The procedure itself is almost impossible to describe, because it's like nothing else. There are no reference points that I can give you for what it feels like. Even though they're good about telling you exactly what’s going on and reassuring you - I had a nurses hand to hold throughout - it's viscerally terrifying. Someone is fiddling around with your eyes and all your instincts are that this is not a good thing. But it is.
They start by taping down the eyelashes so that you can't blink (fortunately, no Clockwork Orange like equipment is evident). Then they place a ring over your eye and tighten it to hold the part of your eye which bulges out in place as much as possible. Although you can't feel this directly because they give you anaesthetic eye-drops, you can feel the pressure on your eyeball. Next there is a smaller ring, which is a guide for the flap cutting equipment. This is pushed down hard on your eye so that it blacks out and you can't see anything (the eye they're not working on is covered with gauze). When they start up the tiny knife which cuts the flap, it sounds like a little dentists machine, you can't help but flinch but then you have to hold still while the flap in your cornea is cut. That done, the smaller ring is removed and you stare up at the little red light and they start the laser. This makes a strange humming sound. You can feel an odd heat in your eye and you can actually smell the smell of bits of your cornea being burnt away. After about 40 seconds it's done and they gently lift the flap back over the treated area - you can actually see the difference as they lift it back over although you can't see the flap itself. Then they cover the eye with a plastic shield and gauze and it's on to the next one.
After the whole thing is complete, you just lie there for a couple of minutes getting your breath back and trying to let your muscles relax. After you're feeling a little less shaky, you sit up and the nurse takes you through to a darkened recovery room where you can sit back on a recliner and they bring you tea. You're also allowed hugs from your companion :) I found that I was already conscious of a huge improvement over my old eyesight although because of the dilation and the fact that your eyes water like a river fine things are still fuzzy and unclear. After half an hour or so, the surgeon will take a look at the flaps and check that they're in position. If they look alright (and mine look fine apparently) then you're off. They strongly recommend that you take paracetamol at this point and I can see why - even with them, my eyes were really stinging by the time we got to the station and the anaesthetic has worn off. You get to switch the eye shields (which are just clear plastic ovals stuck on with medical tape) for sunglasses before you head out, but I found that even with my sunglasses on, things were extremely, uncomfortably bright so I got Alex to guide me back to the station while I had my eyes shut, which was an interesting trust game. Once home, with a cup of tea, I just felt really wiped out. I was already noticing my focus improving but I was just exhausted by the whole procedure, so while Alex popped home to get a tie for his interview, I went upstairs for a nap.
After an hour or so of dozing with the radio on, I was feeling miles better. The stinging had completely subsided and my eyes had stopped watering pretty much. I was able to watch Buffy and Angel and even read the subtitles without any problems. After a night's sleep protected by the eye shields again I seem to be able to do pretty much all my normal activities. I can read comfortably and I seem to be doing alright on the computer - I can focus fine on it, although it is becoming a bit tiring now. Although it's not something I'd want to do again in a hurry, I'm so pleased I went through with it. I just can't quite believe that I won't have to take my contact lenses out when I go to bed because now it's intrinsic. I lay there last night and every now and then as I dropped off I would suddenly think "Bugger - I've forgotten my contact lenses!" and then remember that no I haven't. That's the whole point.