“ Ultralase laser eye treatment. „
Having to wear my first pair of glasses at the age of eight, I quickly decided that they did not do much for me (in the looks stakes!) and by eleven I was wearing contact lens. Between that date and my 41st birthday I can honestly say that even though I had absolutely no problems with contact lens if a genie had popped out of a bottle and granted me one wish it would have been to be able to see from the moment I opened my eyes in the morning.
I had heard about laser eye treatment in the past but was always a little bit unsure as to whether it was a good idea to have someone 'poking around' in my eyes. I may not have been able to see clearly upon waking but at least I wasn't blind.
All this held me back from taking the plunge of eye surgery. I had, in the past, read the websites and literature but to be quite honest it didn't give me what I needed, which was confidence that it would work.
My prescription was 5.0 and 5.5 left and right eyes which is quite strong and I found that the websites did not really make it clear up to what prescription is reversable.
However, one day at work a friend came in and said she had just booked in for eye surgery (her prescription was over 10!). I waited until she had received her treatment then discussed with her the results - and what results they were - she now has 20/20 vision.
This was what I had been waiting for, the chance to speak to someone who had been there and understood my fears. So courage up, I booked an appointment with Ultralase (the same company she had used). There are some other companies about and just to make sure that I was fully informed I also booked an appointment with one of the other (cheaper) providers of the service on the basis that whilst I was prepared to pay thousands for the service I would check out the cheaper alternatives as they advertise the exact same procedures for a far cheaper price.
The consultation process at the cheaper clinic, I must say, was much the same as at Ultralase - the same tests, questions etc., but after considering all the information to hand I opted for Ultralase as I had felt more relaxed and confident in both the surroundings and the staff that I dealt with. It took a number of weeks to book a date for the consultation as I was a long-term hard contact len's wearer and they advised that I needed to wear glasses for at least a month before they would do the tests so that my eyes had a chance to get back to the normal shape (apparently they can distort slightly when wearing lenses).
For the consultation, you were requested to bring along dark glasses as they would be putting some drops in your eyes that would open your pupils, therefore light would be a bit bothersome as your pupils would not be able to contract normally for a couple of hours after the consultation.
As the Ultralase clinic was some 30 miles from where I lived I opted to take someone along with me as I did not want to have any problems with driving.
The consultation went along at a nice pace, I was made to feel special and important. Each and every test they did was explained clearly along with the reason for the test.
Once all the tests were completed I met with the surgeon who went through the results. Surprisingly, as I happen to be slightly overweight, they found that I had thin cornea's (could it not be the otherway round!). This ment that I would have to have the LASEK treatment rather than the LASIK (the difference is only minor from what I understood and more to do with how they remove the 'flap' of cornea - LASIK is where they cut a flap, fold it back and then laser whereas LASEK is where they soften it with alochol and 'slide' it back).
The surgeon advised me to have the wavefront technology which, though it costs more, is supposed to be better due to the fact that it maps the surface of your eye for any irregularities, high spots etc, and then the laser removes these to give you the best result. My mind being set on perfect eyesight I have to say that I decided to opt for the wavefront.
I would mention that I was advised that due to my age I was starting to get close to the age when I would naturally start experiencing age related reading difficulties ( you know - when you start holding the book a long long way from your eyes). This is likely to happen whether or not you have the surgery.
My decision was that I would be more than happy to wear glasses to read, but for normal life I wanted to be glass/contact lens free.
Once the consultation was over I booked in to have the surgery.
The wait was not too long - only a fortnight (again I think, for me, the wait was more because of my long-term wearing of contact lenses as they did say they would re-do some of the measurement/mapping tests to make sure that there were no more changes to the shape of my eyes (better safe than sorry).
So - 2 weeks later I attended the clinic for the procedure. As promised they quickly repeated some of the tests to make sure that my eyes had settled into their normal shape. All was well so they took me to the waiting room. Looking round, through my glasses I saw a number of people, young and old, who all looked as I felt - scared. One by one they were led away for their treatment and I didn't see them again - getting scarier for me!
Eventually it was my turn. I was taken into a small room and kitted out in some very attractive blue paper shoe covers, hair cover and wrap. The assistant then told me exactly what would happen when I walked through the door into the treatment room.
So into the treatment room I went. There were about 3 or 4 people in there (including the surgeon). Sorry I can't be more precise but my attention was pretty much glued to a large machine standing front and centre in the room.
The surgeon advised me, again, what the procedure would be and that at all times they would keep me advised as to what was going on.
They set the machine for my first eye (the right) and asked me to lay down. Because I was having the LASEK they had to soften the cornea and I will admit that this was the most uncomfortable part of the procedure. Using eye drops to numb the eyeball they place a small funnel on the eye and put some liquid alcohol (I am guessing medical alcohol, not vodka) into the funnel. Because they have to hold the funnel down on your eye to ensure no leaking you can feel the pressure (almost like when you rub your eye too hard). However, this was only held on for 20 seconds and they counted those seconds down so that I knew exactly when it would come off.
Once that was done, they slid the softened tissue to one side.
The laser treatment, I was told, would be given in 3 bursts. Each one lasting no more than 20 seconds. Again, they advised me when they were going to start each one and counted down the seconds. I found this to be very reassuring. (I would mention that you smell something similar to burning hair but it does not last long).
Once the first eye was done they put a medicated contact lends (called a contact bandage) in my eye and a clouded plastic shield over it and then guided me to a chair to wait for them to reset the machine for the second eye. This only took about a minute or so, then I was back under the machine for the second eye.
The procedure was exactly the same - again the seconds were counted down.
Then it was all over.
I was escorted to a darkend room to rest for about half an hour. During this time the eye shields were removed but I was advised to keep my eyes closed to allow everything to settle down. Of course I didn't do this - I couldn't help but look and I am pleased to say that whilst not 20/20 I could see better than I could before the treatment.
After the rest I was taken to another room where I was given various drops to put in my eyes for the next couple of days and given instructions as to what to do with them. One set of drops are anti-biotic which you must put in without fail, the other drops are only for pain-killing purposes and incase you experience dry eye and I am pleased to say that I did not need them.
You have to return within a week at which time they take the contact bandages out and check how your sight is. I was advised that I would not have perfect sight at that time but that it was an indication as to how well the procedure had worked and what sort of sight I would end up with.
I went home with all my drops (oh yes and a couple of attractive eye shields that you have to tape on at night so that you don't inadvertently rub your eyes - very 'The Fly') and had absolutely no problems. By the next day I could see clearly but did find if I watched telly or read for more than a hour my eyes felt a bit strained but this settled down within a couple of days.
On my return visit my contact bandages were removed and they tested my eyesight - 19/19 vision. I was advised that this meant I would have 20/20 vision within the next week. And they were right.
All in all, I am so very glad I had this procedure. Ultralase made sure that I felt as if I was the only one they were dealing with at any and all points of the consultation and procedure and ensured that I had a couple of check-ups over the following year.
My sight now is still 20/20 - my genie wish can now be used for something else.
The whole procedure cost me just over £3000 pounds but, for me, it was worth every penny. I know I could have got the same from another specialist (I have a friend who went with someone else and was very happy with the result - but only spent a third of what I did), however for me, it was important that I was comfortable with and trusted the surgeon and support staff.
If you are thinking about this sort of treatment I would suggest you always spend the time having 2 consultations with different providers to check who you feel more comfortable with.
Life changing experiences are few and far between in most of our lives, and of those experiences most of them will not be in the form of a physical change. To many people, who have undergone laser eye correction treatment, life changing is not too big an accolade to bestow upon it, and through personal experience I totally agree. Many will see the idea of eye correction as little more than cosmetic induced vanity, and there certainly is an element of that involved. That said, anyone who has been a life long slave to the hassles of glasses and contact lenses would consider it a worthwhile investment in the said vanity. There is also an argument that over the years of not updating prescriptions, renewing glasses for fashion reasons, buying lens solutions and the like, the financial outlay is recouped over a number of years. After watching the results of the young but fast moving with increased confidence in their product, I took the plunge and went for it. I was driven by the fact that I was to be taking a holiday on the Red Sea in a few months and the thought of trying to experience the joys of diving with contact lenses in didn't seem like the way to go. My ultimate goal was to see the beautiful denizens of that watery world with my own unaided eyes.
After arranging a consultation over the phone, I headed down to the Bristol Ultralase treatment centre just to see what all the fuss was about. The place was easy to find, just outside the town centre and from the start the staff there put me totally at my ease, which is what you need when contemplating such a drastic procedure. The consultation consisted of a series of tests similar to those undertaken by an optician but included comprehensive eye mapping to ascertain the nature of my defect. None of these tests are in any way uncomfortable and the end result is that they will be able to tell you how suitable you are for treatment and if so what type will best suit you. After all tests are done you are free to be on your way, armed with your newfound information. There is nothing to pay, no obligation to take the process any further, just the knowledge that if you wish to carry on down the path to rejuvenated vision, the next step is only a matter of weeks away.
THE BIG DAY
The day of the treatment began with a bit of a panic. An hour before that I was about to leave for Bristol, I was called to say that one of their surgeons was not available and the only other place available was in St Albans. Living in Swindon, this was a bit of a drive, but I knew that if I didn't do it now, I never would. The Red Sea fish were calling me. Once at St Albans, the same friendly and professional attitude and was put at ease from the word go. The first stage is a pre-treatment talk from the specialist who will be performing the procedure. In a friendly manner I was talked through the procedure that lay ahead. There are two different procedures being undertaken by Ultralase, Lasek and Lasik. To the patient, there will seem little difference between the two but they do approach the sight defect from slightly different angles. Lasek, very simply, is a process where the corneal flap is softened with alcohol and then folded into a new position by the laser. Lasik, on the other hand, requires the corneal flab to be cut and lifted to before it can be re-shaped. There is obviously a lot more to it than that, but for the scientific approach visit their website (or is that web-sight) at
Anyway it was Lasek that they had chosen as being the suitable and after all by questions had been answered and I was still sure I was ready for this, I signed a consent form to say that I understood what was a bout to take place and it was off into the pre-treatment room. I will just say that the technical bit that follows may only be fully relevant to Lasek treatment, but the general content of the review will serve as an overview of the company and its professionalism.
Considering that you are about to have your eyes reshaped, the pre-treatment is simple and totally painless. The anaesthetic used is in the form of eye drops and at no point do you feel any untoward sensation within the eye, no numbing, no stinging, nothing out of the ordinary. A nurse goes through the after care procedure, which involves a regime of eye drops, but more of them later. The only other preparation was the adornment of a cap, to keep my hair out of the way, and it was time to go in.
A team of four waited in the room, Dr Haralabos Eleftheriadis, whom I met earlier, and three assistants. The treatment is undertaken lying on your back, looking up into a small high tech piece of hardware, and you will be amazed at how simple, quick and painless it is. At no point did I feel anything in my eyes, nothing of more discomfort that eyewashes that are used. If fact the only point at which I jumped was when a cold-water wash cleaned by eyes after the procedure was over. Both eyes are treated in less than 15 minutes, the laser itself running for less that a minute per eye. The only time that I realised just what was going on was when the laser was running and a slight burning smell was noticed, like that of singed hair and I remember thinking "hang on, their burning parts of my eye away". Its all over before you know it and when people say "its no worse that going to the dentist" I would say, rubbish, its much less unnerving than that.
Once it was all over I was taken to a room where I sat with my eyes closed for twenty minutes, in the cool and silence of the room I contemplated what had just taken place, amazing! Once I was happy that I was ready to leave and they were happy with the initial results I could go. I was to return the next day for the first examination, this time back to the more local Bristol. With my type of operation, Lasek, the eyes are covered with non-prescription protective lenses which could come out after a week and this would be monitored buy the Bristol staff as to when was suitable. After walking out of the building, I was amazed just how much I could see straight away, Ok it wasn't brilliant, but considering what had just taken place it shows how unobtrusive the treatment is and how resilient the eye itself is. Once home a two week regime of eye drops beings, but again there is nothing painful here, it is just to combat the occasional dry and tired feelings you experience for the first few days, and to prevent possible infection during this initial resettling.
IT'S ALL OVER BAR THE SHOUTING
The next day I was at Bristol again and after a quick examination I was told that not only were my eyes healing nicely, but also my sight was back up to driving standard. After a week of drops and gradual improvement in my sight, the lenses were removed and a few days on from that my eyes were better than they had ever been. Two weeks after the treatment a nice little event happened. After being assured that due to the fact that I had to have my treatment performed at a different site, Ultralase would reimburse my travel costs, I received a cheque for £100 from the company, which covered the petrol money four times over, nice.
The treatment is expensive, mine came to about £3000, but my reasoning was that if I was going to have such a treatment done, I would go with the biggest company in the country, and if its good enough for Sharon Davis It is a painless and simple affair, and will revolutionise your life and that's no understatement. I would say to anyone considering the idea of corrective surgery, at least have the consultation and find out what its all about. If it's the money that's a worry, they do offer various payment plans, I managed to arrange a no interest 18-month repayment. Life will never be the same again.
Ultralase laser eye treatment.