Ask a patient: Hayden’s LASIK story
14 December 2021
A life-changing experience
Hayden came to us in July 2021 after having considered laser eye surgery for a number of years. However, the one thing that had been stopping him was his phobia of anything touching his eyes, whether that was trying to put his contact lenses in, or someone administering eye drops to him. Hayden even didn’t like seeing other people touch their own eyes so it was clear that he would have to overcome this barrier before having laser eye surgery.
Hayden has been kind enough to share his story with us, including his emotions in the lead-up to treatment. He has included lots of detail in the hope that it helps other patients who have been considering treatment, but have put it off due to a similar fear of anything touching their eyes. We know that laser eye surgery can be a nerve-wracking process for some people, so by sharing Hayden’s story, we hope that other prospective patients can gain valuable insight.
We asked Hayden a few questions about his laser eye surgery journey…
What made you want to get laser eye surgery?
Growing up we didn't really take advantage of free medical check-ups so, apart from the normal school checks, my eyes didn't really get the attention they needed. It was not until I was learning to drive that I became aware I could not see a number plate at the required distance, and my instructor told me to see an optician. I was told I was short sighted and needed glasses. Sadly, from day one in the opticians, I could not find any glasses I was happy with. I ended up choosing some quickly, just to get it done. I also grew to hate the look of glasses on my face, thinking I looked a bit geeky. I would not take pictures of myself or show any photos of me with glasses on. Then practical issues arose such as sports activities. My glasses would often fall off or hamper my efforts to be competitive, and they were also nuisance for jogging with.
Having a fear of anything to do with touching eyes meant contact lenses were a massive no-no for me. Just the sight of anything like this on TV would have me looking away or leaving the room! I would often compare myself to people my age and think ‘why me?’ I would also think of the future, not wanting to imagine a 30-40-50 year old me dependent on glasses during what should be my prime years. There was an element of vanity and practicality being held back by fear of the procedure more than anything else. I was also really trying to delay any decision until I was at least 25 as I wanted my prescription to be as stable as possible.
What helped me most after de-sensitising to the fear of eyes was to not actually look at images of the procedure itself being carried out. At the end of the day, that's not what I would be seeing. That’s the surgeon's point of view, so instead you just need to focus on looking at lights like you would in a normal eye test and forget about the rest.
How strong was your prescription prior to surgery?
Just prior to surgery, my prescription was -3.00 and -2.50. But I felt like I could not see a TV guide on a 50 inch TV if I was more than 2 meters away from it. I could not see anything long range without glasses; everything was so blurry and distorted. I even struggled to find my own car in a car park!
What was the Optimax experience like in Southampton and Brighton clinics?
I had the consultation back in June 2021 at the Brighton clinic. This cost £10 which was refunded after attending. Even this appointment took a great deal of courage to decide to attend, given my eye phobia. I had to kind of de-sensitise myself to the phobia by reading about it all and looking at some images just to become relaxed about it (which was a decent amount of time!). I had read up enough to have an idea of what needed to be done on the day and just decided to go for it.
Everyone at Brighton was so pleasant and calming talking through each step. There were various machine-based eye tests like you would go through at your local opticians but some I had never experienced before. When you research online, there is a lot of fear about these machines, but they really are non-invasive and nothing to be scared of. You simply look at lights while the machines do all the calculations. They also scanned my glasses to double check the prescription. There definitely was lots of checking which is reassuring given the importance of your vision. After the scans we headed upstairs to see the specialist who evaluated the readings and did further examinations. He also did two eye drop tests. The first was to check if I suffer with dry eyes and, luckily, I do not. Bearing in mind my bad eye phobia, the optometrist had this little technique which got the drops in so effortlessly that I was surprised and didn't even feel it!
The second test was the reason the consultation appointment requires someone to drive you there and back. This drop dilated the pupil so the optometrist can see the back of your eye. This one does have a little kick to it but it only lasted 20 seconds (a bit like vinegar in your eye). We laughed afterwards about how much it looked like I was crying and my massive pupils! We talked through the risks a little more and then cost options. I was presented with lots of evidence-based graphs to study and a pack to take home. The tests revealed I was a good candidate for LASIK surgery (24 hour recovery). His prediction was that we were going to aim for achieve a level of vision that would be 2 lines below 20/20 on the vision chart.
The next step was the surgeon call which was conducted via WhatsApp and this is your chance to ask your surgeon any questions you might have. My surgeon was Dr Ghassan Ayoubi. His profile says he has been doing this for 34 years and has completed over 36,000 procedures. His name sparks positive reviews everywhere I looked.
The next call was to discuss the cost. I opted for the deposit of £500 and the monthly finance plan which was easily set up via a link emailed to me. Surgery was booked for 14th August 2021.
The day of surgery came and I was nervous to say the least. Pre-surgery checks were done, then I was given a hat and shoe covers, before being lead to the operating table. After my closed eyelids were wiped and the aesthetic drops given, in seconds they were working. I cannot lie, the hardest part for me personally was the eye lid holder but the surgeon kept talking to me the whole way through. You don't really see anything beyond the first machine which creates the LASIK flap. You just see lights and your vision goes black or white at different stages. It’s just an odd pressure on the eyes which did make me flinch a bit. You are asked to just keep still or look ahead (if you can even see anyway due to the above-mentioned vision). I didn't really even hear the machines working. I must also stress there was no pain – it was just all very alien, you can’t really compare it to anything else in life. It was about 10 minutes long, probably felt longer for me but afterwards, I was lead to a dark room before final checks were done. That was it and I was discharged to go home – again lifts are needed as you can’t drive after surgery.
How was your recovery process?
Sunglasses are needed as, for the first week, your eyes are sensitive to daylight, artificial lights and screens of any sort. However, the visual results are immediate, especially after 24 hours and a good sleep which is recommended after the procedure. You might have watery eyes and you need to follow a thorough routine of eye drops for the next 10 days. A regular routine of check-ups is required as well every few weeks with continued use of refreshing eye drops which are lovely to use, even after the surgery when you’re recovering.
I am three months into recovery as of November 2021 and guess what level of vision I have (see the optometrist’s earlier prediction above)… I have better than 20/20 vision! My vision is two lines better than 20/20 on the chart, and I've been told as it’s less than 6 months after the surgery, it's still developing. I did get the star burst effect looking at street lights or car lamps but I've been told this should disappear nearer 6 months and it is getting better already.
How has life changed after treatment?
My recovery not yet fully complete but already this has made a massive change to my life. I’m discovering so many new things with my new, improved vision. The first few weeks you feel you still have your glasses on, and you go to remove them to sleep or shower or put them back on, and of course they are not there anymore! I actually put profile pictures of myself on my social media now! I jog and can see where I’m running, and I am more accurate now with long distance… anything’s possible! There’s a new found confidence that makes you feel like you are back in the world in the fast lane again and are no longer debilitated. It has been the best thing I have ever done, as well as the scariest for me. It felt like such an achievement.
Thanks are owed to lots of people; my work colleagues and family for supporting me and arranging travel to all my appointments. Thank you to the Optimax receptionists for being so calm when you are waiting and taking you through each step, the opticians and specialists who calibrate the machines and check everything, and even the end result optometrist who checks you every few weeks. It was great to see him at Southampton after my surgery and by fluke at Brighton for my last appointment before discharge! And of course a big thanks to my surgeon, Dr Ghassan Ayoubi, who reassured me through the whole surgery and did a fantastic job. Even when I thought my fear was out of control and that I may have messed up my results, he assured me there was nothing I could do to hinder the surgery.
THANK YOU OPTIMAX!
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