My ICL Surgery Experience

In my post Taken For Granted, I talk about my life experience being legally blind, and how my upcoming option was Toric ICL surgery. Well, I’ve gone through everything, and now I can talk about the entire experience.

I went through a lot of difficulties with it, but at the same time, it went by so fast and my eye doctors were so efficient, that I can’t believe that I’m already on the other side of the rainbow. Here is what happened.

I contacted Hoopes Vision mid-April of this year and made my appointment to see if I was eligible for Toric ICL surgery. They booked my appointment for April 30th and told me that I needed to have my contacts out for five days prior to the appointment, because even soft contact lenses can change the shape of your cornea. I talked about all this in the post I linked above. ^

April 30th, I went to see the doctor. They gave me a pretty normal eye checkup. They measured my cornea, checked my eye pressure, my vision (severely myopic), and even took a peek at my optic nerve. Dr Hoopes Jr. came in to discuss the surgery with me and I said, “Heavens yes, I want to go ahead with it.” They talked about the risks, which they take preventative measures against, as well as the outcome.

My next scheduled appointment on May 10th was the first of the preventative procedures. First thing they did was give both eyes an ultrasound. I had been wondering how this was going to happen, and it was actually pretty genius. After giving me several doses of numbing eye drops (that sting), they had me lay on my back. After opening my eyes wide, the technician placed a small cup directly onto my eye and filled it with saline solution. He held the cup in place, keeping it well suctioned onto my eye to prevent the liquid from leaking out the sides, and then used the ultrasound “pen” with the other hand by taking the measurements from the saline in the cup. It took several minutes for each eye, and I had a pretty good headache by the time he finished because of the pressure on my optic nerve.

After that came more numbing eye drops and then a new drop that constricted (instead of the more common dilated) my pupil. This new drop took about 20 minutes to take effect, made the room very dim and also made the area around my eyebrows ache. I was led into another room where the technician had to take my blood pressure and pulse to make sure all the eye drops weren’t taking too much of a toll on my health.

Right after that, Dr Hoopes met us, took my eye pressure once again, checked to see that my pupils were nice and tiny, and then he had me sit up onto another typical looking eye instrument with my chin in a saddle and my forehead on the bar. Another open cup was placed directly onto my eyeball to prevent me from blinking, and I was told to stare into a red light.

Dr Hoopes Jr explained that he was about to punch two holes into my iris to allow the flow of liquid to continue through my eye, since the ICL blocks the path through the pupil. He explained very kindly that he couldn’t see the nerves in my iris, so I “might” feel the laser as it did its job. He said not to worry though, because only 9/10 people can even feel anything.

Four zaps total, two to each eye- and I felt three of them. It felt like someone suddenly and forcefully flicked me in the eye. So yes, I felt it and it hurt. Also, in order to prevent damage to the cornea, the cup that held my eye open was smeared with a jelly like substance that made it very strange to blink afterward.

Overall, this day was probably the worst part of the whole experience. My eyes were in substantial pain for several hours afterward, made worse by the fact that it burned like cayenne whenever I closed my eyes. Not fun, and I wasn’t expecting that amount of pain at all.

Thankfully, by the end of the evening, I was able to put my contacts back in and resume normal activity. I felt normal after that.

My actual surgery date was scheduled for May 20th (this past Monday, which is why this post is late). Three days before the surgery, I had to take out my contacts one final time, and start an antibiotic eye drop four times a day in each eye. I was also told not to eat or drink anything after midnight the night before my appointment.

Monday morning finally came (with much anxious anticipation on my part), and I arrived at Hoopes Vision at 9:45am. My husband drove me and kindly waited. They called me back and began a series of very uncomfortable eye drops. Antibiotics, numbing agents, and dilating drops were used on me for at least 30 minutes. They put me in a cap and gown (over my street clothes) and little booties over my feet and led me to a bed where I got to lay down. Unfortunately, the lights above me were very bright and the numbing drops didn’t last long, so I was pretty uncomfortable. The nurses finally noticed me trying to keep my head up and my hand shielding my peepers from the glare above, and they kindly gave me more numbing drops and a pair of sunglasses. Much better.

I didn’t have to wait much longer before my nurse popped an IV in my right elbow-crook (“you have great veins!”), and the doctor and anesthesiologist came out to take me to the operating room. They put you on a mild sedative to keep you nice and relaxed but awake during the procedure. I can’t remember the name of the medication they put into my IV, but it had a very subtle effect. It must have worked though, because they told me I did a great job during the surgery.

They did one eye at a time. First they thoroughly cleaned my eyes and lashes and then, holding open my eyelashes, they put a sticky shield over my entire face with an opening on the eye they intended to work on. I’m a little fuzzy (meds) on the details here, but Dr Hoopes Jr explained everything to me perfectly and clearly as he worked. “Look at the bright lights, good job.” Essentially, he created a very small opening in the bottom of my cornea, rolled up the ICL lens and then slipped it through the opening and behind my iris (in front of and without touching my natural lens). Immediately afterward, he told me to look at the ceiling. Before, it had looked like a fuzzy, blurry plain white to me, but now I could see struts and holes in the tiles. WOOP!

Same exact procedure on the left eye. I should mention that during the process, one of the nurses or assistants was constantly flushing out my wide open eye with a nice cold saline solution to keep them moist and clean. Each eye only took about 7-10 minutes, and then I was done. They sat me up and wheeled me into the recovery room, where my husband and two nurses waited to attend me. They gave me a pill to take (to prevent pressure in the head), read me my after-care instructions and had me eat something to make sure I was going to be steady on my feet and not faint or puke. I was able to walk out to the car about 20 minutes later, albeit slightly wobbly and disoriented. They also gave me a wicked-dorky looking pair of sunglasses and ordered me to wear them anytime I go outside for the next week.

I spent the majority of the rest of the day in my room at home, curtains closed, laying on my bed in the dark and recovering from the pain. It wasn’t as bad as the laser treatment day, but there was still quite a bit of discomfort, surprise surprise. The nurses were pretty emphatic that any pain that developed through the day was not normal, and I needed to call the Dr asap if anything odd happened. If my eyes had begun to build any pressure, that’s a cause for an immediate return to their office. I had a pretty bad tension headache build throughout the day, but I listened to my gut that told me that it wasn’t anything abnormal and I didn’t call the doctor.

Tuesday was my follow-up appointment. Dr Hoopes Jr asked me about my vision (it was amazeballs) and then gave me a quick sight-test. I came in at 20/15!! I started at 20/700-800. This is A HUGE difference for me. My sight is SO sharp that I spend a lot of time staring at things in the distance. It’s amazing. Anyway, that part for later. At this appointment, after he checked my sight and congratulated me on the outcome, he numbed my eyes and then quickly checked the pressure. He said that they look for anything between 10 and 20, but my eyes were at a 10, so my pressure was actually low. I told him about the headache and that I had concluded that it was from tension instead of pressure and he applauded my correct discernment.

After that, I was cleared to drive and do anything I want, except exercise or lift anything over 25lbs for the next several weeks. Also, I am continuing the antibiotic eye drops for another week, along with a steroid drop called Prednisone that is white and looks like I’m crying milk when I use it. I am to continue the steroid for a month, decreasing the amount of drops down each week until I run out. The drops are weird because when they absorb into my eye, I can taste them in the back of my throat. They don’t taste good. But it’s a small price to pay for healthy eyes and 20/15 vision, amirite??

All in all, my experience was stellar because of the outcome. I never imagined being able to see this good. I almost feel like a superhuman suddenly with how sharp and clear everything is. “Puny mortals, you can’t see all the leaves on the trees, or each individual blade of grass?? Mwahahaha!” <-Not sure why I sound like a villain…

Though it will still take time for my eyes to completely heal, and I’m not 100% out of the water with possible complications, as long as I follow my after-care instructions to the letter, I should be fine from here on. It’s amazing how quickly this has all happened, and how well and efficient they did everything at Hoopes Vision. I was very impressed with their service and would definitely recommend them to anyone looking for any type of eye surgery (note: this post is not sponsored or anything).

I hope this was helpful to anyone looking to do any kind of eye surgery, especially if, like me, they’ve been waiting for a long time for the Toric ICL to be approved in the US. Thanks for sticking through this long post.

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