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Laser Eye Surgery {What It’s Really Like}

Author: Lisa Soeno

My other half, Rich, captured in the gorgeous snap above by Little Beanies, has recently had his eyes lasered. As someone who cannot stand the thought of any medical intervention unless strictly necessary (I don’t even really like taking paracetamol), this intrigued me and I thought I’d recount Rich’s experience in case anyone is considering the same treatment.

Read the following in your best Brummy accent.

I have always been the ‘experimental’ type – I’m always up for trying something new. (Lisa calls these my ‘fads’). For example, when we travelled the east coast of Australia I bought myself a surfboard and a wetsuit and was convinced that by the end of our six months I’d be winning surf competitions (I’d never surfed before in my life). It only took one terrifying attempt at surfing in Tamarama bay where I swear I nearly died and that put paid to my surfing career. The there was the time I had the grand idea of setting up a gym in our garage. The punchbag has turned dusty (it’s been used once) and Lisa swears under her breath at me every time she goes in there. Anyway, you get the picture. So I was open to trying laser surgery.

The idea of having my eyes lasered has been at the back of my mind for a while. But as my contact lenses became increasingly uncomfortable over the last year I thought I’d take the plunge and book a consultation with a specialist about the prospect of having surgery to correct my vision.

Initial Consultation

At the initial meeting the consultant told me I would need LASEK surgery (as opposed to LASIK which is the more common and apparently painless procedure). This was due to me having an astigmatism (where the cornea of your eye is rugby-ball shaped) and my eyes being dry. I was told that I would only be able to go ahead with surgery if the dryness of my eyes improved, and was advised to follow a new eye washing routine involving special eyelid wipes.

Second Consultation

It’s clear the wipes have done their job because I’m told at this consultation that the dryness of my eyes has improved. It’s all systems go and I book myself in for surgery on the Friday before the May Day bank holiday.

Surgery Day

My appointment has been brought forward from 10am to 8.30am, which I’m secretly glad about (less time to get nervous)!

When I turn up at 8.30am for my appointment I have to confirm my name, age, DOB and which eyes I’m having lasered – I’m having both – unnerving because I feel like they should know this information! But I guess it’s to double check that I’m the right person and that they are carrying out the correct procedure.

It’s only when I walk into the operating theatre, and see the medical team in their scrubs, that it truly dawns on me what I’m putting myself up to.

The consultant starts drawing on the skin above my eyes and I feel like I’m in an episode of Nip Tuck. Then they lay me down and I’m wheeled backwards under a machine where the professor who’s going to carry out the procedure is standing behind me. My right eye is clamped open, anaesthetic drops are applied, and my adrenaline is through the roof. The atmosphere in the room changes from relaxed and jovial to serious and sedate (one of the members of the medical team starts counting) as the professor starts working away on my eye. I can’t feel anything but I can see everything, but it’s as if I’m under a swimming pool. My jaw is rigid and my fists are clenched.

After about 30 seconds the professor announces that he’s going to start the laser. I’m told to look straight into the machine and the counting man starts counting again. Another 30 or so seconds later and it’s all over, and a ‘bandage’ contact lens is applied.

Exactly the same procedure is carried out to my left eye and the feeling in the room returns to one of relaxedness, thank goodness. I’m walked back to the waiting room where Lisa is waiting for me.

We go via B&Q on the way home: the bank holiday is set to be a scorcher and we need a new BBQ. BAD idea. The painkillers start to wear off and the pain rushes in. When we get home I go straight up to bed and shut the curtains and leave Lisa working out a schedule of when to take all of the antibiotics, eye drops, eye gels, painkillers, anaesthetics and sleeping tablets I’ve been sent home with. Today’s drugs take up half an A4 sheet. I spend the rest of the day in bed in a fair bit of pain, despite the medication.

Day 1

Much of the same as surgery day, except the pain is wearing off, and being replaced by a gritty and dry sensation in my eyes. I can’t see much and I’m developing cabin fever because it’s the hottest Bank Holiday weekend on record and all I can hear is people frolicking in the park outside our house whilst I’m holed up in a dark room! Finding it frustrating because I can’t sit outside/watch TV/read.

Day 2

Lisa’s family arrive – they’ve come for a BBQ and are staying over tonight. I’m properly out of bed for the first time in two days and am ok pottering about, but when it comes to sitting down and trying to focus on and talk to people, my eyes feel uncomfortable to the point that I take myself off to bed for an early night. (This is unheard of when we have people over – I’m usually the last man standing).

Day 3

Awful ‘popping’ sensation in my eye at one point today when I was sitting outside reading the paper (which is just about manageable now). I was worried I’d burst a blood vessel but the pain gradually eased.

Day 4

It’s the Tuesday after the Bank Holiday, my first day back at work (the consultant had advised me to have a week off but I naively thought I’d have recovered by now so didn’t book it off), it’s also my birthday. I’ve got to say it’s my worst birthday ever! I’m at work, I’ve not arranged a birthday night out, and even if I had done I would probably be cancelling because my eyes are still uncomfortable.

Day 5

It’s the day of the follow up appointment at the eye clinic. I’m desperate to have the bandage contact lenses taken out as my eyes are so gritty and dry. You know the feeling when you’ve had your contacts in for too long? It’s that sensation but a hundred times worse. The bandages are taken off at the clinic but as soon as I arrive back at work I experience that popping sensation again and this time it’s so painful that I go back to the clinic. They explain that the bandage needs to be reapplied to my right eye for a few days.

Day 7

The bandage contact lens is taken off my right eye and this time it’s ok. Hooray!

Day 8

Lisa’s managed to turn my worst birthday ever into the best birthday ever by surprising me with a night’s stay at Hampton Manor hotel. My parents are looking after the kids and I spend three hours in our hotel room with the football on and a glass of wine in hand: Heaven on earth.

Day 9

I announce that I’m fine to drive us home from the hotel (the consultant advised that it can take 1-2 weeks for driving vision to return), only for Lisa to shoot me down by asking me to read a number plate 20m away (I can’t). My vision is DEFINITELY getting better though.

Day 12

I finally pass Lisa’s number plate test and can drive myself to work again. This is a massive relief: I’ve hated being reliant on other people for lifts.

It’s now over two weeks since the operation and I’m pretty much back to normal. There is a real novelty of not having to put contact lenses in every morning/take them out every night, and I’m finding it intriguing to see how much I can see without the aid of glasses or contacts. I’ve also worked out that in eight years’ time the surgery will have paid for itself (it cost £3,600 and I’d have spent that amount on glasses and contact lenses). I’m not allowed to swim or play squash for a couple more weeks but this may have been a blessing in disguise as it’s encouraged me to get back on my bike. When I can squeeze it past the punchbag.

Have you had your eyes lasered or are you as much of a scaredy cat as me, or are you considering it? What have your experiences been like?

Author: Lisa Soeno
Lisa is obsessed with all things interior design. And Cadbury buttons.
Follow Lisa on instagram @lisa.soeno
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21 thoughts on “Laser Eye Surgery {What It’s Really Like}

  1. Love this article Rich! Although I must say the ‘popping’ sensation has definitely made me think twice about getting my eyes lasered. 👀

    1. Mia there was worse than this from his description of the surgery but I left it out as I didn’t want to scare people! X

  2. OMG! I’ve been wondering about getting this done for a while and as i’m super squeamish have mostly decided against it but would love not to have to wear glasses. My friend had it done recently and seemed to bounce back after a day and i saw a blog recently where someone also seemed fine after but maybe they had the other surgery? As i have dry eyes i’m now more for leaving it as that sounds pretty horrendous! Does Rich feel like its worth it?

    1. It’s a resounding yes from Rich. And yes sounds like your friend may have had LASIK if she bounced back after a day x

  3. I am hugely squeamish about anything to do with eyes – I refused to even consider contacts when my optician suggested it as just no!!! I’ve had friends who have had laser eye surgery – one of them her story sounded horrendous and i think she had the version that Rich had done but she did say she was pleased she had it done once it was all healed. Eye popping sensations though?! Ummm no thank you!!!! I can safely say this article has just confirmed I will be sticking with my trusty non-invasive glasses!! 🙂

  4. Great article but like Janey, it’s made me want to stick with glasses too! Plus I feel like they are part of my identity now – I don’t look like ‘me’ without them now.

    1. I know what you mean Jo G. One of my friends wears glasses and she doesn’t look like her when she has her contact lenses in x

  5. Had mine done over 20 years ago and don’t regret it for a minute. I was very short sighted and I don’t need anything now – not even reading glasses as yet. The only downside for me is that my night sight is not so good and driving at night is difficult – but it may have always been tricky, I can’t remember.
    My surgery was quite different and had a longer recuperation period. The laser was directed straight onto the eye (and you could only have one done at a time – with a good few weeks/months in between). There was a distinct smell of burning during the procedure – this was my eye – yuck!!!!!! And the recuperation was uncomfortable, like having a large piece of grit in your eye.
    But, despite all of that, I’m pleased I did it.

    1. Rich will be glad to hear this! And yes he mentioned the feeling of grit in the eye and the burning smell (but again I thought it might be too graphic to include!) x

  6. Omg if I ever thought in my braver moments that I could get my eyes lasered, eye popping has me screaming and running in the opposite direction!!!!

  7. I had my eyes lasered 11 years ago and it was the best thing I ever did (apart from laser hair removal. I am clearly a fan of lasers). I was very severely short-sighted (-9.5) and, as soon as the procedure was over, I opened my eyes and could see clearly and felt very emotional as a result. The clamping was uncomfortable but I didn’t have any other pain during the procedure itself.

    I had a mix of Lasek and Lasik due to astigmatism in one eye. My eyes were incredibly sensitive for about 2 days and I couldn’t look at bright lights etc but I had no popping, thank goodness! The main issue was that all the blood vessels in my eyes burst during the procedure so I had very red eyes for a few weeks. They looked quite terrifying (it doesn’t happen to everyone, it was just because my eyesight was so bad apparently).

    Even now I am so grateful I did it as I had v thick glasses and my contacts had got so uncomfortable due to my dry eyes and working long hours. I love not having to wear glasses every day, and not having to worry about prescription sunglasses. And it has saved me an absolute fortune in lenses and glasses.

    1. Abi I would be well up for laser hair removal, just not my eyes! How brilliant that you could see so clearly immediately afterwards. Your experience/reasoning sounds v similar to Rich’s. He is now loving not having to wear glasses/contacts, and of course the fact that it will save him a heap of money in the long run. You’re both braver than me 😛

  8. I’m 31 and had my eyes lasered at age 22 via optical express. I was fortunate that my parents footed the bill for me! Honestly, for me it’s been life changing!!
    my eye sight was shocking and the little things make a huge difference…swimming…sitting on a beach without the prescription lenses..waking up being able to see…seeing in the shower…not having to deal with lenses and glasses (which weren’t cool back then like they are now), the list goes on and on and on!!!
    The treatment itself was easy…zero pain…just some weird noises and smells during lol…you feel a little crummy for a couple hours but once you sleep for a few hours you feel pretty good afterwards. I would highly recommend to everyone! But I would advise to steer clear from optical express as they are full of empty promises with their “life time guarantee and free eye tests” (you can google that scam it’s well known) otherwise, its fab!

    1. Catrin how lovely of your parents! I guess a lot of it comes down to how bad your eyesight is. Mine’s not too bad but I can imagine if it deteriorated significantly in the future I MIGHT try and get over my squeamishness!

  9. If people reading this are a bit worried – please note, you’re much more likely to need LASIK which is super easy and straightforward – I was back at work the day after.

    I had mine done just before my wedding and it is literally the best money I have ever spent! I had it done at the London Vision Clinic on Harley St as I was super paranoid (it’s my VISION eek!) but they were amazing and only a little bit more expensive than the high street companies. It was soo super relaxed even during the actual procedure. There was no pain / weirdness / vision issues. The hardest bit was that you’re meant to keep your eyes rested for a few hours after the surgery which meant getting home from the clinic was hilarious, my mum had to guide me everywhere!

    I raved about it so much that my colleague immdiately booked herself in and had hers done 12 weeks later. That was three years ago and my vision is still 20/20.

    1. Thank you for reiterating that Kate!

      Brill to hear a clinic recommendation too. (Possibly should’ve mentioned that Rich had his done at Midland Eye in Solihull) x

  10. My husband had his done 17 years ago and it’s been a resounding success. For him, because he did sport, he found it awkward with contacts and the catalyst was a holiday to St Lucia where he knew he wouldn’t be able to enjoy water sports due to contacts/glasses. He had a very good experience and doesn’t regret it for a moment. He was told that it wouldn’t stop the normal aging process and it’s true that a few years ago he had to start wearing glasses again just for watching TV and driving but it’s only really been the one eye that is affected. Other than that, his vision is still great.

  11. I’ve had it done twice on both eyes as the first time didn’t give good enough results. The first time was easy and recovery was quick & pretty painless, the second time the surgery was fine but the recovery was very painful. I’d still do it again in a heartbeat for all the reasons mentioned above, being able to see all the time is amazing!

  12. I had my eyes lasered 3-4 years ago and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Was so straightforward. Immediately after I had it done and the anaesthetic started wearing off my eyes started feeling a bit sore but i just went to sleep when I got home and woke up with no pain and slightly foggy but perfect vision. Over the course of the following hours and days the fogginess wore off and vision has been amazing ever since!!

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