So the long and the short of it is this: I was blind (last time I checked -2 in one eye, -2.25 in the other), now I can see. It’s a week and a half since my laser eye surgery and there’s no pain, no dryness, only 20/20 vision and a lot less hassle. Which makes me very happy. There’s a few things in life that have happened recently that have made my life noticeably better – cycling to work and getting a new built-in wardobe, par exemple – but I suspect this will be far more life-changing. But it hasn’t yet hit me how much. Anyway, as so many people have asked me about it, I thought I’d give you my personal experience of it below.
My eyes, my prescription, my experience, are totally personal to me and you may have a different experience. You may have problems in surgery or afterwards, there are risks, you may feel pain (I didn’t – more later). More than anything, I think it depends on which clinic you go to, your stress levels, and how much you pay attention to the after-care guidelines. But, subject to this little disclaimer, I still think it would be useful to tell you how I got on.
Why did I bother getting it done?
- I hated irritated dry eyes from contact lenses that meant I often went out after work with red itchy eyes, and would have to do this strange blinky-eye-whirl to try to get some moisture back which apparently made me look mental
- Cycling in glasses means steamed-up rain-covered lenses you have to stop and wipe clean
- Remembering contact lenses x 14 when you go on holiday and remembering to pack enough for overnight and weekend stays – basically the hassle factor and organisation needed
- Although I liked my glasses, a horrible lingering thought, I think from my grandma, that “men don’t wear passes at girls who wear glasses” meant I always felt a bit frumpy wearing them out (although I always get compliments when I wear my glasses out so I’m going to be putting in fake lenses so I can wear them occasionally – yes, the irony of this has not escaped me)
- Forgetting to take contact lenses out when tipsy, or worse, taking them out and instantly forgetting and trying to take them out again (ouch)
- Getting sore eyes and eye infections for over-use of contacts from working / playing long hours and the worry that I might do my eyes real damage
- (This one is bonkers I know ) I have always had an irrational fear of giving birth with glasses on and having my child’s first image of me as a four-eyed mummy
Who I got it done with
Dr Dan Reinstein at London Vision Clinic on Harley Street. He plays jazz saxophone and has operated on Philip Schofield which is pretty much all you need to know. He’s done loads of operations apparently (18,000 and counting) and is confident to the point of bossiness (which I hope he doesn’t mind me saying!) but this is good because it stopped me getting nervous and I spent most of the operation just listening to his instructions. He’s on twitter if you want to chat (@DrDanReinstein).
They didn’t pay me for saying any of this by the way, I just had a really good experience and wanted to share. I got an Indian Head Massage before surgery FFS! And even The Chef who tagged along to hold my hand was impressed at how smooth the whole set-up was and said he was going to get it done too.
Let’s just say it is costing me £100 a month for a veeery long time (about 3 years). A lot when you look at total cost but I was paying £30 a month for contacts anyway, so I’ve reconciled myself with it. And I reckon I’ve got at least 10 years of not wearing contacts / glasses so it should pay for itself in the end.
I did have a quote done at Optical Express which was less (around £2,000 I seem to recall) but I didn’t go for it because I got a bit of the hard sell and I didn’t know which surgeon I’d get – whereas I had a personal recommendation for Dr Dan.
My thoughts were to go with the best I could afford and I liked the after-care that I was promised and the fact that they had the latest equipment. And they had free Diet Coke in the reception and Indian Head Massages before surgery (I’m a marketeers dream). But it’s up to you to decide what sort of place you like – I’d recommend getting free consultations with a couple of places and asking for personal recommendations for surgeons / clinics and then going where you feel most comfortable. Laser eye surgery is very safe in general but there are differences between clinics so ask the questions you need to ask and compare – what % damage, what new equipment, what will they do if something goes wrong, how many operations have they done?
So, before surgery, I asked Dr Dan to tell me everything – would I get a needle stuck in my eye, would my eye ball be sucked out with a vacuum-type implement – and he refused to tell me what would happen during the procedure. Now, your initial thoughts might be that you would prefer to know so you could mentally prepare yourself – and that was what I thought – but it actually worked. Dr Dan thinks you are more relaxed if you don’t know what will happen because you don’t hype yourself up about it, imagine the worst, panic. To my surprise he was right – I knew what was going on at the time but wasn’t panicked because I hadn’t been going through the procedure in my mind. He also advised – and I think he’s right too – that you don’t watch the procedure on youtube as it might be done badly or on old equipment and what’s the point scaring yourself (and while I’m at it, why do they make pregnant women watch videos of births either!?).
So I’m afraid I’m not going to tell you exactly what happened, other than to assure you that I was about as nervous as a person could be and I managed fine. I was horribly stressed beforehand – both about the operation but also the risks and the fact that I was voluntarily subjecting myself to them. I couldn’t sleep the night before. I was worried about blind spots, making things worse, irreperable damage, pain. I felt like a wuss, I was shaking. Pre-surgery, I went to the bathroom 4 times in 20 minutes. But the clinic was great – I got pills to make me relaxed and the famous Indian Head Massage. The nurse was friendly and lovely and offered to hold my hand (for which I hope she knows how grateful I am).
But it really was fine. There was no pain whatoever during surgery and it was all over in 10 minutes. No pain afterwards either – in fact none since. I did know what they were doing but I had no discomfort, although it was a little scary at times. There was no eye ball sucking, no real pressure, I couldn’t feel anything. I just listened to instructions, watched lights move, tried to relax. I did smell the burning smell they warn you about, but by that time it was near the end and all I could think of was “hello Mr Laser please zap me all you can and make my eyeballs see better” (I was perhaps under the influence of the afore-mentioned relaxing pills). I was glad the nurse held my hand though and I thank her for being so lovely. After they finished I opened my eyes and although blurry I could see – wierd. In fact the whole thing is pretty miraculous, that you can have a disc cut out of your eyeball and put back down and it doesn’t hurt you – but there you go. We should all thank whoever we think best that our eyeballs are so darn clever.
They got us a taxi home and for the first 3 hours I had to keep my eyes shut. In a ridiculous way this felt worse than the surgery because it’s so dull – I suggest you put Radio 4 on and lie on your sofa. You need to put drops in every 15 minutes. Here’s some other practical stuff:
- Your eyesight will be up and down for the first month. I was 20/20 on the day after surgery and have had no problems with halos / blurs since but they are possible.
- It is hard to get used to your new sight especially if like me you’d been wearing an old prescription before due to laziness. Life is a bit more 3D and I occasionally find myself staring at friends when they’re talking to me having seen a new freckle (and no I haven’t found myself more wrinkly thank god). I felt a bit nauseous at times like I was wearing too-strong contacts. I’m only slowly realising how amazing it is to have perfect vision.
- You can’t wear eye make-up for a week. This is not a good idea if you’re going on a romantic weekend 2 days after surgery (doh).
- You also have to wear these nice “The Fly” night goggle things to protect your eyes. Ditto really attractive on a romantic weekend, well done me.
- You shouldn’t be in dusty environments or drink alcohol for the first week as they dry your eyes out. So getting building work done in my flat and going away on a romantic weekend was not the best idea, but life can go on pretty much as normal.
- I got my surgery done on Wednesday and I was cycling to work and in the gym on the Monday morning with no problems.
- Lots of eye drops all the time for the first week and now still going.
- Some irritation – like you have dry contact lenses in or some dust in your eye – but helped by eye drops and passed soon.
How long will it last?
Well the official anwser is forever although you may need reading glasses as your eyes age naturally in your forties / fifties. I’ve heard on the grapevine from a friend who had it done 10 years ago that her eyes have started to deteriorate a little, but even if I can get a good 10 years out of it – no glasses or contacts – then I think it’s worth it for the amount my life has improved. And of course equipment and procedures have improved in 10 years so I may have loads more.
So, that is my experience in case it is helpful. But it’s totally up to you to decide whether it’s worth it – there are risks, you need to understand them and then work out what’s best for you. Any questions just let me know.
Finally, this site has information on laser eye surgery, with different providers, prices and reviews from previous users which might help with your decision process – see the Laser Eye Surgery Wiki.