For Christmas, I decided to treat myself to gift of sight (20/20 in 2020!) I traveled from Shenzhen to Hainan (a quick hour and a half direct flight) for laser eye surgery, also known as LASIK. The procedure costs a fraction of the price on the sunny island province compared to major cities in China. There’s even a high-speed train connecting Haikou to Sanya if you want to make a full beach holiday out of it.
In Shenzhen the procedure starts at RMB17,500 while clinics in Hainan start at RMB7,900. I decided to go with Hi-Vision Center after a few referrals from a couple of friends. On a regular day the clinic sees around 20-25 patients and during high season that number climbs to 90 patients a day. It was also a bonus that the chief surgeon operated on my eyes for the surgery and there was also a translator for the whole procedure.
Here’s a breakdown of some key information:
Reception area. Image via Summer Lin
One-Week Pre-Surgery: I was instructed to stop wearing contacts as they can cause corneal swelling which can affect the accuracy of eye measurements prior to surgery. Glasses only!
There were three options to chose from, I choose the cheapest option. This was the doctor’s analogy: the first level is a vintage BMW, second is a Rolls-Royce and the third is NASA-level. (Yes, I’m also unsure why vehicle references aren’t used throughout). The difference in pricing is due to the technology used to cut the corneal flap.
Glasses Prescription: -4.50 and -5.25 with astigmatism in both eyes. I’ve worn lenses for over 15 years.
Time: The actual treatment took five minutes. However from start to finish I was at the center for around three hours. It was a very intense experience, there were three beds and three machines in each room – a quick, efficient assembly line.
Pre-surgery: the most important and surprising part was how intense it was prepping my eyes. They washed my eyes four times before the procedure, constantly put drops in my eyes, plopped a hair net on me and dressed me in scrubs and plastic slides.
Surgery: I went in, laid down and there were four people around the bed including a translator. They cleaned my eyes, stuck a speculum to keep my eyelids wide open and told me to stare at the light and not move. I then started hearing a steady clicking noise while the lasers fired.
Recovery: Your sensitivity post-surgery depends on the thickness of your cornea. My cornea was thicker (thanks mom and dad) so it didn’t hurt as much. It might feel like there’s sand in your eye but that’s completely normal. I also had to stay for at least 30 minutes after because another round of eye drops were needed.
I was told protective glasses aren’t needed, I don’t need to stay out of the sun and I wasn’t given pain medication. I was, however, sent home with four types of eye drops which will need to be used for a month. Patients also have to refrain from swimming or martial arts for a month and using eye makeup for a week. The doctor also taught me a set of eye exercises with my finger and I was advised to practice reading at a distance that seems blurry to retrain my focal point.
Drops for days. Image via Summer Lin
My eyes have been pretty dry in the following days and I even accidentally missed my flight back home but staying in sunny Sanya for an extra day or two wasn’t the worst thing in the world.
Hi-Vision Center. 8am-6pm. Wuxi Lu, Haidian Island, Meilan District, Haikou, Hainan Province 海南省海口市美兰区海甸岛五西路8-1号港湾花园1楼 海南眼视光学中心 (hi-vision.info)
[Cover image via Unsplash]