Eye Spy – A laser eye surgery diary

Article published in Cork Independent, March 31, 2011.

Laser Eye Surgery Diary – Eye Spy

I’ve had glasses since I was four. Big, plastic, pink frames chosen with a squeal of excitement from a tray of similar Barbie-shaded monstrosities.
School photos show big plastic pink frames; an eyepatch; a squinty grin with glasses removed; and later a more serious navy wire pair with owlish round lenses.
Contact lenses were the subject of intense lobbying around the time of my first disco. College resulted in a funky purple pair, and it’s been black metal ‘designer’ (read expensive) frames ever since.
It’s time to get rid of the facial furniture, and I’m terrified. My specs have accompanied me on every adventure; they’ve been sat on, chewed by the dog, lost, steamed up, sprung apart, and glued back together.
But they’re a nuisance. I can’t open the dishwasher, or the oven, without getting all steamed up. I can’t go outside in the rain and expect to see for more than three steps. I can’t see in the swimming pool and my peripheral vision is blocked by the trendy thick black arms.
I’m seriously short-sighted, with a prescription of minus 6 in one eye, and I have astigmatism too.
So when Optilase asked if I wanted to review laser eye surgery, I said yes.
I’m not squeamish and after years of intermittent contact lens wearing (I only wear them going out – they are too uncomfortable for everyday use) I have no problem sticking my finger in my eye. But I am still very, very nervous.
My first assessment at Optilase was with their friendly, chatty Laser Optometrist Marie, here in the Cork surgery.
Using an array of machines, some of which were familiar from previous eye tests, Marie did a number of tests to assess whether I was a suitable candidate. She explained there are a number of important factors to take into consideration when assessing suitability for laser surgery, and that when these are taken into account, Optilase would recommend whether I was suitable for Lasik or Lasek, two different types of surgery.
During the course of the tests, (which take about 45 minutes) I’m told I have a “lovely, healthy” cornea (phew, I think), and that I would be more suitable for Lasik. Marie also tells me the surgeon – the well-known Cork ophthalmic surgeon Conall Hurley – will double check her test results and confirm whether she’s correct, at my second appointment.
So, if I am going to have Lasik, what is it?
The operation is performed by cutting a flap (using the laser) in the corneal tissue, which is folded back to expose the underlying layer, the corneal stroma. Laser treatment then alters the shape of the corneal stroma according to the measurements the surgeon has taken during tests, and this alters the focusing power and corrects the refractive error.
This will involve keeping my eyes open with a small spring, and using anaesthetic eye drops. The flap is then replaced.
This all sounds scientific enough to be comforting until I realise those are my eyes we’re talking about.
Post-operative care will include wearing an eye-shield at night for two weeks, regularly using artificial tears and other eye drops, and avoiding rubbing my eyes, swimming, and vigorous exercise (no trouble there) for a few weeks. The eye-rubbing is of most concern to me; I am always rubbing my eyes and don’t know how I will prevent this reflexive action that could really damage my outcome.

Marie schedules me in for an appointment with Mr Hurley the following week. Here goes!