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A life changing experience…

Well, after years of prevaricating, I have finally gone and had it done. Today, at about 10:30 am, I went under the knife (or more accurately laser) and had my eyes operated upon.

I used Optimax, and they were pretty good. A few weeks ago I went through an initial consultation, which was much more thorough than one I had received at one of their biggest high street competitors. I haggled over price and agreed a cost that I felt was fair and competitive. We set a date for surgery and that was that.

Today I travelled to Finchley Road, to their London clinic, which is based in what looks like a converted Victorian school building opposite the tube station. I had managed to organise the journey on a day when London Transport had shut the Jubilee and Metropolitan lines, but luckily it was early in the day, the replacement bus was running and I was able to arrive in time to get a coffee and croissant in a cafe across the road, before my appointment.

The process started with a repeat of some of the tests I had experienced at the initial consultation. I was then sent upstairs to a waiting room before meeting my surgeon. Whilst I was waiting, I had the slightly unnerving experience of listening to a young woman refusing to have treatment, having met the surgeon in question. She said that he seemed disinterested and had made no effort to make her feel at ease. She didn’t trust him. Her husband was a surgeon, she said, and he was distinctly unimpressed too. Not a good start.

However, when I was called in to meet the great man, I found him to be fairly engaging, sensible and thoroughly straight forward in his approach. His greeting was simple and to the point… “Ah, Mr May, the 45 year old with the extremely high prescription and appalling astigmatism? Good morning!” He asked me various questions, double checked that I understood the risks of surgery, that I realised that I would probably end up a bit long sighted (on account of my great age), and sent me to be retested on a couple more items. I then answered a detailed questionnaire to show that I understood the consent form… (hint; the answer to all the questions is YES), signed the form itself and then sat reading Homes and Garden magazine for a few minutes.

Before I knew it, a young Polish nurse (all the support staff seemed to be Polish), called my name and I was taken through to the operating theatre’s prep room. Prep involved my putting on a hairnet, sitting in a chair to have my eyes cleaned and anaesthetic drops administered. I sat for a few minutes, waiting for these to take effect and then I followed her through to the theatre, leaving my glasses behind…

The operating theatre was manned by the surgeon and a couple of support staff, who didn’t introduce themselves. I lay down on what looked like a fully reclined dentist’s chair. The first thing the surgeon did was to swing me under a laser machine which had a suction cap attached. This was plugged on to my eye and made a slight hum. Before I knew it, the surgeon then informed me that he had made the first flap and would now be doing the next eye. This part of the process was completely painless.

I was then swung under the laser machine that would actually do the surgery. I was asked to look at a green light and I think the surgeon lifted the flap that he had made, but I can’t be sure – as obviously everything was out of focus… The green light turned to red and then into a set of dissipated red lights. There was a very slight smell of burning, which I understand was my eye being lasered, but no pain at all. Again, before I knew it, the surgeon informed me that the first eye was done and that he was now going to start on the second one. “Just another four minutes and it’ll be done”, he explained. I asked him if there were any surprises. “No,” he said, “very boring and routine, but I think you’d prefer it that way.” He then inserted ‘bandage’ contact lenses into both eyes. These are completely clear and just protect the flap from dust for the first few hours. They will be removed tomorrow.

“That’s it,” he said, a moment later. I walked with the nurse back to the reception area, removing my hair net and picking up my bag from the prep room. I could already see better than I have seen since I was about eight – certainly well enough to recognise Shelley, Marc and Kye, who were waiting for me in the reception room. I said hi and was then taken into a recovery room, which was dark, and asked to shut my eyes for ten minutes or so. Shelley came into the room to have a chat.

I was then taken downstairs to see an optician who checked the state of my sight. Whilst I could now see, it was a bit like looking at the world through a haze. I wasn’t able to read the top line of the test card properly, even though the world certainly seemed more distinct that it does normally without glasses. She explained that this was perfectly normal and that I shouldn’t be concerned. She provided me with a range of eye drops that I have to use for the next few weeks – one set to be used every half hour for the next two hours; one to be used four times a day for the next week; another to be used six times a day for the next week and then less for the following week; others which can be used all the time; others that will provide pain relief if I need it but shouldn’t be used unless necessary. Jolly complicated.

And that was it. Out into the bustle of a warm Saturday morning, with Shelly guiding me down steps and across the road to the car park. (Actually, the guidance wasn’t really necessary, though it was very welcome. I could see pretty well.) I then sat in the front of the car, shut my eyes and chatted to Marc and Shell as I was driven home. Once or twice I opened my eyes, managed to put in my first set of eye drops – and realised that I could read road signs, see details and generally recognise things that I have never been able to do before without glasses. Extraordinary.

Shelley, Marc and Kye left me to rest. How lucky I am to have great friends to look after me.

I have spent most of the afternoon with my eyes shut, listening to the radio. The anesthetic has worn off, but there is absolutely no pain. The bandage contact lenses are slightly irritating, but much, much less bad than contact lenses I have worn before. Sight is pretty good. I can see very well long distance, though I am unable to focus well close up. Middle distance seems to be fluctuating a bit, depending on how dry my eyes are. (I have been carefully putting in eye drops according to the detailed schedule all afternoon.)

I will post again tomorrow…

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