For many short-sighted individuals, laser eye surgery, or Lasik, can be a real lifesaver. But when it all goes wrong, a small proportion of people are left suffering lifelong (and incredibly painful) consequences.
And now, one TikToker has started an online community for those suffering.
Now, short-sightedness can be a real blight on someone's life.
Sure, there are glasses and contact lenses, but both of these solutions are imperfect and can be super annoying. So, since 1999, around ten million Americans opt instead for Lasik, a procedure in which lasers are applied to the cornea in order to correct the vision. It can be totally life-changing and boasts a ninety-six percent success rate.
However, for some individuals in the unlucky 4 percent, things go very badly wrong...
One such individual is thirty-three-year-old Erin Orchard.
She's in the 1 percent of people who suffer long-term complications following Lasik and has taken to social media both to share her story, and to help find others in the same situation.
Orchard is part of a laser eye surgery complications support group, and it's clear members are really suffering. "Since I joined the group in 2019, I believe 3 people have [died by s*icide]," Orchard told BuzzFeed, "S*icidal ideation and s*icide is common amongst people who suffer from laser eye surgery complications, such as chronic pain."
Orchard's journey began back in January 2019, when she opted to have elective laser eye surgery in the run-up to her wedding day.
"The surgery experience itself was very uncomfortable and distressing. My surgeon instructed me to have a couple of alcoholic drinks before arriving, to reduce any nerves," she explained.
"I experienced a severe panic attack during the surgery and repeatedly asked the surgeon to stop... However, a staff member held me and in approximately fifteen minutes the surgery was complete and I left the clinic, still quite shaken. My partner said he had heard what sounded like cries coming from the operating room, but didn't go in because he was scared that by interrupting the procedure, he would put my health at risk."
Soon after, she realized something was terribly wrong.
"My eyes felt as though they were burning and someone was pushing small shards of glass into them. It hurt even to blink, and simple occurrences, such as a small gust of wind, would cause me to fall to the ground in blinding pain. I was also experiencing significant light sensitivity, which led to my partner having to cover up the windows in our apartment."
She rescheduled an appointment with her doctor but claims he was "visibly intoxicated" during it.
Orchard launched a formal complaint against the doctor but has yet to reach any resolution. In the meantime, she's left suffering a huge amount of traumatic symptoms, including neuropathic corneal pain, plus depression, anxiety, and PTSD. She also has financial stresses and has launched a GoFundMe to help with her medical costs, as well as putting starting a family on hold.
"I am grieving for the life I have lost, but also for the future I envisioned for myself. It hurts to see my savings used on medical expenses instead of my first home. I often find myself bursting into tears when someone posts a pregnancy announcement on social media. To make matters worse, crying increases my eye pain," she explained.
But while Erin hopes for some level of relief for her pain and justice for what has happened to her, at least she has found an online community to support her through this horrific time.
Each of her TikTok videos has been inundated with comments from supporters and fellow sufferers. "I'm so sorry you have to endure this. You are very strong," wrote one. "Praying you find something to alleviate your suffering. Remember you have gotten through all your bad days!" offered another.
"I feel proud of the content," Orchard said. "It's not easy to share your chronic pain journey in such a public way, but together, we're reaching a lot of people and informing them of potential laser eye surgery risks they may not have considered."