To See or Not to See

Photo by Jorge

So, for a long, long time I’ve wanted laser eye surgery. And since I made a little bit of extra cash by working way too many jobs over the past few months, I figure I deserve a reward and what better reward than vision, right?I know a fair number of people who have had it done and every single one of them¹ has described it the same way: It’s a life changing experience. You can wake up in the morning and see the alarm clock across the room. You can go swimming without worrying whether you will lose a contact lens. You don’t have to think about bringing your lens case and solution and glasses if you want to spend the night somewhere other than your home. You never again have to deal with fogged up glasses when coming in from the cold in the winter or the surprisingly excruciating pain of getting an eyelash caught under your contact lens or… well, the list goes on.
And make no mistake, my vision really is terrible. My prescription is -7.5 in one eye and -8.5 in the other. To translate that into laypeople terms, that means that when I walk into the optometrist’s office and they say “Read the smallest line you can read,” I say, “E.” Seriously. I can’t read the second line on the eye chart without my glasses or contacts. Having such terrible vision also means that my glasses are exorbitantly priced. So much so that I’m still wearing the pair I bought when I wen to the U of Guelph², 8 years ago. I haven’t had enough money to buy both glasses *and* contacts since then… even under my current benefits package, I only get enough to buy a year’s worth of contacts, or half a pair of glasses, every second year. And seeing as how I’m so vain and don’t like how I look in glasses, I always go for the contacts.

So now I’m going to go in for some consultations to see if I’m even a candidate for surgery, as apparently not everyone is. I’m not planning to get the surgery done until August, after the summer hockey season starts but before the winter hockey season begins, but I’d rather find out now if I not suitable for surgery rather than having my hopes up all summer.

The two places I’m considering are:

Photo credit: deqalb on Flickr

My own optometrist got her surgery done at Pacific and I’m thinking that if she trusts them with her eyes, they must be good! However, if I go there it will cost me $3900, plus post-surgery follow up visits. If I go to Coal Harbour, which I’ve also heard very good things about, it will only cost me $2400, including follow up visits. Now, I don’t want to cheap out when it comes to my vision, but I also don’t want to pay twice as much as I have to if it’s not actually a better service. My plan right now is to go to consultations at both and to ask the doctors at both places why there is such a price discrepancy. I’m especially curious as to why the former charges more if you have a higher prescription, while the later charges a flat fee regardless of your prescription. I can’t see why the cost should change depending on your ‘script… doesn’t the surgery take the same amount of time and effort regardless? I suppose I’ll know more once I talk to the docs.

In the meantime, does anyone out there have any thoughts on this? Does anyone know one or the other (or both) of these Centres? Any thoughts?

¹I have heard two stories of a friend-of-a-friend who had problems, but not about anyone in who is in Canada.
² where the student health plan covered glasses

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  • After your research, if you are still unsure of the justification for cost, my small advice is to go big. Definitely don’t go cheap on your peepers. Maybe you should start a “fund raiser for Dr. Beth’s Peepers”. After all, you have been entertaining many of us in the internets for a while now. Plus, if you can’t see how are you supposed to blog? So really, it’s not about your eyes so much as it is about our entertainment. Anyway, I’d definitely donate to such a worthy cause.


  • I have also considered eye surgery. We should chat about this sometime. Although I don’t have 8, I think my eye is considered technically blind in Mexico.


  • @Kalev – 8 is legally blind, eh? Do you have a reference for this allegation?? And does it mean that if I close my left eye (the -8.5), then I’m not longer legally blind?

    @dan – Ya, I’m thinking I’ll err on the side of caution. I’ll keep all y’all posted on my research!


  • Oh okay, I looked it up: it’s only considered legal blindness if you can’t be corrected to better than 20/200. What 20/200 is if you would have to be 20 feet away from something to see it properly that someone with 20/20 vision (perfect) could see at 200 feet.

    But yeah, if you look it up on wikipedia (no I’m not posting the link, do your own faux research) the huge E at the top of the chart is the 20/200 limit.


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