For quite some time I have considered having laser eye surgery to correct my shortsightedness but back in South Africa, it was obscenely expensive. To my delight, I learned that in Korea, the procedure is quite common, far more advanced and best of all, VERY affordable. So thanks to Aneesa’s affinity for research and deal hunting, we were able to find a reasonably priced and well accredited eye center.
Here is an excerpt from dealiciouskorea.com regarding the center of choice. “Gangnam St. Mary’s Eye Center is helmed by Dr. Heejong Lee and Dr. Sunghwan Kim, who both received their MDs from St. Mary’s hospital, renowned for its best optometry program in Korea. Both doctors have conducted Lasik and Lasek surgery since 1999, accident free. The doctors employ the latest techniques to help correct a broad range of ailments, including nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. Most procedures produce 20/20 results or better, reducing the need for glasses or allowing patients to quit their spectacles cold turkey. Gangnam St. Mary’s Eye Center’s treatment includes total care by a doctor and a life time guarantee service in case your eyesight worsens.”
I found this to be an excellent pitch, and made my arrangements to set up a consultation which I went for last weekend. The “pre consultation” as it is referred to, is complimentary, and what it involves is a series of tests where you place your head on fancy optometry machines and have a consultant measure and test everything they need to ascertain whether you are eligible for the procedures, and which procedure would be best for you (more on that later). I had been for a consult of this nature in South Africa; the difference however, was immense. Back in SA, this consult cost an exorbitant amount of money and the test seemed archaic compared to what I had experienced here. That removed any doubt I could have had about getting this surgery in Korea.
Now to get into my experience; upon booking my consult via email, I was immediately made to feel very welcome and important. The woman I am dealing with is Dana Lee. She speaks English very well and is extremely accommodating. However she does seem to be the only person I met there who speaks fluent English. The rest of the employees seem to understand and can communicate the basics, but not much more than that. This isn’t really a problem when you go for your pre consultation because once you arrive; you sit down on one of the fancy couches in the modern, spacious, well lit waiting area and fill out some forms. While I waited I was given a form to read over that explains all the scary stuff about what can go wrong and what risks are involved and basically everything you need to know should the unlikely occur. I must confess I would have rather chosen to be blissfully unaware of the numerous possible risks.
After a few minutes, an optometrist called me into the exam room. This exam room looks like something out of a science fiction movie with all these weird instruments and machines. I couldn’t help but entertain the fantasy that I was a subject being studied for my alien qualities. Getting back to reality, I was quite impressed with how thorough and efficient my “handler” was. There are a series of test you go through in which they basically take measurements of your eyes. None of them are difficult since all you have to do is look at a light or picture and keep your eyes open for a few seconds while they are doing the test.
There were some tests that need a special mention. One is an eye pressure test, where you look at a light, and the machine blows a quick burst of air at your eye… the optometrist does prepare you for it but it is a very foreign feeling that always hits you with a brief shock. The tear test is where the stick a piece of paper of some sort into the outside corner of your bottom eye lid. The test is to gauge your tear production rate. It was very slightly uncomfortable during insertion, but is quite easy to get used to once it is placed there. After this test I got a standard eye test as per the process. It is then on to the most interesting part of the testing. You get this eye drop put in your eyes which are meant to numb the eyeball. Your “handler” then takes a pen shaped contraption, connected to another machine and places it on the eye to test something I didn’t fully understand most likely because I was in awe of the whole concept of having this “pen” on my eye and I could see it, but couldn’t feel anything… almost like putting a pen tip on a camera lens as you are about to take a picture. You then get one more eye drop; this miracle drop dilates your pupils and makes the world seem brighter and almost surreal 😀 although its purpose is for a final check by the head doctor later on.
Soon after the tests were complete, I was called into a consultation room to discuss my results and my options with Dana and after that, with the head doctor. I was advised to consider the LASEK procedure since the thickness of my cornea would prevent me from being eligible for LASIK. For a quick description on the procedure, click HERE.
So after years of anticipation, tests and consultations in two countries, and just over half a paycheck, I am due to have my LASEK eye surgery on Saturday, July 21, 2012.
Stay tuned for post op updates next week (the operation will be this Saturday!).
Directions to St. Mary’s Eye Center:
St. Mary’s Eye Center is situated in Gangnam, Seoul. To get to it by subway is fairly easy. Simply take the subway on line 2, the green line. Leave Gangnam station through exit 10. Walk straight for about 100m. Your landmark to look out for would be “The Body Shop” on your left. You will continue past the body shop on to the next building, which is called the Dae Dong building and has a Woori bank. Enter the building and take the elevator to the 5th floor… you have reached your destination.