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Seeing the light

Ever since I had my eyes tested at age 14, I have needed glasses.

Contact lenses didn't work for me as my eyes would feel irritated and sore and, an hour or two after putting them in, I had to remove them.

At -.5 and -1.25 my eyesight was not that bad, but I needed glasses for the blackboard in school and for watching TV, the theatre, driving, or if I was ever going to a rugby match or anything like that.

I was too vain to wear my glasses out at night and, consequently, there were many times when I waved back at people across a crowded room with no idea who they were. Sorry if it was you!

If I had watched a lot of TV with my glasses on, when I took them off, my vision was a bit blurry as my eyes had gotten used to the help the glasses gave. As I got older I started to get very mild headaches, which I realised were from squinting and straining my eyes when I wasn't wearing my glasses, and I decided I needed to do something about it. I didn't want to wear my glasses all the time and so I began researching another more permanent alternative.

I had the same fears as anyone regarding laser eye surgery. My eyes just seemed too precious to risk, not to mention the fact that you actually have to be awake and coherent during the procedure, but eventually I decided that I would at least research it a bit more and go for a consultation or two.


At my first consultation I was ushered, shaking with nerves, between the various machines that take measurements of your eyes. The doctor stated that I was suitable for Lasek surgery, which has a healing period of about four days. They also had the practice of doing one eye one week, and the other a week later, which sounds fine but I am sure in practice is a bit demanding.

I learned a lot but I wanted to check out a few places and, luckily, my next appointment found me in just the right spot.

My second port of call was Optilase in Ely Place. I am the first to admit that I am sceptical about the way medical procedures have almost become features on the high street, independent of hospitals. The manager Keith Wilkinson informed me and my ever-protective father that actually not having the endorsement of being directly associated with a major hospital meant that they only had to strive further to counteract any doubts.

My consultation was lengthy and I was informed that I was suitable for Lasek treatment and that the clinic did both eyes on the same day unless there was any cause for concern.

I was also told I was suitable for a much quicker-to-heal-from procedure, Lasik, and that I would not have to return the following week and go through it all again.

My dad asked questions about the legal end and, in short, it was explained that each clinic has highly comprehensive insurance which covers machinery and the nurses and each surgeon also has their own insurance, so you are well covered.


We left with my dad still in doubt as to whether I actually needed to go through with the procedure as he didn't think my sight was bad enough, but I was calm and confident. We had booked a pre-op to meet the surgeon the following day and as soon as we met Dr Crewe Browne my dad relaxed and gained the faith and confidence he needed. Dr Crewe Browne has a wealth of experience worldwide and has carried out more then 22,000 operations.

He explained how Lasik was used prolifically among sports people, and is also FDA approved for the US air force. He gave us the impression he had all the time in the world and answered every single question either of us had in a way that put us totally at ease. He also explained that he normally did both eyes at the same time as they immediately co-ordinate as they heal.

After our time with him I knew I was in good hands and booked in for surgery the next day.

I arrived at Optilase at 12pm with a funny bubble of nerves in my stomach, but also a feeling of excitement. I kept trying to focus on things far away and imagined how different it would be post-op. At 12.20pm I was called downstairs. I was given valium and my hair was put in a hair net and my shoes covered up.

After waiting 20 minutes for the valium to take effect I went into the operation room. I lay down on a bed that wasn't unlike a dentist's chair. I was told to focus on a certain point above me and drops of anaesthetic were put in one eye. The Intralase flap in the cornea was made with the first machine and the bed was moved across to the laser machine. I felt nothing and was told to keep focusing upwards. The laser technician counted down as the laser machine worked. It was just 10 seconds for one eye. This was loud but I was prepared for it and then I could smell the strangest smell, not dissimilar to burning hair. Once the laser switched off I was moved back and I could feel Dr Crewe Browne's hands making sure the flap in the cornea was perfectly back in place.


One eye done, and the procedure was repeated. It all took about 15 minutes and I felt nothing. I went into the recovery room where I was examined again and given antibiotic drops to use for a week and also some very fetching cups to tape over my eyes at night for a fortnight to protect them from scratching or rubbing while I slept.

I walked back upstairs with my Ray Bans on, as you need to protect your eyes from sunlight immediately afterward, and greeted my dad. A lovely feeling of relief washed over us both. I left at 1.30pm.

I slept solidly once I got home, emerging occasionally for a biscuit or a drink.

The next day the magic started to happen. Although my eyes looked very, very bloodshot, I could see everything. I sat in the kitchen marvelling at the fact that I could see the detail on the plates on the dresser on the far wall, I could see clearly the neighbour's roof and individual leaves on the trees.

I went for my day-one consultation and it was announced that I now had 20/20 vision. A week on and my eyes were still improving, and after a fortnight the red had all disappeared and they felt more normal.

I still use eyedrops frequently but this is a small price to pay. I can't thank Dr Crewe Browne and all at Optilase enough. A world has opened up to me.

Advanced CustomVue WaveFront Lasik Treatment with Intralase for both eyes costs €2,790. Optilase's prices start from €495 per eye but vary depending on the patient's treatment choice and are tax deductible at 20pc. www.optilase.com