“It was April 1, 1995 when I performed the first LASIK surgery ever in Colorado, and one of the first in the United States. But the planning began well before this, over 20 years ago today. Before the first laser treatment, we had to design and build the laser. A laser physicist, Dr. Paul Van Saarloos flew over from Perth, Australia with nothing more than a backpack and a plan. I had accumulated a long list of pieces and parts. There was a dental chair from Norway, a pile of optical parts from various manufacturers, and most importantly a laser engine from Lambda Physik that was imported for “research purposes”. Paul and I worked long hours putting his design together, buying whatever other things we needed and two weeks and hundreds of hours later we were ready.
This is a picture with Dr. Hans Hallenkamp, inventor of the Hansatome Microkeratome, and Dr. Tibor, inventor of the Intralase femtosecond laser flap creator who were both visiting my office at the same time. This is the only picture of these two generations of inventors together!”
The first patient, I don’t really remember his name, was a very high myope with severe amblyopia in the eye we treated for free. His best corrected vision was 20/400 and his other eye was normal. I believe he was about a -10.00 Diopter correction. We used the same microkeratome that I had used for doing ALK procedures prior to this time (Automated Lamellar Keratectomy – but that is another story). After successfully making a flap and the laser performing a self- check, I centered the aiming beams on his cornea and 30 seconds later we were done. The patient was immediately thrilled with the improvement as were we, and a few days later we began treating sighted eyes with amazing success compared to what had come before. While the rest of the country was waiting for PRK, and companies like VISX were just working on clinical trials, we had boldly stepped ahead. Soon we had a waiting list that was months long. Today we are 56,000+ procedures down the road from that Spring day two decades ago.