Unbelievably, 20/20

Sunday, September 24, 2017

I never thought that I could say this again but I can finally see clearly through my own eyes. I’m still getting used to it but I’m back to 20/20 vision, and I couldn’t be more grateful and thankful for all the love and support of the people who made a little girl’s dream come to life. 

I used to struggle with thick glasses and contact lenses but now I have no hassle of these "external aids" anymore. God has truly blessed me with an opportunity in disguise and it’s truly in his own perfect timing that I was able to witness my most life-changing experience ever. 

Last Friday, I went through my first ever surgery at Asian Eye Institute. As shared with you all before, I failed the Lasik screening because of my high myopia and astigmatism. Although, luckily, I was still able to pass a test called Phakic IOL Implantation or Implantable Contact Lenses (ICL).

Having this surgery done has been by far one of the most important treasures in my life and I’d love to share with you all this amazing journey of mine.

If you ask me, I’ve never felt so ALIVE cause an ultimate dream of mine has come true in what I believe was God’s perfect timing. 

Road to ICL 
Just a quick recap... I went through a four hour screening at AEI (Asian Eye Institute) 3 weeks ago to check if whether or not I was a candidate for Lasik. Sadly, I didn’t pass the test but it turned out to be a great blessing in disguise cause I found out that my retina was very weak and close to detaching. Mind you, having a detached retina could cause loss of vision. So to strengthen it, I had a retina laser procedure done which happened for around 10 minutes. 

During this same time period, I was introduced to Dr. Ang who talked to me and my parents about ICL. Not to get our hopes up, his expertise definitely assured me of one of the biggest decisions I had to make. To be honest, deciding to go through the surgery was really tough for me because of the external factors that came with it like the feeling of anxiety,  the overall price of having it done and the healing period since I was bound for a trip soon. 

I honestly couldn’t help but cry because I felt guilty especially cause of how much it would cost to make this come true. I was just lucky that I have the best parents in the world who convinced me and supported me all the way. They both never stopped telling me how this opportunity was right in front of me and how this would benefit me for a lifetime. To have less eye complications than what I already endured and to actually see the world clearly to would be benefits that I could never replace. So there and then I did it, I took the risk and decided to go for surgery because I knew it would be an investment of a lifetime.

What is ICL? 
I honestly don’t want to go into too much detail about this procedure since I took photos of the brochure which if interested, you can read to help you learn more. 

Front Cover 

Brochure Information 

Back Cover 

But basically to keep it short and simple, only one company in the world called STAAR Surgical creates these special implantable lenses. These lenses are ordered from abroad and shipped to AEI. These lenses are injected in seconds in both eyes then it takes place  between the iris and the eye lens.  Just like me, you might wonder... what will happen if vision changes and complications happen once I'm older?  If vision changes significantly or if cataracts are developed, lenses could be removed or replaced because it does not alter the structures of the eye or cornea. This actually is the cool feature of this procedure cause unlike lasik which is permanent, it’s reversible. 

Prepping for ICL Surgery
So before the actual surgery, I was told to get an FBS (Fasting Blood Sugar) and ECG (Electrocardiogram) just to make sure that I’ll be okay on the day of surgery and to guide the anesthesiologist. I did these tests in St. Lukes, two days before and it was really fast. The results just took a while. 

Also since this was my first ever surgery, I asked for God’s protection and guidance during mass and confession. 

Pre-ICL Surgery 
My surgery was scheduled at 8:30am but I had to be at AEI around 6:30am for all the needed preparations which I already knew would take long (since we were informed the day before). I honestly didn’t have any emotions yet.

The first thing they told me to do when I arrived was to change into scrubs and to sit in a lazy boy chair. A nurse assisted me since they had to take my glasses off. Two different eyedrops were constantly placed in my eye- one for dilation and the other one was anesthesia. While this was happening, I was interviewed for past medical history then an IVY was also placed in my hand. I honestly didn’t really like the feeling of the IVY cause it was painful and it was at this moment that I got really anxious for the surgery. It was already in my mind that it was bound to happen. 
The next step after the IVY was eye marking to guide the doctor during operation. It took only 5 minutes, then they made me rest back in the lazy boy chair to wait for my turn for surgery. While this was happening, an old man was in the room who also talked to me. We talked about our surgeries and we wished each other luck. For me, I took this moment as God reassuring me that everything will be okay after the surgery. I felt comfort then. 

I waited for around an hour for my turn and I honestly couldn’t see anything. It was all such a blur. I couldn’t even see the face of the nurse or doctors who assisted me. I honestly didn’t know what to expect.

ICL Surgery 
When it was my turn, I was told to lie down in a hospital bed and I was wheeled down to the operating room. This was the moment when I felt really scared. When I was in the room, I remember the BP and heart rate monitors being attached to me. A bright light was above me and there were nurses who immediately cleaned my eyes with betadine. I could hear my pulse increasing cause I knew it was finally the moment of the surgery. I was then lightly sedated and the surgery started.

I honestly don’t know how long the procedure took but all I remember was Dr. Ang saying "look straight.: All I remember seeing was lava texture inside a kaleidoscope. There were a lot of gooey colors. Honestly, I didn’t feel any pain at all. Before I even knew it, it was over and I was wheeled out of the room. 

Post-ICL Surgery 
It was really weird cause I could visually see how sharper my surroundings were. My eyes were dilated though so it wasn’t a 100% clear but it was better than the usual cause I could finally see the face of the nurses and doctors who assisted me. I relaxed in a lazy boy chair again for 2 hours since they had to observe me. It felt weird and my eyes felt really stingy. I couldn’t help but be in awe cause despite the dilation causing the blurring effect, my vision was sharper and different. For me, it was just unbelievable.

The Eyedrops 

So I was finally discharged from AEI around 12 noon. It felt so weird cause it was my first time to be wheeled down through a wheelchair. I was given four eyedrops to be done 4 times in a day and also protective goggles to be worn for 3 days since I wasn’t allowed to wet my eyes for precautionary measures. 

The Protective Goggles 

On the way home, everything was visually sharp and clearer. I couldn’t help but tell my parents over and over again about it and I endlessly thanked them for blessing me with the best gift I could ever ask for in this lifetime. 

Right now as I’m writing this story, I am on my fourth day out of surgery so I’m not using the protective goggles anymore. I’m slowly seeing the full effect of the operation and I am overwhelmed and filled with so much joy of what I’m seeing. Never did I imagine to feel like this nor to see the world in this way again. I am beyond grateful. 

I would really like to thank Dr. Ang and his team for a painless and comfortable procedure in Asian Eye Institute. I would most definitely would like to thank my family especially my parents and lola who shared their love and support since the day I made the decision. Thanks also to all my supportive friends. 

As my parents mentioned to me, God gave me a second chance to see the beauty of the world in high definition. I will truly not take this gift for granted. 

So you might wonder, what’s the deeper meaning to this story I just shared? Nothing really…I’m just really happy and I couldn't stop myself from sharing this special moment with you all. 

The biggest takeaway I guess I’d like you to take from this story is to believe that things fall into place in God’s perfect time. During the time you least expect it, you’ll be surprised on the blessings you'll receive and the second chance you're given. Don't be afraid. Stay positive. Be grateful and as much as possible, share these blessings with other people. 

Right now with my “new eyes," I’m excited to experience the world and share its beauty and stories with you all. I've actually been in continuous follow up check ups with Dr. Ang and so far so good. My vision might have fluctuations from 20/20 to 20/25 but it's still a beautiful gift that I'm forever grateful to receive from up above. And oh, one interesting fact that I learned from the doctors office the other day is that crying helps improve vision cause it has certain elements that make your eyes healthier. Not to say we should do this but crying isn't all that bad after all. 

Live Your Story

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Everyday of every year we create new pages and chapters of our life’s storybook. There may be a lot of good times and spontaneous bad times but at the end of the day what really matters is the STORY made.

STORIES bring out our overall beauty. It’s actually what makes us unique and special in this world. I’ve been continuously advocating how stories bring out the authenticity in every individual but this always seems to be forgotten in the present day. People need to remind themselves again and again of how true beauty lies in authenticity. It’s about being who you are while believing that who you become inspires people. 

STORIES connect us all together. It helps us find the comfort and love needed when we’re around strangers. Honestly ask yourself, have you ever gone through a day without someone telling you a story? Have you ever gotten to know someone without asking his or her background? Stories as simple as it is, can be so powerful when forming relationships, keeping them together and even making them last. These stories create never-ending connections and unbreakable bonds. 

STORIES leave an indelible mark in the hearts of people and the world. Even if we reach our end, our stories keep us alive. It’s through these stories that memories are relived and experiences are remembered for a lifetime. 

Having a story is special and that’s why we have to live life to the fullest! We live in our own storybook everyday and it’s best if we seize the day and live in each moment. However, this lifestyle seems so difficult with social media around. I can honestly say that I am a victim of this Social Media craze even if it comes to the little things.

Social Media has been a part of my everyday routine and sad to say I don’t even need to tell myself to check my SM (Social Media)  accounts every morning cause it automatically happens. It’s like my mind knows what to do and my fingers know where to press in my screen. 

Even when I’m out of the house, I still check these accounts while waiting for food to arrive, while waiting for a show to begin, or even just riding the car. It has become a normal habit.

Also, since I've worked in Digital Marketing for over a year, I’ve been exposed to these platforms 24/7 encountering different scenarios and endless notifications. And the saddest part I learned in this industry is that people are subjected to the number of likes and follows, instead of passion and personality to be labeled as VIPs. It truly saddens me to know that people excel over others just because of number figures. What I hate the most is when I receive comments online like “follow for follow” or “like for like”, honestly this shouldn’t even be the case. You should be followed for who you are and liked because it’s relatable or significant. Numbers shouldn’t be a measure of your worth. You are more than that. 

Honestly, going online has been a continuous habit. I guess because of its perks to easily submit work/ papers, communicate with loved ones especially those far away and for immediate entertainment. Also, because of that fear of missing out.

I’m sure there are more things to say about our online lives and I know it varies per person. 

I guess in my case, I've had too much of Social Media. Why?

First, I’ve questioned myself and the things that I’m doing. I can't help but at times compare myself to others that I get insecure of what I am currently doing vs. what others are happily achieving. 

Second, I noticed some stories that I shared in my e-journal are too templated or too cliche that I’ve fallen into the trap of blogging instead of storytelling which wasn’t what I intended.

Third, going online all day, everyday has been a continous habit.  

I know everyone treats Social Media in his or her own way but sadly I’ve allowed SM to affect me and it has made me overthink about many things. 

Cause of this, I decided to delete all my main Social Media applications for a while and I cleaned up all platforms and made sure to only follow the people that I know and aspire to be. I know this might sound weird or very “meh" to you but I feel like you too should rethink your online habits.

If you’re still okay with what you’re seeing and believing, then it’s fine but if you know that it’s slowly changing the way you see things and believe in yourself then might as well take a break and refresh yourself with real moments.

I’m choosing to take time off to reflect on myself and to simply enjoy moments- big or little. I’ll also update my personal journal and scrapbook.

We all need a break sometimes and there’s no harm in doing so. It’ll not completely end up how you want it to be but at least it’ll help you regulate and at least differentiate what you want and what others want you to be.

So I guess, all I can say for now is LIVE YOUR STORY AND DON’T LET THE STORY LIVE FOR YOU. I know how insta-stories and snapchat stories have been so popular these days but don’t make your life dependent on it. 

I hope sharing this story will give more meaning to the life you’re living, the stories you’re creating and everything you believe in. 

Legally Blind

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Daily Eye Essentials: New Glasses from Own Days, AO Sept Plus (Contacts Solution), Cellufresh (Preservative- free eye drops)  

Ever wondered what’s it like to live in our shoes- to grow up with four eyes and to actually have glasses and/ or lenses as our partner in crime everyday. Well now here’s a story that might interest you. Having really bad eyesight has been one of my flaws since childhood that I learned to cope with everyday. Having sisters and a dad who have the same sentiments as me, made it easier for me to grow up through the process. It was a challenging journey I’ve got to say... to go through constant eye appointments, glasses, soft lenses and hard lenses but it’s definitely one that I’m grateful for. 

I mean to be honest, I won’t deny the fact that I’ve been insecure about myself especially during my high school years when I had to wear glasses and braces at the same time, hence the introduction to contact lenses. But despite all that, I learned to grow and accept it because having to deal with it is better than not having the chance to see anything at all. 

So I decided that this is the perfect time to share this story to everyone well first because, I’ve dealt with this problem for almost 14 years already. I’ve been through the mini-struggles everyday so it would be nice to let you guys know more about it and most importantly, I was blessed with an opportunity to have a lasik screening which I failed in. I had 21 tests done last week and because of my “high” grade, lasik wasn’t a possible option but that didn’t worry me since there are still other possible alternatives. You’ll get to understand how important this is to me after you read my full story.

Anyway, without further ado. Allow me to share with you all my journey of having poor eyesight and the daily struggles that come with it. 

So I was just 6 years old when I found out  that I needed glasses. Unlike my middle sister who was born with bad eyes, the rest of the family experienced blurry vision while growing up. Well in my case they found out about it when I was had an eye check up in elementary.  I didn’t really mind it up until high school when i felt so awkward and insecure.  I had braces then and it was the time when Ugly Betty was a hit. I mean I know I didn’t look like her but I felt like her especially with my condition. So hence, growing up and learning to be more mindful of how I present myself, I tried out contact lenses (and yes my sisters already had it then) and I know the perks of  having to do away with bulky lenses.  So I started wearing soft lenses in first year high school and had to switch up to hard lenses in my fourth year up until college. Currently I’m back to soft lenses with a grade so high that whenever I tell people, they never fail to get surprised. 

So I started out with mere 100’s and 250’s just like most people but through the years it grew abnormally higher. Currently, my left eye has a grade of 875 and my right eye has a grade of 950. I also have astigmatism (imperfection in the curvature of your cornea ) and I’m near sighted.  So yeah a lot has happened through the years.  I’ve always wanted to have better eyesight since I was young. It would always be one of my wishes whenever we imagined a genie granting our wishes when we were younger. 

These are my old and thick glasses for 3 years already perfect for astigmatism and protection against UV Rays

So yes the struggle was and is still definitely real! Here are some struggles that I faced throughout this journey of mine that even still applies to me until today: 

Struggles of wearing glasses 
  1. Every morning when we wake up ,we can’t see anything. So if anyone surprises us or excitedly wants to show us something first thing in the morning, they’d have to wait for us to put on our glasses
  2. When we remove our glasses and we tend to forget where we place them, we look like walking zombies trying to hold every corner just to find it
  3. When it comes to photos, we hate the glares that come with it so we always have to remove our glasses (and we end up looking someplace else or posing with chinky eyes cause we can’t see) 
  4. Every glasses wearer would understand the fact that we can’t wear sunglasses unless we remove our frames. I mean you can choose to wear both of them but well my glasses in itself is bulky
  5. People  would always ask me if I can see them up close without glasses and I’m like sorry I can see your figure but it’s really blurry that I can’t see your face. 
  6. Also they’d do the number game with me which I’m fine with, they’d do levels one closest to me and one farthest from me. 
  7. I’m used to sharing my glasses story just because I have thick lenses and many are curious about it. 
  8. We can swim underwater but we can’t see anything. 
  9. If we come from a place with very cold temperature, we end up going out with foggy glasses. This one’s actually kinda funny cause it’s usually a glasses problem 
  10. If you’re not used to it, you look different. I’ve been told a lot of times that I look different when I wear glasses and when I don’t wear them. 

So I tried to capture moments with 20/20 vision (thank you SLR) vs. my vision (without glasses or lenses) just to let you know what it really is to see through my eyes (but this isn’t as accurate since my eyes are still more blurry than what a camera lens and some edits could possibly do) 



You know what I was and am still scared of?  The Snellen Chart (the chart with the big E). If you ask me, it’s continuously my frenemy. 

Anyway, moving forward to the interesting part of journey which of course is having to wear contact lenses. I’ve tried both HARD and SOFT contact lenses for years now— which have different texture and side effects. 

So let me start with HARD contact lenses which for me was the most difficult part to get used to. 

Thanks to my sister and bother-in-law for taking the photo ( FYI: My sister still wears hard contacts until today) 

This is to show you how small and glass-like hard lenses are.

Imagine having to put a small piece of glass directly to your eye? Scary right? But actually it isn’t really anything to be afraid of once you get used to it. Hard contacts are small and glass-like lenses that can make blurry vision really clear. For someone like me, having this on is like having an HD retina screen in real life. 

However, because of its glass-like structure, there are some downsides to it. Here they are: 

Struggles of Contact Lenses 
  1. Having really dry and red eyes easily. That's why we have eye drops in our sling or travel bags 24/7. 
  2. Discomfort when doing daily activities
  3. Once the lenses fall, you can’t help but hope it doesn’t break or tear apart ("hugot" as it sounds) 
  4. Because its small and transparent, you can’t really see it if it falls down 
  5. People always comment if you’re sleepy but it’s just your eyes coping with the discomfort of the lenses
  6. It can move around your eye when really dry 
  7. Putting it is sometimes an extra struggle especially on days that it doesn’t want to fit properly 
  8. If you scratch your eyes unintentionally, you can’t help but fear that your cornea might get scratched as well 
  9. You have to wash it every night and every morning
  10. You get confused which lenses is for which eye (But if you notice closely, the right is black in color and the left one is light blue in color) 
This is how we clean our hard lenses: We take them off, we rub the dirt off with liquid solution and water then we let it stay overnight. We can then use this any time we like as long as we repeat the cleaning process. 

Now you might wonder, what’s the difference of hard lenses from SOFT contact lenses? Well actually their effects are just similar but this one is delicate to touch and it can easily tear apart. Just imagine holding a set of plastics and putting them directly into your eye. Its bigger in size and less uncomfortable. However, because of this convenience, quality of vision is compromised and is just about right. 

This is to show you how big  soft contact lenses are. 

This is to show you its plastic-like texture. 

I really enjoy it when people get interested to know the ins and outs of contact lenses especially when it comes to the process of putting them on and getting them off. It’s really not easy to begin with but it becomes easy breezy once you get used to it. So I’ve been wearing contact lenses for almost 8 years already (that’s a quarter of my life)  and I’ve gotten used to the daily process of putting them on- using- cleaning then putting it off. It has become a part of my daily routine. 

For me, this is a breakthrough for contact lens cleaning. Instead of the usual rub and overnight cleansing. This is likened to a scientific experiment where you put the contacts inside the case, fill it with AO Sept HydraGlide solution, allow the bubbles to rise up in order to automatically clean the contacts for you.  You'll know if it's done cleaning when the bubbles are all gone. It's really interesting but because our eyes our delicate and the solution is strong, you can't use this up until 6 hours after cleaning.

So recently, because of the lasik screening, I found out that the retina of my eyes are very weak. As the doctor mentioned,  20/20 vision is likened to a golf ball but because my grade is so high, my eyeballs are now shaped like eggs and the retina has been stretched for so long so a laser was needed for it to be strengthened. If I didn’t get this laser done, a  retina tear can cause loss of vision and even surgery. As my mom mentioned, it was a blessing in disguise to actually find out the need to have this test. I was really lucky that both my parents were there to actually support me in the decisions I had to make.

I’ve got to say though that even though I’m “legally blind” and I go through a tedious process everyday.  I’m lucky to have the opportunity to actually see everything clearly. Not everyone has this privilege and I am always truly grateful for this blessing. 

People don’t really talk about this problem so much so I decided to share this story with you so that you can understand us and any of your friends and relatives who go through this same journey as me.

I may not have passed the lasik but there are still other possible options to look into. One of my dreams will soon come true and in my parent’s words, it’ll happen in God’s perfect timing. He has his own plan for me and I’d accept it any day. 

This is real. This is me. Four Eyes with a Smile. 

P.S. If you share the same sentiments as me or you go through things differently, don't hesitate to share your story with me! In the end, we're all in this together. :) 

* Disclaimer: No watermark was added to the photos to preserve the creativity of the shots. All photos are owned by Rachel Yupangco. Any reproduction is forbidden.


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