Seeing clearly without glasses

Earlier this year in Lisbon I met with a couple of friends whilst we were out there for a speaking engagement, and to enjoy a little surfing.

During our stay, the topic of laser eye surgery came up. All three of us have had need of vision correction in some form or other over the years. I have worn glasses since I was very young (reluctantly at times, but more willingly in recent years), my friend Joel wears contacts, and Amir has had laser surgery to make the correction permanent.

I had once been told casually by the optician at an annual eye checkup that I’d never be able to have laser correction surgery; my prescription was simply too far out of range for it, so I had accepted that at face value and never really thought much about it since. However, this conversation with Amir and his positive experience stirred my curiosity again and I started to wonder if I should seek a second opinion.

When I returned to the UK I started to search online for information and was staggered by how popular vision correction surgery now is. I also located an incredibly highly recommended surgeon in London who had a glowingly long list of TrustPilot reviews.

There are a whole host of reasons why a person may or may not be eligible for laser vision correction surgery, and to be honest, I was pretty convinced I was going to be out of the acceptable bracket. Not only have I suffered with a number of eye issues in the past, I was also convinced that my strong prescription would be a barrier. I booked a consultation with Mr Ali Meerza with the view that I would probably return disappointed and my fears confirmed, but at least I would have a conclusive view on the matter. I was hopeful that I might be proven wrong, but I didn’t expect it.

I first visited the clinic in Marylebone during Wimbledon and remember watching a semi final match in the waiting room before my consultation. The reason I mention this detail is that I cannot tell you how much the customer experience dealing with the clinic has been exceptional throughout. I love to closely observe how well-regarded businesses treat their customers and I was clearly aware of the premium reputation of this place before I engaged them, but all I can say is my expectations were exceeded. At every touchpoint, from the website, communication, to the personalised service and on-site experience - it’s been a joy to be treated to - and very fun to dissect how I am being cared for along the whole length of my journey so far. So many positive things to absorb!

Of course, there is a cost to this kind of eye treatment, however I felt having done my research and made comparisons to similar products offered by others, and the seriousness of the work to be undertaken, making sure I invested in the services of someone so well regarded seemed to me to be a sensible consideration and worth some additional cost (which I felt was very reasonable, but that is a decision anyone else considering surgery has to judge for themselves).

I would probably not be writing this post had the result been difference, but following two short consultations including one with Mr Meerza, they confirmed there was no barrier to do the work. In fact, the prognosis based on the results of the scans and assessments was very much positive, rather than marginal. Naturally, I was elated.

Four months later, and yesterday I went in for the treatment. It’s a 15 minute operation, and I spent just an hour and a half in the clinic in total, but to be honest the time I spent in there is a little disorientated in my memory. The operation itself is an incredibly curious experience. I had both eyes treated, and of course there is a degree of squeamishness associated with anything to do with the eye, but I’m not able to say any of it was unpleasant. I felt a little nervous in advance, but the professional nature of the whole experience did a lot to reassure me.

The cold facts of the procedure was that it’s like experiencing a light show; reds, greens and whites on a field of darkness. It’s very hard to explain, but I found that absorbing myself in the beauty of what seemed to me to resemble a silent firework show comprised of pretty gauze-like fields of light and pulsing embers helped to keep me relaxed throughout. There’s even one bit that feels and looks like like you’re entering an airlock on a spaceship. Really.

The evening afterwards was a bit difficult. It was dark by the time I left but I was definitely more sensitive to light in the shop windows as I sat in the taxi on the way home, and the various drop routine started in earnest which is going to be a large aspect of my routine for the next week or so. I napped for an hour on the advice of the surgeon, and woke to find the mistiness and blur I’d been experiencing was starting to subside.

Over the next couple of hours before bed, I could sense an improvement in my vision, albeit relatively hard to truly gauge what had changed. Trying my glasses on made things blurry, so I could tell there was a significant difference. It was definitely clearer without them now.

When I woke the next morning, I had to remove the eye protection I’d been given, and after a few moments my eyes started to adjust. There was no pain or grittiness, but the moment the change really hit me when I focussed on the horizon and I realised I was able to make out the detail in the stonework of Westminster Abbey a kilometre away, and the clarity of the amber and red leaves in the autumnal trees of Victoria Gardens. Also I could see things crisply in my periphery - I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever been able to say I’ve experienced that before in my whole life.

I had a checkup at 9.30 this morning. The light sensitivity from the night before had faded and I had the joyous experience of walking down the Lambeth embankment towards Westminster, then around Oxford Street and absorbing detail everywhere. It’s not only the remarkable nature of the crispness - I have always been able to see that in photos or at certain focal lengths - it’s just the constant realisation it’s happening without an artificial lens, and in situ.

There appear to have been no complications with my surgery, and the recovery has started well, which means I’m already feeling vindicated in my decision to pursue this. My one eye already is showing greater than 20/20 vision, something I never assumed possible. I was keen to get this experience down in writing quickly as it’s unlikely I will recall it so clearly in the future, and I hope it might provide someone else with an insight to the procedure and experience if you also are considering laser corrected vision yourself. I know this particular part of the journey was the least clear to me in advance of the procedure.

One footnote; the effects of surgery, even if positive may fade over time, and by the time humans reach 40 years old there is a high chance of a need to use reading glasses regardless of any laser vision correction. I understood this but take the view that if that gives me roughly 10 years of freedom, especially if it means I can now see clearly in the swimming pool, when I get up in the morning, while I work, or when I’m outdoors, that’s well worth the investment now.

This post was first published on Wed Nov 15 2017

Andy Higgs
The author

My name is Andy Higgs and I am a business founder, design leader, occassional surfer and travel enthusiast based in the UK.

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