Since I arrived in Korea about over a year ago, I kept seeing ads for an eye clinic called BGN eye clinic in Gangnam, advertising great deals for lasek and lasik eye correction surgeries. I don’t really have the time to explain the differences between the two but to keep it short I got lasik.
My Relationship with Glasses
My relationship with glasses began in the 11th grade when I went to the nurses office to get a heating pad for my menstrual cramps, and walked out with not only a heating pad but also a note to my parents saying I needed glasses ASAP. I remember when I was younger and thought glasses were so cool; they made you look so smart but finally I got them, and I wasn’t wearing them often for aesthetic reasons (I wanted to look cute!). As I got older I started wearing them permanently because my vision seemed to be worsening.
Prior to coming to Korea, I would see ads for companies such as Lasikplus and Lasik vision institute which caught my interest but it was just sooo expensive plus they were charging by eye. The ads i saw in Korea boasted some pretty inexpensive prices. 700,000KRW (about $650) for lasek and 1,300,000KRW for lasik (about $1000) for both eyes.
One day in March, some friends and I planned a girls day in Seoul. Another friend who would be ending her contract soon mentioned she would be going to gangnam for a consultation. I asked her, “WHERE?” and she mentioned BGN. I said, “Omg, I wanna come!” She contacted the business manager at the clinic asking if she could fit me in and the answer was a yes!
So we hopped on the subway, looked for the clinic which is located in Kyobo Tower (you can get there from gangnam station exit 10 and then walk straight for 500m or simply Sinnonhyeon station exit 6; the building is right there when you exit). The consultation took awhile; so many eye tests checking cornea, optic nerve, astigmatism, blah blah blah. They mentioned that my cornea was a little thin and my astigmatism was very high which is something I wasn’t aware off. They even took a hair and saliva swab to do a dna test to determine if I had any conditions that would cause issues. I then spoke to a doctor who told me I qualified for both lasik and lasek, and asked which one I wanted. Lasek is cheaper however these are my eyes and you only get two. You don’t splurge on yo eyes! From what I know, lasik boasts faster recovery times and lasek takes longer, so many follow-up appointments, and is quite painful so I chose lasik.
I set my appointment for the first week of May where we would have a long holiday-weekend but after speaking to my friend who had her surgery a week later, I decided to push up the surgery date to the 29th (of April).
On the day of the surgery, I was super excited! I brought a friend with me (if you choose the lasik option and do not reside in Seoul; you will get one-night stay free of charge in a super nice hotel called hotel designers).
When I got to the clinic, I made my payment, I had an eye exam ; said my eyes looked good and another doctor plus an English-speaking staff member sat me down and explained the procedure, and what to do post-surgery to make sure my eyes are well-healed and without any problems.
It took maybe 30-40 minutes of all this before the surgery. Prior to entering the surgery room, I had to take off my shoes and place it along with other items I had with me in a locker. I was then adorned with a robe and a shower cap. A nurse came in and put in some numbing/anesthetic drops in my eyes and then I was seated in a dark roam with other people, told to keep my eyes closed, and wait for the surgeon to come get me. Then a surgeon came and led me into the operating room. I was placed under the one machine to cut the flaps, clamps were placed on my eyes to hold them open. I was told to not close my eyes (I admit I almost tried to close them because of the pressure but the surgeon kept telling me “keep your eyes open!” I guess the technology can track the movement of your eyes); at this machine the flaps were made then I was moved over to another machine where they would zap the lasers into my eyes. This all together took 10 minutes.
After that I was sent to a room to rest; my eyes were checked under the light and I was told to come back the following morning for a check up.
My vision was very blurry but as I kept going it started clearing up. Some describe it this way; when you are showering with hot water, the mirror gets cloudy because of the heat, but as time passes by; it all starts to clear up.
Btw I was given some drops plus artificial tears and was told not to fall asleep after the surgery for 4-5 hours. One drop was a steroid drop and I wasn’t sure what the other one was but it was yellow. I was told to apply them every 2-3 days; 4 times a day until they ran out.
20-30 minutes after the surgery, the anesthesia wore off and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. When we got to the hotel room, I just wanted to nap but my friend and I made the decision to go out to explore Itaewon and get some dinner. Thank goodness I had sunglasses.
My vision was improving but it certainly wasn’t 20/20 considering I knocked over a glass in a restaurant breaking it (oops!)
I also kept applying those artificial tears every 5-10 minutes.
I was also given some sleeping googles to slept with for 2 weeks so that I wouldn’t rub my eyes.
Also I could shower but not wash my face and apply makeup for 3 days (no eye makeup for 3 weeks). Challenge accepted! plus I only went to work on Tuesday so I am good there.
Day one Post-op
The following morning I woke up and I could see clearly! We were on the 12th or 14th floor of the hotel and I could look down and see people walking in the street. No blurry blobs, no squinting.
At the one-day check-up, we went through the routine. Read the eye chart, look at the little house in the thing, take pictures of my eye and then had my eyes looked at using the light. The nurse told me I wasn’t 20/20 yet but my eyes looked good. I was told to come back in one-week.
This week was the super long weekend holiday. I spent it in Busan with some friends. On Saturday I had to come back for another checkup. I got kinda discouraged at this check up because I was told I had a little inflammation in my eyes, and I was one line from 20/20. The inflammation was due to my eyes being super-dry and I blame myself for that. While in Busan, I was out and about a lot so I wasn’t applying the artificial tears as much as I should have.
I was also prescribed the one steroid again. I had to use it until it was done but here is where I goofed ya’ll; I didn’t ask where the drugstore was because I was under the impression that I could find it at any drugstore. I was wrong. I tried a pharmacy in Myeongdong; nope. I went to a pharmacy in my town but it was a no again. They told me they had the same drop but a different brand but couldn’t sell it to me without the permission of the eye clinic. Of course it was the day before the presidential election so the clinic closed early.
Luckily I had a Korean friend who said he would take me to an eye doctor in the morning who would look at my eyes and prescribe the drops for me, and that is what we did in the morning. I was in and out within five minutes and the cost of the visit plus the drops were cheap! (gotta love the Korean healthcare system).
I was also applying the artificial drops every 10-15 minutes. I do admit that a few days later while washing my face something got in my left eye (maybe it was an eyelash, maybe it was soap) and I ended up waking up with the left upper-eyelid more swollen than the other (the dryness causes puffy eyelids in the morning but this is no more because I now use Theratears dry eye therapy drops at night before bed.)
One-month post-op/final thoughts
At my one-month checkup, I am now 20/20 in both eyes and no inflammation! I am a bit concerned because I feel like one eye (right eye) is way better than the other (left); it’s not blurry but it is not as crisp as the other. I play camera a lot (look through one eye, then the other). Together they work really well but I was told at the consultation prior to surgery that one-eye would be better; the one manager wasn’t present so I wasn’t able to ask her about it but next time I will if this is still an issue at the 3-month check-up. I am still healing so we will see.
Overall I do not regret this procedure. I love my new eyes. I am still in the healing stages so I am praying for continued healing. I am aware that in old-age I will need glasses but who doesn’t?
As for my routine, I use Refresh Plus lubricating eye drops daily. At night I use Theratears dry eye therapy drops (blue box). They are thicker in consistency than regular artificial tears. Due to this night time routine, I no longer wake up with dry eyes and puffy eyelids. I purchased them on amazon.com and had them shipped to Korea via the shipping company boxoregon.com. Refresh drops are sold in Korea but the ones here are 36 vials per box while the ones sold in the U.S are 100 vials per box. I recently had my parents buy me two boxes of both drops and ship to me. I have to apply the drops for 3-6 months and then I will be able to produce my own tears again (I hope!).
As I sit here now at my desk at work, I realize I no longer apply the drops as much as I do. Previously, I noticed that my eyes are very dry on week days when I am working. As you all know; I am a teacher. I have to look at computer and TV screens often while teaching but I manage this by focusing my eyes away from the screen when I don’t need to. For example, if we are reading something on the computer, I read it directly from the books.