Clear vision is important to all of us, for all sorts of different reasons. But for Isaac D., an Air Force pilot, the ability to see clearly is absolutely essential. As he told us before his LASIK procedure, “My eyes are kind of my livelihood right now.”
LASIK has been approved for United States Airforce Pilots (and even NASA astronauts!) since 2007. So what exactly are the benefits of LASIK over glasses or contacts for a pilot? We had the chance to sit down with Isaac before and after his LASIK procedure to learn more about how clear vision without glasses or contact was going to impact his life and his work.
Before his procedure, Isaac told us that he had been considering LASIK for quite a while. “It’s always been in the back of my mind to try to do it,” he said, but he decided to finish flight school before pursuing it further, to avoid prolonging his training. Now that it was finally time to move forward with LASIK, Isaac was excited about the hassles that would be eliminated when he no longer needed glasses or contacts.
One frustration came from the special goggles used by the pilots during night vision flights. “They’re perfect for seeing outside, but inside you always have to look through your peripherals to see your instrumentation.” This meant constantly repositioning his glasses to allow him to see outside through the night vision goggles and the instruments inside the cockpit. “The night vision goggles alone get kind of annoying after a while, but with glasses it’s so much harder.”
Daytime flights had their struggles, too, when Isaac would find himself having to switch back and forth from regular glasses to prescription sunglasses—all while focused on flying an airplane. And while contacts were sometimes a helpful alternative, they weren’t always the best solution. “We do 24-hour missions sometimes,” Isaac said, “and there’s no way of wearing contacts for that long.”
When we caught back up with Isaac at his one-day post op appointment, he was still getting used to life without those glasses and contacts. “It’s still kind of weird. Even last night when I was going to bed, I felt like I was supposed to take my contacts out. I can see, but I’m not wearing glasses… I’m supposed to be taking something out. It hasn’t sunk in yet that I’m good to go.”
But even though it was still sinking in, Isaac was already starting to experience the benefits. “I woke up this morning for work and drove to work just fine.” And then at work, he even got a taste of what it’s going to be like flying without glasses or contacts during an exercise in the flight simulator. “I had a sim ride, and I could see fine. There were no issues.”
There’s still a bit of paperwork to do before Isaac is cleared for military flight, but he’s looking forward to getting back in the air. “I think it’s going to be awesome… I’m pretty stoked.”
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