By Fiona Dunning.
I started wearing glasses while at college. Sitting in a massive lecture theatre, I realised that my friends could read the over-heads when I couldn’t. I was also informed that I was walking past friends on a regular basis! I couldn’t make out faces clearly but I presumed this was normal until I had my eyes tested!
Personally, I hated wearing glasses. I was entirely self-conscious. Plus they are completely and utterly uncomfortable, they weigh heavily on the bridge of your nose, fall down, fall off, get stuck in your hair… not to mention trying to play sports or exercise! To add insult to injury, my then four year old Italian niece would call me “bruta” (meaning ugly), any time I wore them in her presence (she was used to me wearing lenses!).
Lenses came with their own set of draw backs. They are simply not built to last a full day without drying out, causing headaches and making you feel physically sick when left in far too long, such as an impromptu night out! Even for day to day wear at work, my vision just wasn’t as sharp as when I wore my glasses. I’d feel myself sitting far too close to my computer screen, squinting and making distorted faces to be better able to read what was on screen. I was even unlucky enough to leave the Glastonbury music festival, after getting mud in my eye which contained with the dangerous bacteria, pseudomonas. For me this meant a taxi from the airport directly to the eye and ear hospital in Dublin where I resided for a week, after almost losing my eye.
The trials and tribulations for me personally were endless! Of course laser eye surgery was always at the back of my mind, with friends and family having it done. For some reason, I just didn’t believe them when they told me it was painless and just took a matter of seconds! I think the word “laser” and “surgery”, make it sound extreme! We hear “surgery” and we think it must be painful! Plus, I’m quite squeamish and thought that I just wouldn’t be able to go through with it.
How wrong I was. From the very first consultation at Optilase on Ely place in Dublin, I was made to feel incredibly relaxed and at ease. Each member of the team; from Carole on reception, to Dan (Optometrist), Ciara and Christine (Nurses) to my Surgeon Mr Wayne Crewe Brown made the experience entirely smooth and worry-free.
At my free consultation, I met with Dan, my Optometrist who did some eye tests and assessments and confirmed that subject to the approval of Surgeon, Mr Wayne Crewe Brown, I was a suitable candidate. Every step of the procedure, from my arrival in the clinic, to the procedure itself, to what I could expect afterwards, was discussed in a straight forward way. A date was then scheduled to meet with my Surgeon.
Once I had all of the information, and had met with the team, I knew for sure that I wanted to progress. I had complete and utter faith in the experienced team. I knew I was in entirely safe hands.
On the day of surgery I arrived at the clinic at 3.45pm. The Optilase clinic is bright and airy, with wonderful high ceilings. There is an air of warmth and friendliness and also excited anticipation. The team seem to know the reaction that’s just around the corner, the “I can’t believe that’s it!” and the thrill at my next check-up when I drive in wearing neither glasses or lenses!
Ciara, my nurse (who actually had the procedure done herself, as did her other half and also her sister!) sat down with me and explained the procedure, what to expect before, during and after. Dan, my Optometrist and also Mr Crewe Brown, my Surgeon had also gone through this with me so I was more than well-briefed! Obviously at this stage I had begun to feel a little apprehensive and nervous but Ciara was just so re-assuring and caring. I knew I was in a safe place.
Ciara took me to the theatre. I was offered a valium which I accepted without hesitation! I was greeted by my medical team, another nurse, Christine, Laser Optometrist, Dan and Mr Crewe Brown, my Surgeon.
I reminded myself that for Mr Crewe Brown, this was a regular “day at the office”! My job was to lie back and relax while my vision was restored to perfection!
PRK Laser Eye Surgery was the procedure recommended for my eyes (at my original consultation).
My right eye was first. Various drops were added including anaesthetic drops. For PRK, the cells at the front of the eye are moved aside and then the laser is applied as opposed to a flap being made (with a blade-free laser). A solution loosens the cells and Mr Crewe Brown took a few seconds to move aside. This was the most uncomfortable stage of the treatment, and uncomfortable is the word, as opposed to being painful. It’s just an unusual sensation. At this stage I am concentrating on my breathing and sensing I was nervous, Christine put her hand on my hand. I was holding a stress ball but the power of the human touch is immense, I instantly felt more relaxed and at ease.
I focused on a light, similar to attending a regular eye test while the laser did it’s work. It turns out, it is true what they say, it is entirely painless! A few seconds of focusing on a light, and my right eye was done! A protective contact lens was popped over my eye to act as a protective covering, which is standard with the PRK procedure.
My Surgeon, Mr Crewe Brown, then performed the same procedure on my left eye, and that was it!
Ciara sat with me while I relaxed and she went through the drops I would administer in the hours, days and weeks ahead. She gave me details of the 24 hour help line should I have any worries. Again she told me what to expect, my eyes would be light sensitive, watery, possibly gritty and stingy, for the next couple of days. LASIK has the faster recover time but PRK requires the patient to take a week off work.
I left the clinic wearing sun glasses to help with the light sensitivity and my sister took me home to recoup. I went straight to bed and slept through the night wearing my goggles (applying the eye drops as directed and taking some painkillers). Vision wise, my eyesight was perfect, immediately! Pain wise, my eyes felt delicate, they watered and were slightly stingy for the next 2 days. The stinging feeling is no worse than the pain when peeling onions, as Ciara had told me!
My surgery took place on Saturday. I stayed in-doors and rested in bed for a few days. On Thursday I returned to the clinic and Dan, my Optometrist removed my protective contact lens and told me I was just shy of 20:20 vision! Dan advised that it would take a few weeks for my vision to settle down fully. He told me what I could and couldn’t do in terms of continuing to avoid getting water into my eyes, applying (or not!) eye make up, playing sports etc.
My follow up appointment was scheduled there and then and I drove home from my appointment, still in disbelief that the procedure was over, that I would never have to worry about wearing glasses or contact lenses ever again!
Two weeks on and I think I’m still in a state of disbelief. It’s only beginning to dawn on me that I am not wearing my contact lenses, that I will never have to fiddle with a contact lens or worry about glasses ever again! I’m looking forward to a summer of perfect eye sight, crystal clear vision, today, tomorrow and the day after, and the day after that...
My next mission? To spread the word and try to dispel the myths and the unfounded fears attached to this extremely straight forward procedure!
Find out if you are a suitable candidate for laser eye surgery.