For as long as I can remember, I've worn glasses. I started out wearing them to see the board in school but my vision soon progressed from mild nearsightedness to not being able to see clearly more than a few inches in front of me. My eye doctor that I saw for many years before graduating college and coming to Korea suggested that if I was interested in laser eye surgery, I would have to wait until my eyesight was stable.
Fast-forward 15 years later, and a whole other country later. I finally decided that I would take the plunge and have laser surgery. My prescription hadn't changed in a long time, and having surgery in Korea instead of at home meant lower prices and excellent after-care, since Korea is THE place for having any kind of cosmetic or elective surgery done.
My next step was finding a place that I would feel comfortable having my surgery done. A few friends of mine have gotten surgery at the Baelgun Eye Clinic in Gwangju, but given the frequency of follow-up appointments, it was a little far for me logistically. I found the Dream Eye Clinic in Seoul, which has two locations: one in Myeongdong and one in Gangnam. Dream Eye has a reputation for being popular among foreigners, so I decided to schedule a consultation with them to see what made them such a good clinic.
An added benefit is that there is a direct bus from Suwon to Gangnam Station, making transport to and from the clinic easy. Yesterday I headed up to the clinic for an appointment to see if I was a good candidate for surgery. From the moment I walked in, I could tell this wasn't your normal eye clinic, and in a good way. You give your information to the receptionist, who then sets you up with your own personal testing assistant, as well as a surgery consultant.
Mr. Choo was very helpful in explaining all of the tests as he did them on my eyes. There are 24 different tests in all that measure your eye shape, prescription, pressure, corneal thickness, depth perception, the works. The tests are explained on their website and in the info book they give you to take home after your consultation. Mr. Choo saw from my alien card that I used to live in Gwangju, which is where his family lives. We were able to chat about many Gwangju-related topics, which further helped me to feel at ease.
After all the tests were finished, then I met with Susan Park, who is my personal surgery consultant. She explained the differences between LASIK and LASEK, as well as outlining the pros and cons of each. Then she went over my test results. I was recommended for LASEK surgery for a few reasons that she explained:
- My long history of wearing contacts (15 years)
- My steep astigmatism in my right eye, which would make cutting a LASIK flap difficult
- Less chance of halos when driving at night
- A more stable surgery for long-term, especially since I will be going home next spring
She then explained the machines that would be used to do my surgery, which includes a new Wavefront laser that automatically tracks your eye movements for the most precise treatment. LASEK surgery doesn't involve cutting a flap in the cornea; rather, the outer epithelial layer of the eye is removed with a special alcohol solution to allow for laser treatment. That layer then regrows on top of your new, repaired cornea. With LASIK surgery, the flap never truly heals and can sometimes be damaged if one is not careful. LASEK takes a little longer to heal than LASIK but after reading the research and the book that the clinic gave me, I feel better about the stability of LASEK.
The price of surgery at Dream Eye includes all the follow-up visits and all the medicinal eye drops you need. The eye drops alone can cost around $200, so by including them in the price of surgery, the clinic can put everything together for a good package deal. I got two discounts because of when I chose to do my surgery (in the summertime most people are on vacation and don't have surgery done), and because Mr. Choo recommended one since he liked that I lived in Gwangju. Gotta love how random Korea is sometimes. Of course, I'm not complaining about discounts! In total, my Wavefront MLASEK surgery will cost 1.6 million won for both eyes (about $1440). At home it would have cost me about twice that, given my prescription! It may seem steep to some, but it's an investment I am looking forward to making. I did a lot of research on both surgery types before I decided to go in for a consultation, and then asked a bunch of questions once I was there. I even met with my surgeon to confirm the surgery recommendation and to double-check the test results. Each of the surgeons at the clinic has performed over 20,000 surgeries with 1-2% of patients experiencing any sort of regression in their surgery. Those numbers, as well as the extensive screening and preparation process assure me that this clinic knows what they are doing. It is a preferred clinic among foreigners for a reason!
My surgery is scheduled for September 29th, over the Chuseok holidays. I opted for that weekend because I will have a long weekend (5 days) to recover after surgery, spending time in my apartment and not worrying about social or work obligations. I've read about what to expect following surgery (mild pain and discomfort) so I want to be able to just relax at home. I'll let you know how it goes!