Patient experience: How Elaine Prime’s entire outlook was changed by an eye operation
FEATURE - 26TH JUNE 2017
"I had visions of having this big, red eye, but when I took the pad off I could just, well, see. The eye was like a normal eye."
Our eyes are so important to us. I think that’s why people get so squeamish about them. I’d been long-sighted for about 20 years, with my prescription getting higher and higher year by year—but what I hadn’t realised, until after I had this operation, was how much my confidence had waned in that time.
It’s silly, really, that something like your eyesight can change your whole attitude, but I’d got to the point where I couldn’t read the price or the clothes size on a label without getting my glasses out my bag, putting them on, and then having to take them off again. It meant I wasn’t really enjoying shopping anymore, which is something I had always liked doing.
Then they shifted the goalposts for state retirement, from 60 to 67. I’m an accountant for a group of golf clubs, which involves looking at lots of figures every day—but when anyone came into the office, I couldn’t see them unless I slid my glasses down my nose. I got called Anne Robinson that many times! I thought well, if I have all those years still left to work, I had better do something.
I heard about lens replacement surgery from my friend who’s an optometrist. When you’re over 50, laser eye surgery is less suitable for correcting refractive errors, so lens replacement—where they put a lens implant into the eye to restore a natural focus—is ideal. It also has the benefit of preventing you from ever getting cataracts. My friend said, don’t go for the cheapest option, go for the best; look for an eye hospital in London. I did some investigating online, Optegra came up, and the reviews were good so I made an appointment. I have to say, I absolutely cannot fault the service: from the reception staff through to my surgeon, Mr Sumith Perera, and the nurses and aftercare, it has been the perfect experience.
At the first appointment, we discussed the options. I wanted good vision for long and short distances. I had tried varifocal and bifocal glasses in the past, but they didn’t seem to make much difference—apparently, some people just don’t get on with them. Multifocal lens implants give you vision for both distances, so we decided on that, and had a series of tests to ensure my eyes were healthy enough. If you’re diabetic, for example, you can’t have this operation. I was given all the information I needed and told about anything that might go wrong.
This procedure has been around for close to 10 years now, and the lenses are now much more refined than they were—as is the surgery. By using a microscope that measures the rotation of your eye, they can place the lens exactly in the correct position. It projects a beam over the cornea while operating and, taking into account the shape of the eye, places the incision precisely.
Of course, there is a lot of prep work: they have to dilate the pupil and anaethetise your eyes, which they now do with topical drops, so there’s no need for any injections. I was very nervous when they did the first eye—because you know, it’s your face, it’s the unknown—but they were very reassuring. They made me comfortable and gave me everything they could to make me less nervous. The actual operation was literally 15 minutes from start to finish. You have to have your eye open of course—you have to stare into a bright light which projects a beam onto the cornea—but you don’t actually see anything happening. You feel pressure because they are cutting the front of your eye to take the old lens out, but it is not unbearable pressure. It’s uncomfortable and it stings a little, that’s all. I was able to go home within an hour.
After the operation, they patch your eye up for a few hours. I had visions of taking it off and having this big, red eye, but when the pad was removed I could just—well, see. The eye was like a normal eye. There was no swelling, no nothing.
I was totally amazed—completely blown away, as the saying goes—and I had the next eye done five weeks later. I could have had it done much earlier, normally there’s only two weeks between procedures, but I had things going on.
During that time, I had one of the lenses taken out of a pair of my glasses, and a piece of plain glass put in. Driving was a bit difficult to begin with, as it was still dark in the evening then and the glare of the headlights was strong, but other than that I could see completely normally.
I was given two lots of drops to use after the operations. You use one for two weeks and one for four weeks. A couple of weeks after my first operation, I went in for a post-op review. Everything was fine. I now have 20:20 vision—I have eyes like I had when I was 20. I find that I smile when I’m telling people about it. It is an odd experience, I assure you.
My daughter is getting married soon, and I’d been putting off getting my outfit for ages because of the glasses, but a few weekends ago we finally went shopping. To be able to go in and out of shops, see things, pick up shoes and see the sizes on the bottom—well, it was just lovely.