As many of you know from previous blogs, my dream is to become a Coast Guard Aviator. I want to go to Flight Training directly after graduating rather than reporting to a ship first for a couple years, which meant that I needed to get eye surgery since I wasn’t blessed with perfect vision. Below is a log of sorts that I’ve kept over the months of my journey with eye surgery. However, the first thing that I will tell all of you is this: Do NOT try to get eye surgery before applying to the Academy. Most of you (high school aged) are too young to get this type of surgery, and it will not go over well with medical when applying to the Academy.
June 2012: While home on summer leave I went and visited the IU School of Optometry to see if my eyes were able to be corrected by either LASIK or PRK. I was worried that I wouldn’t make the cut, but it turned out that my eyes were thick enough to have either surgery done, and that my prescription was correctable. Breathed a sigh of relief.
December 17: My second pre-op exam, this time with the people who would be performing the eye surgery (The Laser Center or TLC). I really lucked out because the IU School of Optometry has a special deal with TLC in that they will cut the cost of the surgery in half as long as I agree to have some post-op care done at IU so that their optometry students can learn about the process and gain experience. If this deal hadn’t existed (and if I wasn’t able to take out a small loan from Navy Federal), I wouldn’t have been able to afford the surgery. TLC wanted to see if my eyesight had stabilized and stayed the same from June. In order to get the procedure, you have to show that your eyes have leveled out and aren’t still changing. During this appointment it was also decided that LASIK would be the better surgery, which I was happy about because it has a faster recovery time than PRK, which is more painful during post-op recovery.
December 21st: The day that the Maya thought the world was going to end. While they were wrong in a post-apocolyptic sense, this was the end of a world for me; a world where I would have to wear glasses or contacts. I showed up at TLC around 1030 that day, and they checked my vision one more time before they gave me some Valium to relax me. I took off my eyeglasses for the last time and handed them to the nurse. She then put a bunch of numbing and antibacterial eye drops in my eyes while having me sit in an easy chair. I sat there for around 30 minutes to let the effects of the Valium settle in, and was radiating both nervousness and excitement. I was nervous because I was about to have my eyes cut open, but excited because this would be the end of glasses since kindergarten and the beginning to the road to getting into flight school. Eventually, I was asked to stand up and walk into the operating room. They laid me down on an operating chair, handed me a stuffed puppy, and told me to close one eye and open the other. The surgeon asked me my name and what surgery I was getting to confirm that I knew what was about to happen. He then proceeded to clamp my eyelids open and put the suction ring on my right eye, where my vision grayed out, which was the scariest part. It’s supposed to happen though. A few seconds later, the flap had been cut by a laser and another laser started to correct my vision. I could smell my eye burning, which was funny. Then the flap for the eye was sealed and the left eye was operated on. The procedure took less than 5 minutes. Afterwards, the doctors checked that both flaps had sealed correctly and told me to close my eyes on the car ride home and take a nap immediately upon returning home. I wore sunglasses the rest of the day because my eyes were super sensitive to light.
December 22: My first post-op appointment, this time still with TLC because the IU clinic wasn’t open for a weather reason. My eyes felt a lot better than the day before too. The doctors checked my vision, and I had 20/20 in my right eye! My left eye was 20/60, but I had been told before that it would take longer for my left eye to be fully corrected. I left feeling pretty ecstatic about these improvements.
December 26: Second post-op exam. I was told that my eyes were improving, and that I could stop taking some of the steroid eye drops that I had been given. Right eye was now seeing 20/15!!! Left eye had improved to 20/40 uncorrected, 20/20 corrected. Left the IU clinic feeling extremely happy.
Now I have my 30 day post-op appointment coming up soon, and I’m excited to see how much more my left has improved. I’ll go back to the IU clinic over my leave periods so that they can observe my eyes again as well. This surgery has easily been one of the best investments I’ve ever made, and I feel like finally have a shot at my dreams of flight.
Want to ask me more about eye surgery while one is a cadet, or flight school? Feel free to email at Samuel.J.Keith@uscga.edu.
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