By Rachel Lankester, Mutton Club editor and founder, Magnificent Midlife Movement
Laser eye surgery isn’t for everyone but it can be truly life transforming. Here’s a personal story of what’s entailed and how I faced my fear of laser eye surgery risk.
Glasses at puberty
When I was told I had to wear glasses at age 11 I was devastated! It even went through my sad, self-obsessed pre-teen but already menstrual brain that it would be better to be blind than to HAVE TO WEAR DORKY GLASSES! So I fought hard to wear contact lenses and even though the only ones available were hard ones, wear them I did.
Oh the pain! The dryness. But I stuck with it. And I got ever more adept at taking them out with no mirror and spitting on them when they got too dry. But hard contact lenses did not an active and spontaneous child make:
- I couldn’t sleep in the lenses so always needed to have my glasses available.
- I couldn’t stay out anywhere without clean water, my glasses, my lenses, my cleansing fluid and my storing fluid – camping was a nightmare!
- Swimming was a nightmare too – I couldn’t swim with my lenses in because if water got in my eyes they would slip out. And I couldn’t swim with the lenses out because I couldn’t see a damn thing. Just about manageable in a swimming pool. Well nigh impossible in the sea.
- Always covering my pupil with a hard piece of plastic made my eyes incredibly sensitive – so chorine or salt hurt like hell!
- Result – camping a no no, swimming tricky, beaches a nightmare, because I was either blind in the sea or wearing dorky glasses on the beach and certainly no putting my head under the water in case the damn lenses floated away.
Dreams of perfect vision
For years I dreamt of laser eye surgery. Especially as my eyesight continued to decline until it finally stabilised around 35. But I was too poor and then too scared to pursue it. But my sight was bad enough that I couldn’t get to the bathroom at night without putting my glasses on.
Finally, at the grand old age of 43, I finally decided to take the plunge. I decided to take as few risks as possible and found a consultant at Moorfield’s Eye Hospital in London. Heck, if they, as the world’s leading eye hospital, didn’t know what they were doing, the whole procedure was ridiculous.
I had an initial consultation and the specialist told me he could fix my short sight and limit long-sightedness as I aged. He said he would leave one eye sufficiently short sighted so that, as I naturally progressed towards long sight, I would always be able to read a price ticket in a shop and a menu in a restaurant.
Reading would most likely need glasses in due course, but I wouldn’t be utterly dependent on them out and about. But your vision won’t be quite as good as with your contact lenses, he said. And night vision might be slightly worse as you may be sensitive to street lights. But you’ll be able to drive without glasses. Hell YES! Bring it on!
Fear and more fear
I was lucky to be able to schedule the surgery very soon after the initial consultation. Otherwise I might have changed my mind. I was petrified on the day. After all, it had taken me years to take this step. You can never be absolutely sure of what risk you run with laser eye surgery. But the hospital team took me in hand and made it all seem routine.
I lay down under the laser, practiced the deep breathing the nurse had told me to do and within half an hour it was done. Each eye was separately kept open with a rather strange contraption and the actual surgery for each eye was no more than 5 minutes. No pain, just some slight pressure on my eyeball. Scary but very doable.
When it was all over I was escorted back to the waiting room and apart from a slight fuzziness, could immediately see facial features reasonably clearly on the other side of the room. Previously they would have been blurry figures without my +5 strength glasses.
As time wore on, the mists in my eyes dissipated and I had perfect vision. Quite incredible. I was sent home with a strict regime of eye drops for a couple of weeks and goggles to wear at night for several days to stop me rubbing my eyes in my sleep.
A clear new world
Since that day I have never looked back! I now take every opportunity to swim and get my face under water. I go snorkeling and have camped in a sandy desert. I get up in the morning and can walk about without any need for glasses or lenses. And true to the surgeon’s word, as I approach 50, I can still read menus and prices with no problem at all.
So if you’re wondering about laser eye surgery, are ready to face any risk and can afford it, cos it ain’t cheap, then go for it! But find somebody good – I still don’t like the idea of a high street provider. Find a real specialist not someone with a good sales pitch. You’ve only got two eyes after all.
Image courtesy of Ed Ward at FreePhotosBank
Rachel Lankester is the founder of Magnificent Midlife, author, host of the Magnificent Midlife Podcast, a midlife mentor and editor of the Mutton Club online magazine. After an initially devastating early menopause at 41, she dedicated herself to helping women vibrantly transition through the sometimes messy middle of life, helping them cope better with menopause and ageing in general, and create magnificent next chapters. She’s been featured in/on BBC Woman’s Hour, The Huffington Post, The Sunday Times, Thrive Global, Authority Magazine, The Age Buster, Woman’s Weekly, Prima Magazine, eShe, Tatler HK and Woman’s Own amongst others. She believes we just get better with age. Get her book Magnificent Midlife: Transform Your Middle Years, Menopause and Beyond.