Contest winner gives LASIK to legally-blind wife, life-changing surgery from Zion Eye Institute

The Zion Eye Institute, St. George, Utah, Jan. 24, 2014 | Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News

ST. GEORGE  – For vision correction patients like Nikki Nelson of St. George, who received a complimentary LASIK procedure from Dixie Ophthalmic Specialists at Zion Eye Institute with the help of her husband, who won a Facebook giveaway, the gift of improved eyesight is truly a life-changing experience. The institute is the largest and most comprehensive vision care provider in Southern Utah with 12 surgeons, and offices in St. George, Cedar City and Mesquite.


A patient’s experience

Extremely nearsighted and legally blind without the assistance of either thick eyeglasses or contact lenses that needed to be removed every night and replaced each morning, Nelson’s vision presented a challenge to her busy lifestyle with a husband and three young sons. She especially struggled with activities at night. A corrective procedure like LASIK was a dream, but something that was never within the family’s budget.

A LASIK procedure| Image courtesy of Dixie Ophthalmic Specialists at Zion Eye Institute
Diagram of the LASIK procedure | Image courtesy of Dixie Ophthalmic Specialists at Zion Eye Institute

In October 2013, the Zion Eye Institute partnered with St. George News to hold a Facebook giveaway, with the prize being a custom LASIK procedure valued at approximately $4,000.

“We like to give back to the community as much as we can,” administrator Ann Ahee said. “By offering this during the holiday season, we thought it was nice.”

Nelson’s husband entered among hundreds of other hopefuls, with the intention of giving her the treatment. They were surprised, and thrilled, upon hearing they had won.

“To be awarded something I’ve only dreamed about was simply amazing,” she said. “I am so very grateful.”

The surgery was performed in the afternoon of Dec. 4. As soon as it was over and the operating room came into focus, Nelson saw a tremendous improvement. By 8 p.m., her vision was nearly 20/20. She experienced the final result when she awoke the following day.

“I was in awe of the things I had been missing,” she said. “I can see better than I’ve ever seen before.”

“She no longer needs glasses or contacts, even at night,” executive medical director Dr. Jason Ahee said. “She is actually seeing with 20/15 vision, which is better than normal.

The LASIK difference

The most common type of laser vision correction, LASIK is an acronym for Laser-Assisted in situ Keratomileusis, a surgical procedure used to repair nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism by reshaping the cornea. It is unique in that it also corrects lesser-known problems like “halos,” “starbursts” and “ghost images,” drastically improving night vision.

Nikki Nelson, St. George, Utah, Jan. 23, 2014 | Photo courtesy of the Nelson family
Nikki Nelson, St. George, Utah, Jan. 23, 2014 | Photo courtesy of the Nelson family

Most corrective measures, including glasses, contacts and conventional laser surgery, only address issues called lower-order aberrations, providing a satisfactory solution for many people. However, higher-order aberrations, which LASIK targets, still detract from overall quality of vision.

LASIK is a minimally invasive operation during which the patient remains awake, and anesthetic drops are administered to completely numb the eyes. The correction itself takes less than 10 minutes per eye, with the entire process lasting a few hours. Side effects are generally few and far between.

“I didn’t have any pain during or after the procedure,” Nelson said. “The worst part was (a feeling) like I had sand in my eyes and wanted to rub them, but I’d just use a few eye drops and it would feel better.”

Even traditional LASIK has been improved upon, however. Like fingerprints, no eyes, nor the problems associated with them, are exactly the same. Custom LASIK uses wavefront-guided technology to measure the unique optical characteristics of each patient’s eyes, creating a “personalized” corrective procedure to ensure the best results.

Over 11 million LASIK procedures have been performed in the U.S. as of 2011. With about 96 percent of patients achieving their desired result, the difference is crystal clear.

“I was nervous, but the staff and doctors at (the) Zion Eye Institute are so great. They always made me feel welcome and comfortable,” Nelson said. “It’s the perfect place to get started on your LASIK journey.”

Additional information on LASIK can be found here.

“LASIK is one of many state-of-the-art procedures that we offer patients,” Dr. Jason Ahee said. “Our goal is to improve people’s vision, and ultimately their lives.”

About the institute

The Zion Eye Institute is a certified member of the American Optometric Association, the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery. In September 2013, it was ranked among the top 50 eye surgery centers nationwide by Becker’s ASC Review.

Diagram of the LASIK procedure | Image courtesy of
Diagram of the LASIK procedure | Image courtesy of

Dr. Jason Ahee joined the Dixie Ophthalmic Specialists, an existing practice since 1979, a decade ago. After buying it in 2006, he merged with the Zion Eye Institute to expand and improve services.

“We’ve basically created a multi-specialty referral center for eye surgery, with surgical specialists in every field,” he said. “We can handle every type of case.”

“We’re the only place in Southern Utah that has a clinic and surgery center in the same building,” Ann Ahee said. “We have the most specialists under one roof and are the only practice that owns our own LASIK laser.”

The institute offers a range of specialty procedures and patient services, including:

  • General eye care
  • Pediatric eye care
  • Vision correction and laser eye surgery (LASIK)
  • Cataract surgery
  • Glaucoma and cornea surgery
  • Retina surgery
  • Reconstructive and cosmetic eyelid surgery
  • Free comprehensive consultations
  • Financing via CareCredit

“Our mission and ongoing commitment is to provide comprehensive care between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, right here in our community,” Dr. Jason Ahee said.

Dixie Ophthalmic Specialists at Zion Eye Institute

Website: | Phone: 1-877-841-2020 or 435-656-2020 | Address: 1791 East 280 North, St. George

Related posts

T E S T I M O N I A L – A D V E R T O R I A L

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

The Zion Eye Institute, St. George, Utah, Jan. 24, 2014 | Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News
The Zion Eye Institute, St. George, Utah, Jan. 24, 2014 | Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

1 Comment

  • Bub January 29, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    As cute as it is that this “article” is such a cheerleader for the Lasik industry, anyone considering the procedure should be aware that it’s absolutely not a risk free procedure. I would recommend reading all you can online about the pros and cons and use sources outside of sellers of the procedure. Also be aware that stronger prescriptions of glasses or contact lenses are often times not good candidates for lasik. Higher amounts of correction require more tissue to be removed from the cornea for correction. The more tissue removed, the higher chance you will have for a bad outcome in the long run. If something does go wrong with the Lasik there is often nothing a patient can do, because most of these LASIK sellers require a legal waiver to be signed

    IN CONCLUSION: lasik might be fantastic for you and it might not. But do your own research and make an informed decision since the procedure can never be reversed. Also keep in mind that in the coming years Lasik may be replaced by newer, more advanced procedures, and that waiting is sometimes the best option.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.