PLEASE NOTE: This post is long, and it contains graphic description of eye surgery which may make you feel a bit icky if stuff like that freaks you out. Don't say I didn't warn you.
All views here are MY OWN. Optical Express have not asked me to write anything.
Last Friday, 17th April, I had laser eye surgery at Optical Express in Cabot Circus, Bristol. I didn't sleep well the night before. Partly because of all the bad reviews I'd read, and partly because I was putting myself forward for surgery on my EYE BALLS. Weird. On Friday morning, I stomached some tea and toast, got ready, and Ash drove us into town. We live 40 minutes from Bristol but if the traffic is bad, it can easily take over an hour. Luckily, we arrived in town early enough to pop into Costa. The peach lemonade and ginger biscuits did wonders for settling my stomach!
Over the next half an hour, she called me for even more scans on my eyes which were in rooms just off the waiting room. She checked my paperwork, took it off me, then said my surgeon would come to see me soon. Almost no time at all passed before I was introduced to Mr Luca Antico, my laser eye surgeon. He had a quiet voice, almost hard to hear sometimes, but seemed very sure of everything he was saying. He listed off some of the risks (almost like reciting a script) and asked me to sign on the dotted line. Ahead of my consultation, I had done a lot of research, so was well aware of the risks. I didn't feel like I needed to ask any further questions as my mind was made up. He said "within 40 minutes, you will be on your way home." How right he was.
At 11.10am I was called into surgery. Typically, Ash picked his moment to go to the toilet, so I yelled "see you later" through the door on my way past. This is when my heart really started to race. The nurse from before took me into the surgery room, which looked just like a dentists office. She introduced me to my two surgery nurses, although their names went in one ear and out the other. (I'll call them left nurse and right nurse.) I don't think I even looked them in the eye. I was so petrified. I did a final signature on my consent form, and led back on the chair. My head was flat on the rest. I crossed my legs over each other and crossed my arms on my stomach - a little bit of comfort, perhaps. Right nurse asked how I was feeling. "Bricking it." Left nurse laughed. Right nurse moved the first laser machine over my face so I could get an idea of how bright and how close it would be. Surgeon muttered something under his breath to the other two, and then left nurse said "Ok Rosie, just relax and we'll start." She dropped some anaesthetic eye drops into both eyes, whilst humming along to the radio. They began working straight away.
(The above photo taken from the Optical Express website is exactly how my treatment room looked)
The first part of the procedure was the worst. In order for the correction laser to get closer to the corneal tissue, a small flap needs to be created on the front of the eye. To stop me from blinking, a plastic ring was fitted around my eyeball. Then the machine was brought down onto the ring, and a cool laser beam created a tiny flap. The surgeon moved the cells over so the cornea was exposed. But I'll be honest with you - at the time, I felt nothing apart from pressure. When the machine came into place, it was like someone was sat on me. It felt quite claustrophobic, and I was obviously no good at hiding my feelings as left nurse said "slow down your breathing Rosie, no need to panic." But there was no pain, just pressure.
When both eyes were done, I was moved around slightly which placed me under the correction laser machine. As my prescription was fairly bad, I had 28 seconds of treatment on my right eye and 25 seconds on my left. The surgeon held my head still and told me to focus on the red light. The laser machine was loud, it ticked as it worked, and there was a slight smell - although I was assured this was the heat from the laser and not the burning cells of my eye ball! Left nurse counted down the seconds whilst right nurse chatted away to distract me. Throughout this, drops were being applied to my eye, so my face was completely soaked. The red dot seemed to be moving around, and I was worried I was doing something wrong. I asked, and they were really reassuring. My surgeon moved the flap back over my eye and then tilted my head to do the other eye. Again - I didn't feel a thing. I couldn't see anything either. My eyes were so wet with drops and they work so closely, that you can't really figure out what's going on. And then, it was over.
I laid down for just a minute with my eyes shut, then they helped me sit up. Another nurse, James or Chris, I can't remember, helped me up and into the room opposite which was dimly lit. He talked me through my eye drops (3 drops, 4 times a day, for 1 week), booked me in for my follow up appointment the next day, and then said "sit there until you're happy to get up, then I'll help you out." That's when my blood pressure dropped. So I grabbed the foot stool, got my feet up, tied my hair back, took my cardigan off, got some water, put my sunglasses on and closed my eyes. I sat for about 5 minutes before deciding I really wanted to get home. I bundled everything into my handbag, and walked out into the waiting room. My eyes were heavy. I could just about make out the shape of Ash walking towards me. He grabbed my arm, called the lift, and guided me all the way through the shopping centre back to the car with my eyes completely shut. I put my jacket over my head, and tried to sleep in the car on the way home.
The pain was bad. I was scared. They told me it would be uncomfortable, but this was a stabbing pain, particularly in my left eye. Ash pulled into a garage on the way home to get me some water so I could take painkillers. Within 40 minutes we were home. I stumbled in the door, kicked off my shoes, and felt with my hands to get upstairs. I didn't even get undressed. I crawled into bed, led my head on the pillow, and willed myself to fall asleep...
(I will write about my recovery in the next couple of days)