I was one of those kids at school with the massive glasses. Yes, this was the eighties, they were huge. I had been blessed with ‘four eyes’ since I was six or seven, before graduating to contact lenses (hard ones) and then – the happiest day of my teenage life – all singing all dancing, soft ones.
For a while, I couldn’t have been happier. No more specs and a whole new look – well, almost - at the age when boys become every young girl’s number one priority. Sadly, the joy wasn’t to last. My eyes seemed to be permanently dry, so wearing my lenses all day at school and then going out on a night with my friends wasn’t really an option. Not that I let this hold me back. Many a social outing was spent in near blindness as I refused to wear my glasses. I would make friends stay close by so I didn’t lose them (I was short-sighted) and soon got a reputation for being aloof – I couldn’t see anyone on the other side of the room so waves from afar were wasted on me.
Looking back, it’s a miracle I wasn’t hit by a car, or abandoned by the friends I’d turned into social guide dogs. Thankfully, I survived unscathed, but I always wondered what it would be like, to be able to see more than a couple of feet in front of me without help.
In reality, I never thought this would happen, until one day at work I heard about a friend of a friend who had had their eyes ‘lasered’ and hadn’t had to wear glasses or contacts since. I was gobsmacked. How could this be? Naturally, I made it my mission to find out.
My first port of call was my mum – no, she’s not an optician, she just tends to know stuff. In typical ‘font of all knowledge’ fashion, mummy dearest then proceeded to tell me that this kind of surgery had been around for ages. I recall her describing some grainy news footage of the procedure from back in the day, showing a line of patients in Soviet Russia being dealt with, one after the other, by the same surgeon. I was undeterred.
Some months later, I decided to bite the bullet and booked myself in for a consultation with the best clinic I could find in my area. Ironically, this was Boots. Yes, the same international Boots the chemist that we have in Dubai, believe it or not. They have specialist laser clinics in the UK.
I liked the fact that they turned people away if they weren’t sure they could get a good result, rather than just taking the Dhs5000 an eye it cost at the time, and giving it a go anyway.
After an eye examination and a chat with a consultant, I was referred to a surgeon for a second check to make sure that I was a good candidate for Lasik – the best laser eye surgery available at the time. I was short-sighted in both eyes, and had an astigmatism, which could have made the procedure tricky.
Luckily for me, they felt happy to go ahead. I knew the risks (www.medicinenet.com) and that it might take a second operation to correct my sight completely, but I was happy to take the plunge for the chance of binning my glasses for good.
As the day of my operation drew near I was becoming more and more apprehensive, but the potential benefits far outweighed any doubts I had. After her sterling initial advice on the subject, I took my mother with me for moral support. Well, that, and straight after the procedure you can’t see much, so I needed a safe pair of hands to guide me home.
As I waited for my turn, a helpful nurse told me that the patient before had bolted before the procedure. Turns out he hadn’t understood that the first stage of the treatment involves your eyeballs being tightened to the extent that you go temporarily blind. Duly noting his experience, I took advantage of his escape and got in early for my turn.
My lovely, and reassuringly calm, surgeon and a team of four nurses helped me onto the table and explained again what was going to happen, before applying some numbing eye drops.
I won’t lie, at this point I discovered a new level of fear, as the dreaded ‘blinding’ tubes were attached to my eyeballs. Luckily, the eye drops had done their work and I was in no pain as my surgeon lifted a flap from the top of my first eye – about as thin as a piece of clingfilm – before getting me to focus on the red laser as he counted down through the 60 seconds it would take to reshape my eye and correct my vision.
As this was happening, a nurse explained what the burning smell was (yup, that’s your eyeball) as well as the liquid dribbling down the side of my face (right again, that’s your eyeball too) as I forced myself into an out of body experience, focusing on my new life as one of the fully-sighted folk.
Approximately five minutes later, I was back in the recovery room, each eye covered with a mini sieve-like device to protect it. My vision was blurry and my eyes felt like they were full of grit, all normal I was told. Within about half an hour I was allowed to go home, along with a nice supply of painkillers to see me through the first 24-hours.
Back home, the only feeling I had was relief that it was all over. By 7.30pm in the evening, I was even more intrigued to discover that I could watch Eastenders on TV – through my eye sieves – and it was pretty clear. Amazing, but nothing compared to the feeling when I woke up the next morning and saw my reflection, clear as day, in the mirror on my door. It was first thing in the morning, so initially this was a fairly shocking sight, after 24 years of kindly blurred edges, but more than anything it felt like a miracle.
Almost six years later, I still feel very lucky to have near-perfect sight. I haven’t needed glasses or contact lenses since, and I couldn’t be happier with the results.
If you think you might like to ditch your glasses, there are options available in Dubai. We haven’t tried out any of the procedures here, but the best bet would seem to be the new Moorfields Eye Hospital at Dubai Healthcare City. They’re a big international name in eye care with an excellent reputation to protect.
For more information, have a look on their website www.moorfields.ae and, if you’re feeling brave, book an appointment.