It wasn’t the countless mornings wishing I could find my glasses so I could find my glasses, or the countless nights I slept in contact lenses and woke up looking like I’d stumbled off the red eye from Rio. What finally convinced me to get laser eye surgery was my optician uttering the dreaded B-word. BIFOCALS!
Getting your precious peepers zapped by lasers isn’t something to decide in the blink of an eye. I’d contemplated it ever since it became an option back in the 1990s. Now, faced with having to wear face furniture that was half telescope, half magnifying glass, it was time to take the laser leap.
I Googled people who’d had it done – Boris Johnson, Brad Pitt, Richard Branson, Tiger Woods, Christiano Ronaldo, Taylor Swift and, it turns out, some 30 million other who couldn’t see much beyond the giant E on their optician’s chart.
I booked an appointment with Ophthalmic Consultants of London (OCL), a Harley Street surgery with 100 percent five-star reviews, opened in 2018 by eye surgeons Romesh Angunawela, Ali Mearza, Sally Ameen and my surgeon, Allon Barsam. They have 55 years’ experience and 20,000 successful operations between them.
Their spa-like white marble office was adorned with modern art, fresh cut flowers and giant eye-shaped light fittings staring down from the ceiling. As I excitedly helped myself to an OCL own-brand bottle of water my glasses could tell the game was up, sliding indignantly down the bridge of my nose as if to say: “You bastard.”
For two hours my eyes (-3 left eye with astigmatism and -3.25 right) were given a Rocky-style work out with puffs of air, flicking letters and shapes and a dye that dilated my pupils, making it look like I’d popped something I shouldn’t.
The thickness of my corneas were measured and Allon confirmed I was a suitable candidate for Lasik (Laser assist in situ keratomileusis), the most popular procedure to fix near and far sightedness and astigmatisms. My dominant left eye would be corrected for distance and weaker right fixed for reading, giving me 20/20 blended vision.
Cue forensic research during my final out-of-focus fortnight. I watched videos of the procedure and YouTube clips of countless people delighted with the life-changing results – and, yes, one or two who weren’t.
My glasses could tell the game was up, sliding indignantly down the bridge of my nose as if to say: “You bastard.”
Op day arrived and I was given Valium and a bang-on-trend hair net and led into a neon-blue theatre. I lay back, my eyes were taped open and doused in anaesthetic drops. I was handed a comforting pair of stress balls to squeeze and told to focus on the green target light above my head.
The two-step 15-minute surgery began with the first laser creating a microscopically thin flap at the front of my cornea. Alon pulled back the flap and then used laser number two to reshape my eye.
I had to Google that because all I saw was a foggy underwater light show – part rainy firework display, part Millennium Falcon going into hyperspace.
Each eye took five minutes. I felt a little pressure and claustrophobia as the cornea flaps were being cut but the rest was a breeze. I’ve had more uncomfortable hay fever.
At the end I was asked if I could see the time on a white clock on a white wall I hadn’t spotted on the way in. 3.24pm…the second hand just past the 20… the quartz crystal oscillating at precisely 32,000 times per second. What superhuman powers were these?! From this day forth I shall be know as Hawkman.
Hawkman had a nice lie down and a cup of tea in the recovery room as Allon admired his handiwork. I was given four sets of eye drops for recovery and put in a cab home, where I went straight to bed in a pair of bang-on-trend eye guards (if nothing else it’s worth getting Lasik for all the cool free gear they give you).
Next morning my vision was blurry and my eyes sore but I could comfortably read up close and watch television at a distance without the face furniture.
My 24-hour post-op check-up revealed I had 20/20 vision. Seven days later, when my eyes had settled down, I had crystal clear 20/10! I could read the very last line of the chart.
My sight was now better than it was with glasses.
One month after the operation the dry eye had gone, along with occasional blurry evening vision that made me avoid driving after dark. I could see detail, texture, shade and shape that escaped me since childhood. Drops of dew on blades of grass; shades of orange on an autumn leaf; my wife’s true beauty (her line).
In 48 years, I’d never looked so good.
• Richard’s eye surgery cost £4,400. Interest free repayment plans are offered. Find out more about Ophthalmic Consultants of London and book an appointment at https://www.oclvision.com or call 02033692020
First published in Jewish News’ Life Magazine.