I have spent the better part of my life with a condition known as “four eyes” — even when concealed for the last fifteen years by prescribed, transparent circles during the day, at night I was still bespectacled. Seeing myself in glasses is not unlike when the ladies of Metropolis realized Superman was really Clark Kent. Surprise, mixed with a little bit of disappointment.
“Him?!” they wondered.
“Me?!” I wonder.
It comes as no surprise then, that I would be a proponent of laser eye surgery.
Glasses are a pain, always sliding down your nose or rubbing on your ears, fogging up when you open the oven and don’t even get me started about the lack of peripheral vision! I never minded putting contacts in every day, but I’m aware that my corneas would be healthier with access to more oxygen, and within the past year my eyes have developed an intolerance for the lenses.
Young and old eyes are constantly changing, but for a while there (mid-twenties to early forties) your prescription should stabilize. That’s when it’s most advantageous to get laser eye surgery. I’m 30 now, so I should be able to look forward to 10-15 years of no sight-related expenses excluding eye exams (glasses, contacts, contact solution, eye drops, etc.)! Plus, I wanted to get the surgery before I developed cataracts, dry eye or another condition which would take away my candidacy for the procedure.
I took a look at my finances, and decided that if — for the first time in 5 years — I put my tax return money into myself instead of into a large project for my house, I could afford LASIK. I began to make preparations at the end of 2009, but learned some valuable lessons along the way…
Lesson Number One: Signing up for a FSA (Flexible Spending Account) through your health insurance benefits is a MUST-DO if you’re getting LASIK. My company lets me set aside up to $4K in pre-tax contributions, which would’ve been about $150 less per paycheck. But… since it’s pre-tax it lowers your income, and my taxes went down. I’m actually only about $90 less per paycheck, so I’m saving $1560 overall towards the cost of my surgery ($60/paycheck).
I had talked to my local eye doctor, who’s in the same network with TLC Laser Eye Centers. (They’re the ones who did Tiger Woods’ eyes.) He made it sound simple: with a stable prescription for the past several years and no major eye problems, I should be a candidate. I could do the pre- and post-operative check-ups in his office locally, and only have to drive up for the actual surgery. I started to do research on TLC’s web site and to make tentative plans. When the open enrollment for my 2010 health elections benefits came around, I ended up calling TLC to clear up a couple of FSA questions I had.
“Oh, well, you should really come up and get your consultation before you sign up for your FSA,” said Molly. “Because what if you’re not a candidate?”
Urg. Okay, so Lesson Number Two: get your consultation done plenty of time before your health elections benefits open enrollment! I took a leap of faith that I’d be a candidate, and luckily it panned out. Yesterday I drove up to TLC for my consultation and they confirmed that I am a candidate for custom bladeless intralase. But because FSA money is “use it or lose it,” if I hadn’t been a candidate I would’ve had to spend $4K this year in medical-related expenses, or lose it all.
(Also, figure out HOW your FSA works. My FSA program doesn’t provide me with a card. I have to pay up-front (thank you, 2009 tax return!) and submit the receipt for reimbursement.)
My LASIK surgery is scheduled for March 24, and the cost of the surgery* includes all pre- and post-operative visits for the first year. Prior to surgery, there is a) the consultation, b) the local pre-op appointment where your eyes are dilated and c) another visit up to the surgery center for a specific set of images of your eye. These images are only “good” for three weeks. If I had been able to schedule my surgery within three weeks of my consultation, I could have had the images taken before I left Annapolis yesterday.
Which brings me to Lesson Number Three: if you know your schedule and want to avoid extra trips up the road, plan to schedule your surgery closer to your consultation so you can get the extra imaging done before you leave your first appointment. But in another time-saving move, Molly booked my surgery and gave me a packet which included prescriptions for Restasis and an antibiotic eye drop. Apparently, studies have shown that using Restasis before and after laser eye surgery helps counteract some of the dry eye that occurs, and helps the eyes to heal faster.
Post operatively I’ll have to attend one-day, one-week, one-month, three-month, etc., check-ups, which I can do locally at my afiliated eye doctor’s practice. If I attend all of the required check-ups, my vision is guaranteed and TLC will go back in and clean up my prescription if need be. So far, I’ve found all of the people involved in the Edgewater TLC office to be extremely knowledgeable, friendly and efficient. One of the surprisingly nice things about my consultation was that after scheduling my surgery, Molly called my local eye doctor and scheduled my pre-op and day-after post-op appointments for me!
While I feel like I was sort of bumbling around when I started this entire process, a quick call and a visit to TLC cleared up any scheduling anxiety that I may have had. Now, all I have to do is stay in my glasses (Clark Kent mode) until the surgery — another four weeks. Then — hopefully — I’ll be able to spend the next 10-15 years waking up and reading my alarm clock. Not worrying about packing a spare pair of contacts before a big trip. Looking into the mirror before going to bed, or when I first wake up.
* $2,395/eye or $4,790 total, but I qualified for an afiliate discount, bringing my total down to $4,290.