people, the light is focused in front of the retina, and for far-sighted people behind it, and therefore the image is not clearly visible, there may also be other undesirable effects, such as headaches and eye aches. Laser vision correction is a quick and effective procedure that is done only on the outer part of the eye – the cornea. And as a result of the above it is not an invasive method that goes deep into the structure of the eye, but only works on its surface.
It aims at correcting the shape of the cornea so that the light entering the eye is focused on the retina. In the case of hyperopia, also known as farsightedness, the cornea is picked up, in the case of myopia, the so-called nearsightedness – flattened, and in the correction of astigmatism – evened out.
New life in 60 seconds
It all starts with an interview. I had mine in mid-October and it was the most important stage of the whole process. It depends on the interview whether your eyes qualify for correction, and if so, which type of correction.
Before these tests, you may not wear soft lenses for at least 7 days (soft lenses correcting astigmatism cannot be worn for 14 days and hard lenses for a month). Qualification is based on 24 specialist diagnostic tests. The whole process takes about 2 hours, during which a number of specialist tests are done, such as visual acuity test, corneal diagnostic tests, slit-lamp eye examination. It is a non-invasive, painless, and neutral experience. Immediately after the examinations, an interview with the doctor takes place and you will be informed about the best method for the patient and everything about the procedure will be explained in detail. I was lucky to hear that I was qualified for the most modern method – Lentivu, which guarantees a minimum recovery time after the surgery and the ability to return to normal functioning the next day. I had my surgery scheduled in a few days, so everything went very smoothly. And now what probably everyone is here for. How does it look in practice?
Laser eye surgery is painless, it takes about 20 minutes, although the laser itself works for about 30 seconds (30 seconds per eye), which means that in less than a minute your eyes are repaired. The only thing used for anesthesia is eye drops. Your only task is to look at the light for 30 seconds and not look away during this time. Most patients can see clearly immediately after getting up from under the laser. After a few days, it is possible to go back to work and daily activities. How amazing is that?
From the perspective of a month after the surgery
Let me start by saying that I’m a living proof of the miracles done by modern medicine. My life turned 180 degrees towards better quality and easier functioning.
Two hours after the surgery, I was able to read the clock on the oven in my apartment, standing 7 meters away from it (we are talking about very small numbers and a very large distance. Let me say it one more time – 2 hours after the surgery. Before the surgery, I could not see these numbers from half of the meter. It was both shocking and moving for me.
Over the next few days, my near vision gradually returned (when it comes to myopia, it takes a while for the eye to learn to sharpen again). I could drive the car the day after the surgery, and use the phone after 2 days (i.e. see the screen clearly and not feel that my eyes are tired), work at the computer for long hours after about 5 days. From the moment of the surgery until now, I have never felt any pain, photophobia and I did not have any side effects.
In fact, as strange as it sounds, I don’t remember having any surgery. Human quickly adapts to good things. It’s hard to believe that it wasn’t always like that. I can do absolutely anything without contact lenses and glasses. 25 years of torment related to my eyes was gone within a minute.
I am not exaggerating when I say that this is the best thing that happened to me in 2020. And one of the biggest game-changers in a lifetime.
Q&A with the doctor
I’ve made a list of the most frequently asked questions that you asked me over the last weeks and forwarded them to the doctor in order to familiarize you this process and dispel any doubts.
What disqualifies for surgery?
Severe eye diseases, some general autoimmune diseases, general conditions such as pregnancy, and the period of breastfeeding disqualify for the procedure.
Is the eye correction done one at a time – first on one eye to make it safe, and then on the other eye, or on both?
The surgery is done on both eyes at the same time, otherwise, it could cause discomforts. With a small sight defect it does not matter that much, but with a more advanced one, for example, the one I had, –4 on one eye and –3 on the other. If only one eye would be corrected – on one eye I would have a defect of 0 and on the other – 4, which would make me unable to function, I would have visual disturbances, headaches, etc. There are also no premises or danger that would make such a correction worth breaking down into two stages.
Can the correction be done also on very high defects, such as –9?
The correction can be done up to -10 or sometimes even up to -12 diopters (with a very good cornea). In case of farsightedness up to +6 and in case of astigmatism up to 6 diopters.
Is it true that the defect must be stabilized to even think about surgery?
Yes, the defect must be stabilized. It may not change more than 0.5 diopters over the course of one year.
Can people with dry eye syndrome have the surgery?
Dry eyes syndrome can often be caused by wearing contact lenses, so this is not a direct disqualification from surgery. Rarely anyone have such a severe dry eye syndrome, and if so, such patient is first treated and brought to a state that allows for surgery.
What are the recommendations for pregnant women?
During pregnancy and breastfeeding, laser vision corrections should be postponed due to hormonal changes in the woman’s body that may affect the cornea and the quality of vision and therefore you have to wait until your eyesight becomes stabilized again. It is also recommended that women do not become pregnant for at least 3 months after the surgery.
Are there any age restrictions for laser vision correction surgery?
You must be at least 21 years old and have a stable sight defect to be able to have your eye correction done.
Is it painful?
The laser vision correction surgery is painless. I will answer this question from my own experience – at no stage – from the qualification tests, through the procedure itself, to convalescence after the surgery, I did not feel any pain at all. You don’t have to worry about it. During the procedure, the eyes are anesthetized with drops that have an immediate effect. The only thing that can occur after the surgery is a little discomfort like a burning sensation, watery eyes, or a feeling as if you have something in your eye. It will be gone within a few hours. I didn’t have these symptoms at all, as if I had never had any eye surgery.
Can I fly after the surgery?
You can fly 3 days after the surgery. (Dear travelers, I know that you worry about it the most).
Can you play sports after the surgery, and if so, when?
There are no contraindications to play sports right after the procedure. Exercise does not affect your eyesight or the healing process. What is important, however, is not to let sweat or dust get into the eye and not to rub your eyes with dirty hands. The only thing you have to wait for a month after the surgery is a swimming pool, sauna, and swimming in the sea (due to a large number of germs in the water).
Who do you recommend?
This question is for me and based on my experience, from the bottom of my heart I can recommend Dr. Katrzyna Skonieczna – very competent and down to earth. The doctor was recommended to me by friends who had this surgery and now I recommend her to you.
What is the cost of the surgery?
At the moment, the cost of laser eye correction with the most modern Lentiv method is about 1900 EUR (for both eyes). However, it is best to check the current price on the website of the Optegra clinic. At the moment, there are some special offers for qualifying examinations and surgeries.