Daragh Reddin gets laser eye surgery (part 2)

20 Jun 2011

Article published in Metro Herald, June 15th, 2011.

Laser Eye Surgery with Daragh Reddin (Part 2)

Laser Eye Surgery, Part II: Following a series of consultations detailed in last week’s Body Matters, Daragh Reddin finally makes the decision to cast off the glasses and goes under the, er, laser at Optilase

The weekend finally arrived and I was ready to entrust my (hopefully improved) vision to Optilase: Friday: The good news is that after my initial consultation and a rigorous examination at Optilase my eyes have been deemed healthy enough to undergo laser treatment; it’s consoling to know, however, that on the day prior to surgery I’ve been booked in for yet another appointment to thoroughly recheck the eyes and ensure, with absolute certainty, nothing is amiss. This also affords me an opportunity to meet my consultant ophthalmic surgeon Mr Wayne Crewe Brown (MB ChB MMed) who, in a career spanning more than 18 years, has performed some 22,000 procedures.

I’ve elected to have Lasik treatment, the most common form of laser eye surgery, which involves reshaping the cornea at the front of the eye by creating a tiny flap before then resculpting the cornea with a laser. With standard laser surgery this flap is formed with a surgical device known as a microkeratome, but I’ve opted for IntraLase, which, as Mr Crewe Brown – who was one of the first to adopt the procedure – explains, involves deploying a highly specialised laser rather than a blade; this proves less invasive and allows for more precise, individualised results.

Something I’m really excited about is the WaveFront technology which I’ll also be availing of. Generally, laser surgery involves correcting a patient’s prescription by consulting the results of a standard eye test; WaveFront, however, involves taking account of results from scans which generate an accurate map of how light passes through each eye – the results are 25 times more accurate than those obtained during a routine eye test and provide measurements of both the patient’s prescription and the natural imperfections unique to each eye. My fears are allayed knowing that surgery will involve a careful analysis of what is essentially the optical equivalent of a finger print.

Saturday: At 9am on Saturday morning, Optilase is already abuzz and there’s a convivial atmosphere in the waiting room as patients flick through the morning papers and sip coffee as they await surgery – it feels more like an upmarket salon than an eye clinic and if anyone is feeling fearful they’re certainly not showing it.

I’m accompanied downstairs to a small anteroom outside the operating theatre where a very friendly nurse – of which Optilase boasts no shortage – removes my glasses in order to disinfect my lids and the area around the eyes. I’m then given a not-altogether-flattering plastic cap for my head and two for my feet to ensure I don’t bring any unwelcome germs into the theatre with me. Now comes the fun part: I’m handed a 5mg tab of Valium – I stifle the urge to ask for a double dose – and I wait ten minutes for it to take effect before the big event. With my glasses removed I sit quietly, pretending to be able to see the large flatscreen TV that’s suspended only a few feet ahead of me; it’s great to know that this is the last time I’ll ever feel so vulnerable as a result of being parted from my specs.

When the time comes I’m led into the theatre where I’m welcomed by a team of chipper theatre staff – with my vision so poor I hazard a ‘hello’ in the direction I think the voices are coming from.

A nurse helps me on to a long leather bench which is then lowered, dentist chair style, before the surgery begins. The procedure lasts 20 minutes and it’s not in any way painful; merely odd and a tad disconcerting. It involves little input from me other than an ability to lie still and fix my stare straight ahead as the laser is directed first through my right eye, then my left (one eye remains covered while the other is being operated on).

Wayne keeps me abreast of progress at all times, which really puts me at ease, and though I’m thoroughly relieved when it’s over, it’s been no more traumatic than an intense dental check-up.

I’m escorted to a room outside where Wayne examines the eyes to ensure the operation has been a success (it has) and, already, I can feel the effects. Even though my sight is a long way from perfect, there is an improvement – as though I’m wearing contact lenses covered with a thin oily residue. A nurse then talks me through important after-care procedures, chief among them being plenty of rest (no TV or reading for 24 hours) and the regular administration of antibiotic and anti-redness drops. After making an appointment for the following morning, I don a pair of attention-seeking Jackie O-style visors and a friend directs me inside a taxi bound for home…

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