From Blind Bat to Bionic Eyes! My Experience Getting Implantable Contact Lenses

Fellow blind bats, this post is for you! This post is for people whose eyesight is so bad they’ve been rejected from Lasik. People who have little indents on the bridge of their nose because their glasses are so heavy and laden with power. This post is about ICL – Implantable Contact Lenses!

Now, a lot of people have not heard about ICL. Pretty much everyone has heard about LASIK, but if you ask most people about ICL you’re going to get crickets. In fact, I once posted on Facebook asking if anyone knew about ICL and I got zero replies. Zero!

First, let’s start off with my power. On my left eye, my power is -11, while my right eye is -10. If you’re Malaysian, that means my power is 1,100 on the left and 1,000 on the right.

At this point, usually people (even optometrists) would shake their heads sadly and ask me how I even managed to destroy my eyesight to this level.

Now, I’ve been wearing contact lenses since I was 12. Unfortunately, I developed an allergy for it 2.5 years ago. For those of you wearing contact lenses, I learnt from my doctor that it is very normal to build an intolerance to lenses after about a decade of wearing them for long periods of time. So if you wear lenses, try to give your eyes more of a break!

After developing the intolerance, my doctor told me to stop wearing contacts for a total year, which I did. It doesn’t sound like much, but I absolutely hated wearing glasses. They were incredibly heavy on my face, they were constantly sliding down my nose, they made me feel ugly, and I could not longer wear eye makeup, which I loved! The reason was that my sight was so bad I could not see where to put the makeup on my eye if I didn’t have a lens in my eye.

 I admit it sounds very frivolous, but wearing glasses depressed me.

Some people look really cool with their glasses but I looked like a giant nerd. I didn’t feel like myself anymore. I went to the eye doctor in Malaysia to see if I could get LASIK, but I was told that I was disqualified because my cornea was too thin and my power too high. Now, how LASIK works is that it shaves off a little bit of your eyeball. The thing is, because my power was so high my cornea was already stretched very thin, and because it was really high, they would have to shave off a lot of eyeball, which I didn’t have. Damn you skinny eyeball!

Now, please note that I’m not a doctor or have any expertise in optometry – this is all information I have gleaned off the net, so I’m going to give you a very layman, simplistic understanding of what I have. For more details, please go to a qualified doctor!

I asked the doctor in Malaysia if there was any other option for me. They mentioned ICL, but cautioned me that like with any surgery, it would come with risks and complications. They were not very encouraging about it, and the thought of implanting a contact lens in my eye scared me. Oh, yes, that’s how it works. They make a little incision in your eye, slot a lens in, and boom! Eyesight!

Then I moved to Singapore. One of the first things I did was to head to the eye doctor again. I thought, hey! Maybe they have better technology and I could do LASIK here. Unfortunately, I was again rebuffed, for all the same reasons. The doctor also mentioned ICL but told me he didn’t see a need for it and I should continue wearing glasses.

I wore glasses and contacts intermittently over two years, completely hating every time I had to put my glasses on. After that, I moved to Japan, and in my second month of being here I went to an eye doctor, once again hoping I would be allowed to do LASIK.

Well, no. Again, I was rejected.

It finally dawned on me that I could do a world tour to look for different eye doctors and I would never qualify for LASIK.

The difference this time was that the doctor nonchalantly suggested ICL. He had done is over 3,000 times.

Hmm. The thought of someone who had cut up about 6,000 eyeballs assured me. At this point, I was so sick of my bad eyesight I decided to go for it.

Here’s How It Works:

First, you get your eyes checked to see if you’re a candidate for ICL. Once you are, they measure every little bit of your eye and order custom lenses for you. Lenses are made in America, and then sent to Switzerland for a quality check, before arriving in Tokyo. I was told it would take 1.5 months for the lenses to arrive, but it took 3 months. I wasn’t in any big rush, so I was happy to wait. Oh, and you also have to put down a deposit here – 2,500USD.

Since this is Japan, everything was done in Japanese. The first time I went to the clinic, they promised me an English translator but the translator didn’t materialize. The nurses and I managed to get through the eye examination with a lot of sign language. However, the doctor spoke English and explained the surgery to me. The second time I went, I brought my Japanese friend and things made a lot more sense then!

Tip : Find good hearted Japanese friend who will be willing to go for boring eye examinations with you. Thank you my beloved Yurie!

The day of the operation, I was pretty freaked out when I entered the operating theatre. The doctor had reassured me that there would be no pain, but I was still frightened. The idea of someone slicing open your eyeball is a little bit creepy to say the least!

First, I have to say that the surgery really has zero pain. The doctor was also very reassuring because he walked me through the entire surgery in English.

“Now, you might feel a little pressure, but don’t worry. There will be no pain.”

“Now, it’s important you don’t move your eye.”

“Now, we are done!”

Ok, he did say a lot more things other than those 3 sentences but I think in my fear I have forgotten what he said. What you should be aware of, if you ever do this surgery, is that the most uncomfortable part about the surgery is you have to stare directly at a bright light with your eye open. Imagine someone holding a torch to your open eye. Your natural reflex is going to be to close your eye. The doctors tape your eye open and constantly spray some sort of liquid in it (I’m assuming so it doesn’t get dry and make you want to blink). The reason you need to look at the light is because the surgery is done under a microscope and they need to see where to make the incision and put in the lens. It’s uncomfortable, but not painful. The doctor also warned me every time there would be pressure, which was helpful. There was slight pressure at points, but nothing uncomfortable.

They started with my right eye, then my left eye. This was probably the longest 15 minutes of my life. I remember lying on the operating theatre, wondering how my vanity had gotten me so far as to get my eyeball spliced open and if it was worth this amount of fear. In hindsight, I think it’s more of the thought of the surgery that’s scarier than the actual surgery. Think of someone making an incision in your eye. Aren’t you cringing already?

Anyway, the coolest part of the surgery was when the lens was slipped in. I could suddenly see. My natural vision, which is usually blurry blobs of vision, suddenly changed into a crystal cream screen. I felt like, OMG! I’m seeing life in high definition now!

The entire surgery took about 15 minutes, and then I was asked to rest for about 30 minutes. On the first day, I was given tons and tons of eye drops to put in my eyes. I did the surgery on a Saturday, and I went to work on Tuesday. This surgery is great because there isn’t much downtime. My eyes were working fine (although on the first day, they got a little blur after a while but I was told it was normal and vision would be great the next day). This was true!

One thing that they didn’t tell me was about the halo effect I would get at night. It’s OK for me because I don’t drive in Tokyo, but if you’re driving you might want to take heed you’re going to be out of commission for night driving for about 3-6 months. Lights just have a halo and flare around them. I’ve also noticed that my halo and flare get a lot worse if I look at the laptop the entire day and am straining my eyes. If I don’t strain my eyes, I’m fine.

It’s been four months since my surgery and the halo is getting much better, and on days when I don’t look at the laptop my night vision is perfect. I’ll be reporting an update after 6 months to see if my halo is totally gone!

A lot of people discouraged me from ICL. They found it an unnecessary surgery, something foolhardy. I get where they’re coming from – after all, it’s a pretty unheard of surgery and well, since you only have one pair of eyeballs, messing them up is a damn scary thought. Another friend of mine, however pointed this out :

 ‘Your eyes are so incredibly terrible anyway, what do you have to lose?’

In conclusion, I’m incredibly happy with the surgery. I’d only recommend it if you have really bad eyesight like mine, and you’re allergic to contacts. I would never have done this if I could still keep wearing contact lenses. But be warned, it’s expensive. The total surgery cost me 7,500 USD. I’m taking this as a lifetime investment, but I definitely feel the pinch of this!

I hope you found this helpful! If you would like to follow the Bionic Bat, please subscribe or follow Little Slices on Facebook!


Ann Jie

Loves good conversations and hates small talk. Finds people fascinating and wonders why meanies exist. Loves writing violent, graphic short stories but finds horror movies too scary to watch. Follow me on Instagram @annjieslices or tweet me a slice of YOUR life at @annjieslices!

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