New eyes… that’s exactly what I got over the last few days. Well, they’re still my old eyes but let’s just say they feel like version 2.0. But before I got my eyes fixed I went through a confidence crisis which led me to the best decision and investment of my last 20 years. If you are wearing glasses for most of your life, like I did, read on. This COULD change your life.

Rewind

Back in March I visited my non-regular optician to get a new prescription for my glasses which I felt were not strong enough. I was a -8.5 in both eyes and to be honest, I have been this short sighted since I was 7 years old. Depending on glasses for 3 decades and wearing lenses for 25 freakin’ years…

After all the tests were done, the optician concluded that I needed a slightly stronger prescription. Oh and something else. ‘I can no longer prescribe you lenses. In fact, if I were to prescribe you lenses I would lose my licence, your eyes are pretty damaged already’, she said.

Stop, what?! I am not allowed to wear lenses anymore!?

Time to PANIC

I started wearing lenses when I was 11. The simple justification was that I played tennis competitively as a Junior and felt that glasses held me back. Back in 1997 I visited one of the top centres for laser eye surgery in my native Greece and surprise surprise, was told that I would need to be off contact lenses for at least 3 months or their specialised equipment could not get an accurate reading of my cornea to allow the surgeon to decide whether I was suitable for refractive surgery. I was in my first year of Law School and did not think that wearing glasses for 3 months would be a good idea. Boys! What a looser statement,

Close up image of glasses on pile of books: LASIK Sugery

Credit Aarti Instructs

I wish I could go back in time and punch myself in the face for not making the right decision to get off lenses! The years went by and I used contact lenses in excess, often sleeping in them, not caring properly for them and even burning my eyes on a couple of occasions.
I tried, unsuccessfully to have more consultations as the years went by, and was always turned away because I did not manage to stay off the lenses long enough. Then around 2010 I tried again with a high street laser eye clinic in the UK and all preliminary tests were good. Finally, I could have my surgery!

On the day of the surgery, the surgeon pulled out. The surgeon, PULLED OUT. He said that the results he was seeing were not good and that he did not want to attempt to operate on my eyes. I was referred to an eye specialist at the Lister Hospital who concluded at the time that I should immediately stop wearing lenses or risk my eyesight permanently. Guess what I stupidly did? Ignored them alright.

Call in the experts

To my husband’s surprise, I went cold turkey. It must be the leap year I guess; he stopped smoking, I stopped wearing lenses. I was almost 2 months off lenses and totally annoyed about it, when a late evening TV session turned my life upside down. The program was about people with extreme health issues who were seen by specialist consultants. One such consultant was ALLON BARSAM. You may want to google him right now. I did, at that very moment, and the next day I had a call back and was booked in for my consultation at his office in central London.

A graduate of Cambridge University and University College London Medical Schools with Honours and a Distinction in Surgery, Allon’s residency training was at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London (TOP OF THE TOP). He then completed a one year fellowship in New York where he worked closely with two of the US founding fathers of modern Cornea, Cataract and Laser Vision Correction Surgery. He followed this with an additional Cornea, Cataract and Refractive Surgery Fellowship at the Western Eye Hospital in London. And that’s just a small bit of his bio. Allon is super approachable, super friendly and having had laser eye surgery on his own eyes he is very understanding. Oh, and very easy on the eyes. He could easily move across the pond to LA and care for the eyes of the super famous if he wanted to, and be on TV doing it as the same time. Yup, that good. He’s the surgeon other surgeons go to when they want to have laser eye surgery.

After my initial consultation and a number of tests on corneal shape, pressure as well as my prescription, Allon advises that I was suitable for LASIK. With LASIK, the surgeon cuts a flap in the cornea, uses a laser to reshape the cornea under the flap, and then closes the flap. Most patients can see perfectly within a day and there’s minimal pain. It was exactly what I wanted to hear as I thought that my cornea was too thin and that I would be needing LASEK instead.

There was no rush in getting me booked for surgery. I received a packet with advice on how to build up my immunity system and help my eyes over a course of a month, with antibiotics, eye drops and flax seed capsules. I also received my informed consent form which sets out an alarmingly long list of what could go wrong – and you have to consent to the risk – but talking about percentages here, things don’t go wrong easily unless you are not careful.

Yes, when I say “not careful” I probably mean my mother who had cataract treatment and went back to her “day 1” appointment wearing mascara. The doc almost had a heart attack. She avoided eye infection, but simply put, make up is not allowed after eye surgery. Simples.

The day of surgery

On the day of the surgery Allon is as confident and switched on as could be which in turn makes me, the patient, extra confident that all will go according to plan. I lay on the operating chair and the laser starts warming up. It makes the kind of progressing humming that you hear jet engines make before take off, I am thinking that this is STAR WARS technology as the laser starts focusing on my eye while I am focusing on my friend – the flashing green dot. It is friendly, after all HAL9000 was red, right?

With the flap open and lifted, Allon focuses the laser and there is a count down for 25-30 seconds per eye during which he re-assuringly tells me it’s all going good. There is no pain whatsoever and there’s music in the background aimed to make me relax. There’s a nervous excitement but also a genuine feel of “letting go” and completely trusting a stranger with your vision. The moment the flap is lifted and your eyes loose focus I think is the worse part. But within seconds everything is normal again.

With clamps off my eyes, I slowly rise up and Allon asks me to look at a clock on the wall. The realisation that I can bloody TELL that it’s 2 o’clock without glasses just kicks in and I wonder if I am allowed to cry.

Quiet time

I move into a quiet dark room with a recliner  where I stay for half an hour. I keep staring across the room when I hear Allon passing outside and telling me “keep your eyes closed Jenny”. Oops, I am so busted. I close my eyes and make a list of the things I want to do now that I no longer need glasses. Swimming under water with my eyes open comes top on my list.

Now, obviously, you could be wearing glasses and be perfectly happy in them – I know my brother thinks that they fit his profile as a lawyer and he’s not keen on surgery, but seriously, this is life changing. Not only does it boost your confidence, it has certainly in my case helped me avoid a very bad situation in the future where I continued to wear contacts without proper prescription and damaging my eyes irrevocably.

If you think that the cost is prohibitive, think again. The clinic even offers financing on a number of procedures and we can work with you to make our pricing manageable.

Goodbye old friends

You have served me well. But now we have to part ways. It’s not you, it’s me, really. Or maybe it’s Allon. Either way, goodbye.

On my way back home, there’s very little blurry vision and by the time we reach home I can already drive my car. At night I sleep with protective eye masks and keep taking my drops and by day 3 my vision is as good as it could be. Knowing that I signed up with an expert also means that should anything go wrong, I will receive great aftercare which is peace of mind.

If you are considering laser eye surgery, do think of Allon Barsam. You really want to go to the best. I would not hesitate to recommend him to friends and relatives and only wish I had known of him earlier on.

Seasons In Colour – New Eyes by Jenny Kakoudakis, Seasons In Colour