Saturday, 28 March 2009

A Damn Sight Better (or, A Sight For Sore Eyes)

So here it is. The detailed account of my eye surgery. I have held off telling it because I wanted to know what the results were first.

This is really only going to be interesting to folk who are considering eye surgery - and even for them I don't make any guarantees. But I want to go into detail because before the surgery all the accounts I'd seen seemed to make out that the op took a couple of minutes and within a few hours they were as right as rain - not so.

Friday 20 March
9.00am - Leave to get to the opticians in plenty of time for my 9.40 appointment, arrange for the husband to come and collect me at about 11.

10.50am - Have my 9.40 appointment which consists of the optician shining a bright light in my eye for about 4 seconds and telling me they can go ahead with the treatment.

11.10am - Sign lots of forms including a declaration that I am not an anxious person (apparently this isn't suitable for anxious people - I'm now feeling quite anxious). Also sign a disproportionate amount of forms for my bank to authorise monthly payments for the rest of my working life (in small interest-free monthly payments).

11.13am - The husband turns up - asks how it was, explain it wasn't - yet.

11.37am - Get called in to 'The Room', am given attractive paper shower cap to wear, remove glasses. The nurse in her heavily accented Eastern European explains what is going to happen - realise without the double senses of hearing and sight (lip reading) I can't understand a word of what she has said other than something about lying down here then going through to the next room. Consider asking to to repeat then realise that ignorance is probably bliss.

11.39am - Lie on couch, a paper blanket it put over my body. Start shaking, try to breath deeply. Wonder what the nurse thinks of this shaking, heavy breathing body hidden by the paper blanket. She puts some eye drops in, they sting for a minute. Then the anaesthetic kicks in.

Times now become more approximate.

11.49am - Doctor finally arrives. Asks me how I am, doesn't wait for a reply, pulls a bright circle of lights millimeters from my eys and asks me to look at the centre of the lights. Various eye drops, a bit stingy, but not pain on a HSG level. Some kind of contraption placed over my eyes feels like a wired metal hoop. Eyes can't blink, suction pad applied to the eye. Feel the pressure but no pain. "Keep looking at the centre of the light" I am commanded. Start to feel like I am in the Clockwork Orange - but without the Beethoven. Sight gets very blurred - clearly this is when they cut the flap from the top of my eye. I'm seconds away from soiling myself. Its done. Same gig, second eye.

11.55am - It is done. Thank fuck. Am led through to a second room. Shit, realise that was just stage one, i haven't actually had the laser bit yet. Wonder if I can make a run for it. Can't properly open eyes, what I can see through the tiny slits is a world that looks like it is melting.

11.56am - Am told to lie on second couch with my eyes closed. Spend the time trying to picture the scene around me. There is a lot of scrunching paper sounds and people walking around. Feels like ages before Doctor appears.

12.20ish?pm - Now I get to look at the green and red light. Flap moved aside. Very blurred. Can't see anything. Told to look at red and green lights. Can't, but do my best.

Lasers are fuck all like those you see in James Bond. Can't actually see anything. The sound it makes is an erratic zapping. Kinda like the noise those electric fly machines make as they pulverise the little critters. The smell, oof, like burning hair, vile. Can't work out if I can actually see smoke or that is just the blurred image. Zapping itself takes 24 seconds per eye. 24 seconds can seem like quite a long time.

Use my sister's coping methods - go through the alphabet trying to think of a different animal for each letter. Finish one round start again try to think of different animals. Get stuck on E - already used elephant.

Yes, I know, eel. It is easy now. But you try thinking of that with the smell of burning filling your nostrils and your eyes held open by masking tape sticking you eyelashes to your face.

12.40pm - Led pass the husband to a room where I can sit in the dark for 20 minutes. The husband makes to come with me. He is firmly stopped by the aforementioned nurse. "No, oddervise you vill talk". Zay haf ways ov making us not talk.

12.40 - 1.05pm - sit in room. Eyes shut. Bored, really, really bored. Top tip: take an i-pod or something.

1.15pm - And I am free to go with a batch of eye drops and a 'see you tomorrow'.

The rest of the afternoon is spent wearing dark glaases with eyes shut for about 98.3% of the time:

3.15pm - At home husband puts in eye drops. Vison very blurred starting to feel pain. Spend the time in a darkend room trying to listen to a talking book, remember my glasses/contacts/ability to see with increasing nostalgia. Shout through to the next room (several times) "I regret this", husband is being very supportive.

5.15pm - More drops. Crying. Wondering what I have done. Dictate a post - try to sound upbeat, am convinced it hasn't worked.

7.15pm - drops again. Still unbelievably blurry. Am sure I read that by the evening most people are actually fine. Pain gone. Sight gone.

9.15pm - As above, very worried.

11.15pm - Suddenly realise things are getting a bit clearer. More eye drops. Replace the dark glasses with special nighttime eye pads. Look like The Fly.

7.30am - cautiously open eyes. Blink. No pain. Sight not bad. Still a bit blurry but better without glasses than it has been since my age was in single didgits.

10.10am - Follow up appointment. Optician seems pleased. Eyes healing well. I'm a bit long sighted but this should settle in a few weeks. I'm just shy of being alright for driving - but again hopefully this will get better over the next couple of weeks - and I don't have a car anyway.

I can see! Sky is clear, images are sharp. My eyes still look like the husband has been beating me around the head and the sunglasses are still firmly on, but it appears to have been a success.

Monday & Tuesday
Vision went a bit down hill - a touch infected - but it has been getting better since.

Saturday (today)
Only have to take the drops for a couple more days. Red eye has almost disappeared.

8 days on and my eyesight has today been measured as 20/20 for the first time since I started wearing glasses aged 9 or 10. Before the operation I was minus 6.5 in both eyes, or less technically had to hold my alram clock so that it was touching my nose before I could read the tme without specs.


So yeah, I would recommend it - but it is scary so folk should go into it with their eyes open (geddit?!). I'm ecstatic that I had it done, waking up and being able to see without the specs-scrabble is amazing. But I wouldn't do it again (well apparently I couldn't even if I wanted to). And bringing it back on topic slightly, the idea of being able to get up at all hours through the night to look after a screaming baby and not have to faff about with glasses is brilliant.

So, if anyone in the UK fancies getting it done through Optimax if you go through refer a friend you get £500 off and I get £50 back - so email me.


  1. Ohhhh man, you are a MUCH braver woman than I am! I could never do it. Not that I need to, my eye sight is pretty ok. But I have a hard time putting drops in my eyes or contacts. No friggin way could I let someone cut a flap..*gag* off my eye!

    My husband says he'll wait until they figure out a way to knock him out for it first.

  2. Thanks so much for posting that.
    I'm still not sure if I'm brave enough for the operation.
    But then you see, I can see without my glasses. I can't see well enough to drive, but I can see well enough to do most things ... so its not quite such a critical question for me.

  3. Wow. Thanks. I think.
    I've considered doing this so many times. Now it kind of scares me. As in I think I might need large doses of Xanax to get through that. But once it was done it would be great. Especially for the -8 me vision. I hear you about the alarm clock.

  4. I'm so pround of you for doing that. And you really made me laugh with the 'Eel' comment:)

  5. Hi WFI,

    I think the company is called Optical Express not Optimax (did I recommend the wrng company??). Glad things are really improving now. My experience was definitly less traumatic as the flap cutting and the lasering were done in the same room, I only had to be wheeled on my comfy couch under a different machine, no walking at that stage. And my lasering was only 15 seconds so hardly time to start enjoying the burning hair smell. I also had it done at 5pm which was much better I think, as I could go to sleep through much of the worst bit (did keep waking up and emptying the tears out of my goggles to save from drowning). Just been told I can get a Forces Discount of 20% so they are giving me a £600 refund! That doesn't happen very often!

  6. I didn't feel very brave at the time Sarah.

    corymbia, sounds like your need isn't too urgent.

    Battynurse, someone more blind than me. Wow. It is lifechanging - but subtally so.

    Cheers Mary, I was pretty proud of myself to.

    Wig, Oh I'm sure you said Optimax, doesn't matter anyway I got the discount and if you just save £600 I guess missing out on £50 isn't too big of a deal. I think the end of the day is definitely the way to go. (BTW every knows I'm called Liz now so you don't have to call me WFI!) xx

  7. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEK sorry, I am very squeamish about eyes. I can't even use contacts because, something in my EYE, EEEEEEK etc.

    You ARE very brave - bravery isn't feeling no fear, it's feeling terrified and doing it anyway. If you feel no fear, what in hey are you being brave about?

    Well done, and so very glad you've come out of it with functional eyeballs! Yay!

  8. Wow! You are one brave woman!

    Reading this has made me realise that I'm probably not even eligible for the treatment anyway - unless I'm willing to lie about not being an anxious person!

  9. Wow, so scary!!

    Hub will appreciate this account as he has been contemplating it for a long time.

    And I have that same alphabet coping mechanism!!

  10. Wow, fair play to you, that sounded like a scary procedure. I am one of those lucky people who has pretty good sight, so hopefully it's not something I will ever have to consider. The idea of anyone going near my eyes is not one I would relish.

  11. I'm so glad it worked! I have to admit, I didn't read the entire account of it, but the happy ending was what I was looking for. ;) Now, you just need that baby to get up in the middle of the night with! And soon!


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