Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Laser Eye Surgery with Optical Express (LASIK iDesign) - The Surgery

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!
At 10.30am, we walked over to Optical Express for my appointment. I felt so nervous. The lady at the front desk took me into a side room for some additional scans to ensure everything recorded at my consultation was the same as surgery day, and then upstairs to the clinic. She handed me over to someone else who weirdly didn't introduce herself to me.

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)

Monday, 20 April 2015

Introducing Piper

If I'd known last month when I wrote my 20 Before 30 that I'd be ticking a couple off so soon, I wouldn't have believed it! My parents friend has a beautiful black cocker spaniel called Swift, and I said a while ago that I'd love one of her pups one day. In February, Swift had her first litter, 3 girls - 2 black, 1 golden. On Easter Sunday, whilst in Frome with the girls drinking lots of white wine, I got some emails from my Mum who had taken it upon herself to 'visit' the puppies... I replied to the photos with lots of pleases, but Mum kept saying no... On Easter Monday, we were planning on taking Amelia to choose some guinea pigs from the same place, as he breeds them for pet shops. But she wasn't feeling well, so Mum, Ash and myself went instead. Before even seeing the pups, I knew I wanted one. Plus, what's another dog to add to the family when we have 5 already?

Two pups were left, one black, one golden. Both were adorable. We played for almost and hour, before Mum said "no, we can't get a puppy." That's when I turned into worst-daughter-ever. All Monday evening and Tuesday morning I sent texts and emails, almost begging Mum to let us get one of the pups. When I got home from work on the Tuesday, I could tell by the look on her face that she had reserved one! The following Saturday, we picked up little Piper, at 9 weeks old, and although she's only been with us for little over a week, she already feels like a major part of our family.
I can't wait until she's had all her jabs so we can take her on some evening walks around the neighbourhood! Hopefully she will have grown out of her biting a little bit by then.
To see more snaps of her, be sure to follow me on Instagram @ohsorosie

Friday, 3 April 2015

Laser Eye Surgery Consultation with Optical Express

In August 2013, I spoke about my eyesight on this blog (here). Back then, I was worried about finding glasses which I was comfortable wearing out of the house on the days when I didn't want to wear contact lenses. Fast forward 18 months, and I am at the end of my tether with glasses and contact lenses. I've had conversations with a couple of people who have had laser surgery and speak very highly of it. And that's why I made the decision to book a consultation for laser eye surgery with Optical Express.

I've thought about laser surgery for years, but something always put me off finding out more. I'd read SO many bad reviews online and was petrified that something was going to go wrong. But I remembered that people are always more likely to write a bad review than a good one. With that in mind, I booked a free consultation a couple of weeks ago, and yesterday attended the appointment in Optical Express Bath.

I was seriously nervous and I think most of that was because I was afraid that they were going to tell me I wasn't eligible for the surgery after thinking about it constantly for a couple of weeks. They were showing the episode of Friends where Phoebe and Mike get married in the waiting room though, so that settled my nerves pretty quickly.

The consultation is a series of eye tests. First up was the "puff of air in the eye ball" test, which always makes me jump. Then I met my optometrist, Scott, who did a 'regular' eye test to determine my prescription, including the red/green tests, and the 20/20 vision reading tests. All normal stuff which I have done before at previous eye tests with Specsavers. Then the weird bit happened. Scott put anaesthetic eye drops in so he could measure the curvature of my cornea by poking my eye with a little machine (the technical term for it is Auto-Keratometer). I couldn't feel a thing! The same eye drops are used for the surgery which is really reassuring - honestly, I couldn't even feel myself blinking. And for the last test, Scott put in some more eye drops which dilated my pupils, then looked at every side of my eyes by shining a really bright light at them. That was the hardest part of the consultation because it is so difficult to convince your eyes to stay open when a light is being shone straight into them.

After all the tests, Scott told me that I was a perfectly eligible candidate for laser eye surgery, with a simple prescription of -3.75 in each eye. I watched a 5 minute video about the procedure, the risks and the expected results, and then he answered all of my questions honestly and explained the two different types of treatment I could have. I decided to go for LASIK iDesign treatment, which has a 99.1% rate of achieving 20/20 vision or better. I felt excited to know that my eyesight could be changed forever.

Scott handed me over to Melissa, to talk about booking in for the treatment and finance. Optical Express offer interest free finance for 10 months, and other long-term finance options which aren't interest free. I looked at my calendar, and booked my treatment for Friday 17th April in Optical Express Bristol Cabot Circus. In 2 weeks time, I should have perfect vision!

I already know that this will be life changing. The surgery isn't cheap - mine is just shy of £3000 - but I can't put a price on the difference it will make to my every day living. If I don't have lenses in or glasses on, I can't drive, I can't watch TV, I can't read anything.  It's so exciting to think that in a couple of weeks time, I will have 20/20 vision.

After my consultation, I walked into the high street to meet my sister after being advised that I wouldn't be able to drive afterwards because of my dilated pupils. Check out the picture below of how big they were! I did feel a bit funny walking around town, and even got a little headache, but I shut my eyes for half an hour when I got home and felt fine afterwards.

Of course, I will write again in a couple of weeks when the surgery is complete.
But until then, I want to know - have you had laser eye surgery? Or ever thought about it?

UPDATE 7th APRIL - I received some messages on Twitter/Facebook regarding ways in which Optical Express price their treatment, and how you can often get a reduction in price by simply asking for it. I called Melissa today, and she was able to offer me £200 off the final cost. If you don't ask, you don't get!

Note: this is by no means a sponsored post, or a post endorsed by Optical Express. I am simply documenting my treatment on the blog in the hope that it'll help other people.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Easy Syn Free Pancakes - a Slimming World recipe

I am still on the Slimming World Extra Easy plan, despite fluctuating a lot in 2014. I am talking losing lb's whilst on holiday (what?) just to put them all on again over the Summer, to lose them before Christmas, and then to gain 6lbs in 10 days - mostly because of eating jelly beans for every meal. Anyway, since January, I have been trying to regain my focus, and now a quarter of the way through the year, I feel ON IT.

Ash tends to get up early and go fishing once a weekend, leaving me a quiet morning to make breakfast at my own pace. One of my favourites are these syn free pancakes, topped with loads of fruit. Here's the recipe.

1. Separate 3 eggs - yolks in one bowl, whites in the other.
2. Depending on your sweet tooth, mix sweetener into each bowl. I use 3 tsp in the whites and 1 in the yolks.
3. Whisk the whites and sweetener until thicker and slightly fluffy, then fold in the yolks.
4. Spray a pan with Fry Light and set it to a medium/high heat.
5. When the pan is hot, spoon some of the mixture into the centre and allow it to cook through for a couple of minutes. (This is a good time to add blueberries if they take your fancy)
6. FLIP IT! And allow to cook through on the other side.
7. Take your cake out of pan and repeat. Normally the bottom of the stack is a bit cold before I get to it, so when all the pancakes are done I put the plate in the microwave for 10 seconds to warm through, before serving with speedy fruit. Sometimes I drizzle 1tsp honey for 1 syn.

So easy to make and completely syn free. Let me know if you make them!
Rosie x

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Living With Eczema

I've lived with eczema for as long as I can remember. My memories include being coated in thick emollient after having a bath, secondary infections in the cracks in my hands, flare ups just because the weather had changed and waking myself up night after night scratching my body until it was red and sore. One of my saddest memories involved a 7 or 8 year old Rosie, sat in the Doctors office, being told I would grow out of it. It's sad because it never happened, and it probably never will.

Eczema is a chronic atopic skin disease that, for me, can only be managed, not cured. The only pro of living with eczema for so long is that I've found core products which allow me to cope with it, and learnt lots of lessons along the way.

Don't scratch
Something which I tell myself every day. And so does Ash. And so do Mum and Dad. My 5 year old niece even tells me to stop. Scratching causes the skin to break up, bleed and risk infection. I have cotton gloves from The Body Shop which I wear to bed when I've had a particularly bad flare up, to try to reduce the damage I do when I scratch in my sleep.

Know what makes you flare up
It's quite simple for me. My eczema is worsened by heat, water, touching animals and using fragranced products. Heat and water is the biggest issue, as every time I wash my hands or shower, I get itchy. Animals and fragranced products I can avoid as much as I want to, but it's pretty hard when you live with 5 dogs and 2 cats and REALLY like Lush skin products.

Anti-histamines aren't just for hayfever
Those with atopic eczema like myself are prone to suffering from hayfever and asthma as well. I take an anti-histamine most days as it lessens the chance of a reaction and means I can spend time with our animals without having a flare up.

Know how to treat
I always have a moisturising lotion with me to apply once I've washed my hands. My favourites are E45 Intense Recovery hand cream and Norwegian Formula's Fast Absorbing hand cream. Both have a neutral pH balance and have no perfumes. For after a shower, I will use E45 lotion or Lush's Dream Cream, which is a new paraben-free discovery of mine! When my eczema is particularly bad, I have 2 prescribed steroid creams from my GP which work almost instantly in controlling the flare up, but I have to avoid using too often as they can be damaging in the long-term.

Do you suffer from eczema? How do you manage it?