My PRK Experience Part 1: The Consultations

I had corrective eye surgery done a few months ago so my eyes have already stabilized. The next few posts are my experience and will be posted weekly (hopefully) so that you don’t need to wait months to find out what it was like for me.

I’ve worn glasses since I was 8 years old so that was a good 20+ can't seeyears. Towards the end of 2014 I was seriously considering getting my vision corrected. I had very poor eyesight AND I had pretty bad astigmatism. It was something I’d thought about off and on for a few years but was always too scared to do it. My aunt had Lasik surgery done about 10 years ago and she kept trying to convince me to go do it too.

In December 2014 I was in the Caribbean and I had an awful time seeing because it was very sunny and I wore contacts so that I could wear sunglasses. At one point during the vacation, my contacts were bothering me so badly I had to take them out immediately except the washrooms at the market didn’t have soap and I wasn’t about to stick dirty fingers into my eyes to dig out contacts; I had to return to the cruise ship.

When 2015 started, I went to see my optometrist where he gave me the all clear for laser eye surgery. I knew I wanted to do PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) rather than Lasik because it was less invasive though the healing period takes much longer. Also, from my readings, I knew that it was likely my only option given my high prescription. I also tried not to get my hopes up because the higher the prescription and astigmatism, the less likely your vision could be fully corrected (or maybe not even possibly corrected) and the thickness of the cornea also plays a factor. So with that in mind and with a realistic expectation that I would still need glasses after surgery, I began my search for a good, reputable clinic – my optometrist recommended 3, I visited 2 before settling on a clinic.

Though my optometrist didn’t recommend it, I immediately ruled out Lasik MD. I read a lot of negative reviews about them and also saw a CBC Marketplace segment about it. My optometrist recommended London Eye Centre and said it was pretty good but I ruled them out too because of its location.

The first place my optometrist recommended I check out was Pacific Laser Eye Care (PLEC). I really liked the location and heard really good things about Dr. Lin. When I went in for my free consultation the place was pretty busy with patients or prospective patients. I got shifted between the waiting room and a exam rooms as they did tests and, at one point, you watch a brief promotional video. I chatted with the guy next to me about how freaked out we were to have the surgery done. At PLEC I also got a chance to meet briefly with Dr. Lin. Super nice guy and was willing to answer questions. He told me that my corneas are thick so if I needed to do a touch up, I could, and likely my vision would be corrected to 20/25 which sounded like heaven to me. When he asked about how I heard about the clinic I said from my optometrist whom he said he knew very well and that he “always refers the difficult cases to me.” I’m not sure if that made me feel better. In a way it did because that meant he has a lot of experience. In a way, it didn’t because I didn’t think I was really difficult a case. After that I went to speak with a “counsellor” about the costs. This is where I was a bit choked up and not sure I wanted to go through with the surgery. It was expensive. They charge depending on the severity of your prescription and because I could barely see without glasses, I was on the high end. Medicated eye drops are an additional cost and the cost I was quoted didn’t include post-op follow-ups. By this point I was a bit discouraged. There was no pressure to say yes right away so it was easy to say “I’ll think about it” and walk away.

A week later I went to Coal Harbour Eye Centre (CHEC) for a consultation. Same deal with being moved in and out of the waiting room for eye exams. The only difference between here was that they dilated my pupils. The people doing the exams were really nice. They have a set price no matter what your prescription is and the cost includes post-op follow-ups. Like PLEC, they charge extra for the medicated eye drops. Looking at their website now, it looks like the cost of the surgery has gone up since I did mine back in April 2015. I didn’t meet Dr. Kirzner though. In fact, the only time I saw Dr. K was when he did my surgery. Before and afterward it was always the opthamologists or a technician.

My friend, Michael, had his vision corrected at CHEC and he really liked it there. Michael is a very careful, cautions guy so knowing that he did his research and liked CHEC, I was pretty confident that they’d do a good job. He had his eye surgery done December 2014 and now sees 20/15. I’m sure both places would have given me the same results but what it came down to for me was hearing a first hand experience (especially from someone I knew pretty well) and also price. Both places will have you preform the Snellen Chart test and numb your eyes and come at you with a stick to check your corneal thickness. I felt like CHEC was more thorough and preformed more tests.

Don’t believe any clinic that will tell you your eyes will stay at 20/20 till you die because your vision could degrade and also in your 40s you’ll likely need reading glasses. Everyone I spoke to and everything I’ve read says that you can’t correct that so you should be prepared for glasses later on.

My Advice:
If you’re considering eye surgery, really look into some good places in your area. Ask your optometrist for some recommendations. Go for consultations. Be selective and see how the people at the clinic treat you. Talk to people in the waiting room and ask if they’re there for consultations – if they are, why this place. If they’re there for follow ups, ask what their experience was like. In my experience people who have done laser eye surgery love to talk about it, so ask! And read reviews. Some are bogus so you really do need to read with a critical eye. Check the Better Business Bureau to see what kind of complaints, if any, have been lobbied against the clinic. If possible, check in with the College of Physicians and Surgeons as well (or at least check that they’re registered). Know the pros and cons of the surgery. I knew that there would be a chance my night vision would be affected and that I’d have dry eyes but there’s also the tiniest possibility that something bad will happen. You’ll need to consider if the pros outweigh the cons.

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