Benefits of LASIK Surgery for Firefighters

The LASIK procedure is a two-step process that involves an appointment for the eye scan and mapping followed up during another appointment for the actual surgery.

I have been near-sighted (could see things up close) for over 30 years and my vision was now to the point that the lenses in my glasses had become very thick. Most things that were any distance away were now pretty much a blur without glasses. Throughout my career I have wrestled with the frustration of glass frames for self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). Every time there was a working fire, I would have to remove my regular glasses and place them in a safe place while donning my SCBA facepiece. I lost count on the number of glasses that I damaged throughout my career during this process.

About three years ago, I decided to begin looking into LASIK surgery. Now as a chief officer, my circumstances are a little different. I will use this article to do my best to share my experience with you. I have also included a digital streaming video of the procedure that was done on my eyes. This way you can truly see what I went through first-hand.

What is LASIK Surgery?

LASIK (an acronym for the medical term laser assisted in-situ keratomileusis) surgery is a two-step method for vision correction. The first step involves the creation of a flap of corneal (surface) tissue by a slight incision. The second step is where the laser is used. During the second step, the flap is lifted and the laser reshapes the surface of the cornea. Small layers of the cornea are removed and are done through an automated process. The cornea is then reshaped in a way that flattens or steepens the cornea based on what is needed to correct the vision. This automated process works in conjunction with a computer map that is created by a scan of the eyes prior to surgery. The scan that is conducted to create the mapping is done through your visualization of light waves in comparison to perfect vision and the process is painless.

The laser works through a powerful beam of ultraviolet light controlled by the doctor. It also is super sensitive, such that it accommodates for eye movement. This beam of light does not contact any of the other eye structures such as the iris, lens or retina; therefore they are not affected.

The LASIK procedure is a two-step process. First it involves an appointment for the eye scan and mapping followed up during another appointment for the actual surgery. The first appointment was free and also performed an assessment to determine if I was a viable candidate for LASIK.

Some of the results for this procedure are referenced below:

In the FDA study, one year after the procedure:

  • 100% of participants could pass a driving test without glasses or contact lenses
  • 98% of participants could see 20/20 or better without glasses or contact lenses
  • 70% of participants could see better than 20/20 without glasses or contact lenses

In addition, many participants reported that they had clearer, better vision both during the day and at night, compared to their vision with glasses or contact lenses before the procedure.

My Experience

Scan and mapping of the eye and cornea was relatively simple and painless. It involved the use of eye drops that dilated the pupils and made me very sensitive to light for about an hour. While the drops were activated, I sat and looked into a device where a bright light shined into the eye. During this time period, I was told to focus into the center of the light. After doing this several times, the scanning and mapping was complete. As I was told, this set of measurements was then stored onto a memory card and was later inserted into the laser where it guided the laser's reshaping of the cornea.

The period just prior to the actual surgery was the time when my mind began to wander to thoughts of doubt. What if something goes wrong? What if I can't see then what will I do? Will night vision be a problem for me with a halo or starbursts? And when my son Nick asked the blunt and disturbing question, "Dad, can this make you go blind, then why are you doing it?" All of these questions began to make me think that wearing glasses might not be so bad after all. After reassurances from friends that had great experiences and my eyes stopped watering, I set the final date.

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