I eventually plucked up the courage to have my eyes corrected by laser surgery.
In my home town of East Grinstead we happen to have one of the best centres for this type of process in the UK. It is called the Centre for Sight. I had a thorough set of tests and measurements the day before, and yesterday I went in at lunchtime, and was prepped for the operation. A couple of “happy pills”, antibiotic and anaesthetic drops and I was ready!
The actual operation was a bit weird. I was lying down an a padded bench that rotated, swinging my cushioned head from one hi-tech instrument to the next. I was given two squishy “stress-balls” to keep my hands occupied.
First the surgeon pushed some sort of small cup over the cornea with quite a lot of pressure (this was the only uncomfortable bit of the procedure). A slit was cut at this point to allow a flap to be opened at the front of the eye. This was completely painless and it was interesting to see (at very close range) the lifting of the thin flap by a small “probe” held by the surgeon. I was then swung to the next instrument which was a high precision laser that burnt away a small amount of the eye exposed under the flap. The eye lids were held back by a clamp but, with a constant stream of lubricating liquid, this was not even a little bit uncomfortable. The removal of tissue was precisely mapped and unique to my eye using wavefront technology. There were two strange sensations going on at the same time at this point – one was an amazing lightshow of dancing red lights…not a point of light but a wide circle of moving shapes, the second was a distinct burning smell. Again completely painless. The flaps were then put back in place and smoothed out with small “spatulas”.
With all the pushing, pulling, rotating, liquid splashing, and light dancing going on it was a surreal 10 minutes or so. When it was over I felt more like I had been on a ride at Disneyland than had been operated on. As I swung my legs of the bed and onto the floor the cheerful nurse said “look at the clock”. I looked across the room and saw the individual numbers and the hands of the clock – not just the blur I was used to. This is before I left the operating theater! A big pair of ski-like-goggles were slipped over my head as I left the room.
Sarah was waiting outside the room having watched the procedure on a television set up for the purpose.
“I can see!” was all I could say with a stupid grin on my face.
After about 20 minutes sitting still in a dimly lit room, one of the consultants looked at my eyes. I was also given a quick eye test. I could read the line just above the “20 – 20” line already. Before I walked into the surgery I was not able to read the first big letter without getting off my seat and walking half way towards the chart!
When I got home I sat down and listened to the FA cup final (I know, bad planning). At this point, just over an hour after the surgery, my eyes began to stream as if I had cut up a large pile of onions. This discomfort lasted throughout the match. I was under strict instructions from the brilliant nurses not to open my eyes for the rest of the day anyway.
By the evening I had no discomfort and I was desperate to test out my new eyes. Contrary to the instructions from Centre for Sight, I kept opening my eyes briefly to test out the clarity and was amazed by the improvement. It is a technological miracle.
I have to take regular eye drops for the next few weeks but then my new eyes are set for life!