I’ve actually been to both operating rooms for laser surgery and I have two very difference experiences. The total TLC experience from start to finish was excellent and wins hands-down.
I started out like almost everyone else; I scheduled appointments at each center for a consult to see if I was eligible for Lasik after wearing glasses since the 4th grade. My first stop, Dr. Holzman at TLC, said yes to laser surgery but insisted PRK instead of Lasik because my corneas were too soft. I didn’t know what PRK was at the time but found out that its laser surgery similar to Lasik that takes a little longer to recover from. After talking with Dr. Holzman and listening to his informative, live in-person, patient seminar following my consult, I realized I felt good about what I was hearing and that this is something I would like to do so I scheduled my appointment for PRK at TLC.
I kept my consult at The Eye Center just to get a second opinion and something to compare with. I will say that the staff at both places was very nice. However, I didn’t meet the surgeon, Dr Boutros, at the Eye Center during the consult, I met with staff doctors. I actually told them what Dr. Holzman had said about me having soft corneas and both the aid that first took my information down and the doctor I met with said they’d never heard of that and that it’s not a real eye diagnosis. The doctor went on to say that “we don’t go poking around people’s eyes like that” and the worst that would happen is that I might get an abrasion on my eye during the flap creation process, but, just like all scratches, “it’s no big deal….it would heal” and said that to the contrary, I was a good candidate for Lasik. Now, what came next is a classic case of hearing what I wanted to hear. I say this because I actually put a lot more weight into what Dr Holzman had told me for several reasons: 1) he’s a cornea specialist 2) I was able to talk with the surgeon that would be doing my surgery 3) The consult was more thorough (him poking around my eyes during the consult was actually a good thing). But being impatient/stupid/whatever, I chose the option that was the quickest, not what I thought was best. That decision ultimately came back to haunt me.
I went in for Lasik surgery with Dr Boutros. They collected my money and gave me a valium in the lobby by pouring it out of an envelope, then had me wait awhile – too long as I felt the effects of the valium wear off. Several times they sent me in a room with a different doctor than I’d seen before to do a final check on my eyes. Again, the staff was nice but revolving. Finally, right before the procedure Dr B walks in and starts talking at me with what appeared to be some canned speech he must tell everyone. Honestly, I don’t remember for certain but I don’t think he even looked at my eyes. It was quick and he seemed interested in telling me why he chose the laser he did (which was funny because he said the government chose it for the AF, NASA, etc…I just laughed thinking “great, the government probably chose the lowest bidder and why is he trying to sell me on it now – I’m paid up and ready to walk into surgery when he gets done talking”). Anyway, my point is that it was not a personal conversation. It was him walking in the room 5 minutes prior to surgery and talking at me.
They take me to the operating room, which is openly visible by anyone in the lobby, and put me on the table. When Dr Boutros walks in, he puts in numbing drops, puts in the eyelid opener then tried to place the suction device for the flap on my eye. My eye socket is pretty small and he had lots of difficulty fitting it in. Unfortunately, he became impatient and very frustrated and began to snap at me. He then pulled the eyelid opener off and tried to push the suction device in without it – I black out in that eye for a second then he pulls it off and snaps “we’ll have to do PRK” and he’s obviously mad. He walks away from me and the two assistants go with him (no one has said anything to me at this point – they just leave me laying there). Of course I start to panic because last thing I know is I lost my vision in that eye for a second then everyone walks away. I glance over to my wife (and apparently the whole lobby) through the window with a “I don’t know what’s happening” look. Shortly after, one assistant eventually comes back and tells me I can get up and escorts me out to a patient room. This is where another doctor tells me that my eye is too small for the suction device and they can’t do Lasik. A few minutes later Dr Boutros finally leans in the doorway and basically reiterates that my eye is too small – then off to his next patient I guess. Thankfully, they did offer to refund my payment. They offered to do PRK for me but I’d already made my decision that I wasn’t coming back. If I was doing PRK, I’d go to the doctor that recognized that right away.
I went home that day and waited for all the numbing drops to fade away thinking my vision would eventually get back to normal. However, I found that about four hours after surgery, my eye had swollen, and the vision had gotten progressively worse. About seven hours after they attempted surgery, my vision in my left eye was gone – all I could see was a milky white light or dark – nothing in-between. And the pain was unbearable! My right eye was fine, only I couldn’t use it because it teared up due to the pain of my left eye. Any time my left eye moved, at all, it was extremely painful. So I basically laid in bed and kept my eyes closed for two days until I could tolerate the pain enough to open my eyes. On the plus side, I lost two pounds. Unfortunately, it was a Friday night when my eye started to lose sight and swell, so I had to wait until the morning to call the doctors to treat it. They gave me an anti-biotic ointment on Saturday which helped, but the intense pain lasted for almost two days. On Monday I could see again, but not clearly in that eye for nearly a week while the cornea healed. Obviously something happened in that operating room that I didn’t know about until I was gone and the numbing drops wore off. It was left untreated for almost 24 hours until I got the ointment.
As embarrassed as I was to go back to Dr Holzman and TLC after going to their competitor and attempting to do a surgery against his advice, that’s exactly what I did – it was the only option I trusted. With my head hung low, I went back to Dr Holzman and explained what happened. Even walking into the lobby of TLC I felt relieved – it’s truly a different (positive) experience there.
I go to TLC for PRK on a Friday with Dr Holzman. They get me in a patient room as soon as I get there and do all of the standard checks prior to surgery. Again, the staff was extremely pleasant and you could tell it was an efficiently planned event. No waiting in the lobby, no waiting in patient rooms all day. From the moment I got there each member of the staff played their role in perfect sync. They had a well planned recovery kit to give me (bag with all the supplies I’d need immediately to help recover including UV sunglasses and UV goggles for sleeping and sports), as well as documented instructions. Like I said, it was efficient, after the instructions and kit were given to me, they checked my eyes to make sure everything was still good, gave me some valium then put the numbing drops in and took me to the operating room. One thing I like immediately about this was that the operating room was not visible to the whole lobby, but it was open for my wife to look in on if I chose to (I did). Apparently, they even have the surgery displayed on a monitor so she could see more easily. The other thing I notice right away is the music. I walk into the operating room and music is playing (not elevator music, but cool music) which definitely helps ease the tension. The assistants helped me get into place. It was easy to relax on the table because of the lack of tension in the room. I think that speaks a lot to the different styles of the two doctors I saw.
Once I’m settled on the table Dr Holzman walks in and asks how I’m doing. He’s also talking with the assistants but I can’t help but notice the lack of tension in the room compared to what I had recently been through. In all, the PRK surgery for both eyes was done in about 15 minutes. It was as advertised, no pain at all. During the not-so-critical parts (i.e. when the laser wasn’t on) Dr Holzman was even talking to me during the procedure. Finally, he says “we’re done” and he removes the eyelid openers and I’m shocked – I can actually see, and it’s clear. I guess with my previous experience at The Eye Center and knowing that I was having PRK, I just didn’t expect to see that well right after surgery. In fact, the next day at my follow-up exam, I was seeing 20/40 and was experiencing zero pain or discomfort. I’m now at day 7 post surgery as I write this and I’ve still not experienced any pain or discomfort.
The costs for both doctors was roughly the same (not different enough that when you’re spending that kind of money on your eyes, that the cost would dictate your choice), yet the service obtained at TLC and by Dr. Holzman was just outstanding. While The Eye Center staff (with exception of the surgeon) was equally pleasant, it really came across like an assembly line feel in comparison.
There is no comparison. I would only go back to TLC and Dr Holzman, and that’s the only recommendation that I would give to anyone else as well.
Great experience! My wife is even considering this now based on my experience. If she does, it will definitely be with you.