I can still remember the moment the optician told me that I needed glasses. I was 8 years old and had been having problems seeing the blackboard at school (yeesh that makes me sound old!), as well as trying to find my friends in the lunch hall. A routine eye test found that I had very slight short sighted-ness and would need to wear glasses in the classroom. I was in absolute tears that day, and couldn’t even bring myself to look at the range of colourful specs on offer. I came back the next day and chose the brightest, hugest pair of Kickers glasses. And that was the start of my short-sighted journey. Little did I know that in around 25 years to come, a miracle (and a lot of money) would allow me to see again. This is the story of that miracle: my laser eye surgery experience.
After that fateful day in Body’s opticians in Leigh-on-Sea, my eyesight progressively got worse as I got older. Soon I was wearing my glasses all the time. When I started competitive swimming, my mum bought me optical goggles (hahahahaha!!) as I couldn’t see anyone in the pool! At 15 I finally started using contact lenses, and whilst I found them annoying, they really did make a difference in improving my confidence, especially when going out to parties and all those teenage shenanigans.
At this point I learnt about laser eye surgery and I distinctly remember asking my optician about the procedure. A normally quiet and reserved man, he unleashed an angry tirade about the dangers of laser surgery and how I would basically be burning my eyes out and would be left blind.
For the next few years the word ‘laser‘ did not leave my lips, until I had laser hair removal in my very early twenties. I then met my husband, got married and had children, all of which put a huge strain on my eyesight!!! I found that I had headaches more frequently, and wearing contact lenses during my pregnancies proved difficult as my eyes were always dry. I tried eye drops and different lenses and also wore my glasses a lot more. My husband kept banging on about laser eye surgery, but the words ‘you will go blind’ were firmly embedded in my brain.
At this point I was -4.75 in my left eye and -5 in my right eye with an astigmatism in both. For those without eye problems, this means that on a short-sighted level things were very blurry, and that my eye balls were a slightly different shape to most eyes, so it made it more difficult for contact lenses to sit snugly.
I then saw a segment on This Morning, where Philip Schofield had laser eye surgery at a Harley Street clinic. Before the treatment, he received a head massage and chocolates, in order to relax him. This was enough to make me sit up and take notice!
Coincidentally a relative of my husband’s also had the procedure done at the same clinic, followed by his son who was a few years younger than me and had the same short-sighted level as myself. I was intrigued and begged them for more information. My research led me to the London Vision Clinic on Harley Street which boasts one of the most highly trained eye surgeons in the UK, Dr Glenn Carp. I knew that Dr Carp was the man I needed to see.
I rang the clinic and after discussing my options (and prices) with the very knowledgable reception team, I decided to book an initial consultation. At no point was there any obligation for me to go ahead with the procedure, and even during the later stages, there was always an ‘opt out’.
Price-wise, laser eye surgery is VERY expensive. There were different price options available at London Vision Clinic – the basic procedure could cost from £5000 (!!!!!) right up to over £6000 depending on the complexity of your eye needs. I’d seen advertisements from companies charging far less than Harley Street clinics, but at the end of the day this isn’t a simple surgery. If something goes wrong with the eyes, there is very little that can be done to fix them. Luckily London Vision Clinic provides payment plans and after adding up how much I had spent over the years on glasses, contact lenses, eyes drops and so on, I decided it was worth the investment.
After an initial extremely thorough eye test with the optometrist, I finally got to meet Dr Carp. There was a lot of paperwork to discuss as well as the results of my eye test. Dr Carp informed me that I was a great candidate and that my surgery should be straightforward, although as with any medical procedure, there were risks. Undeterred, but completely broke, I decided to go ahead with the procedure.
The type of laser eye surgery I was to have was LASIK eye surgery. According to London Vision Clinic, the critical difference between LASIK and PRK/LASEK is that, instead of removing the surface layer of the eye, an ultra-thin hinged flap is created to allow the laser treatment to be made, after which the flap is closed like a door. By returning the flap to its original position in this way, it’s only the edges of the flap which need to heal. Therefore, the recovery time is a fraction of PRK/LASEK, and most LASIK patients are ready to go back to work within 24 hours of surgery. Click here to read more.
I was told to wear my glasses from then on rather than my contact lenses and a week later, I had another pre-treatment consultation the day before the surgery. I had another eye test and went through more paperwork with the optometrist who explained exactly what the procedure would entail including aftercare. There was no stone left unturned. I left that meeting fully prepared and fully aware of what was going to happen to my eyes.
On the day of the surgery, I arrived early and was taken to a small room where once again a member of staff went through various paperwork. I was given some painkillers and some anti-inflammatory tablets and then an aftercare pack with instructions of what I was to do in the days after the treatment. This included regular eye drops, a timer for the eye drops, night-time eye patches, and more eye drops.
Then the moment of truth. I was led to a room that looked very similar to the room in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, when Mike TV jumps in front of a huge laser beam thing that shrinks him and transports him into the TV.
At this point I had no glasses on, so things were very blurry indeed but I could make out several people in the room. Dr Carp did a few quick tests on my eyes and then I was asked to lie down on one of those dentist chairs. A sexy hairnet was placed on my head and I was told to simply relax and try to keep my head as still as possible. I’m used to eye tests so I wasn’t too nervous and in fact, was more excited than anything! Dr Carp then ran through some tests with his team and the laser machine was placed very close to my face.
The procedure itself literally took less than 10 minutes and was, for want of a better word, WEIRD. I had to stare straight ahead into the laser, focusing on a certain point whilst the laser worked its magic. I should note that the whole treatment was completely painless. The only discomfort I experienced was when an extremely bright light had to be shone into each eye. Once the surgery was complete, I was led to another room with a comfy sofa and told to lie down for a bit with my eyes closed. A short while later I was allowed to leave with my sunglasses on. So all in all I had been at the clinic for just over 2 hours.
My eyes were still blurry when I left and got a taxi home. You are advised to avoid public transport and to head straight home. Once settled on my own sofa, I set the timer and carefully administered my eye drops for the next few hours, keeping my sunglasses on and just resting. I wore the eye shields throughout the night and by the next day I was amazed that I could SEE! Dr Carp rang me that afternoon to check all was well and a few days later I returned to the clinic for a post-treatment check up. As the weeks passed my eyesight got better and better. The London Vision Clinic provide great aftercare and you can see them at any time post surgery.
Out of habit, I continued to search for my glasses every morning and couldn’t believe that I could actually see. My husband remarked that I didn’t seem too excited by my newfound eyesight, and I answered that it was simply because I believed I still had my lenses in. I had been wearing glasses for over twenty years, and contact lenses for over 15 years, never being able to see properly when I wasn’t wearing them.
It is not an exaggeration to say that my life COMPLETELY changed the day I got laser eye surgery. It might sound extreme but I even feel safer now that I can see! Previously I would wake up in a blur and go to bed in a blur – if anyone came into the room and I didn’t have my glasses on I had very little idea who they were – they were simply a fuzzball. I also can’t tell you the amount of times I lost my contact lenses at the back of my eye and had to pull them out. Even having a shower or a bath was a problem. I remember once when I was pregnant, hauling myself out of the bath and letting out a shriek of terror when I saw a blurry reflection in the mirror – then I realised it was me!
As our eyes are constantly changing, particularly with age, there may come a point when I will need laser eye surgery again – perhaps a top-up in 10 years time. For this reason, I would not advise anyone to have laser eye surgery too young, simply because your eyes naturally change over time. I’m glad I waited until my early thirties and after having all my children, as pregnancy can change your body so much.
Laser eye surgery remains a somewhat controversial topic amongst opticians and optometrists. Some are absolutely for it, and some are against it. If you are thinking about laser eye surgery, be sure to do plenty of research first and weigh up whether the financial side of it would be worth it in the long run. If you only wear glasses for say, reading, there may be no point in the procedure as it won’t drastically change your day-to-day routine.
Almost two years on from my surgery, I continue to be in absolute awe that I can see so clearly. Wearing glasses and lenses is a distant memory. For me, having laser eye surgery was far more than simply an issue of vanity, it changed my life on a hugely practical level and I am so grateful.
Have you had laser eye surgery? What was your experience like?
This post is NOT sponsored. At the time of writing, I had my surgery almost two years ago so the number of pre-treatments and aftercare appointments may have been more. All opinions are my own. Please read my Disclaimer for more information.