Laser eye surgery is nowhere near as scary as you might think

Imagine being told that in just a few minutes you could have your eyesight corrected to near perfect. No overnight stay, no painful procedure, just a few minutes lying on a bed.

Before I go any further, I have to say that my eyesight was not terrible – I had astigmatism and was slightly long-sighted. But I use the computer for a gazillion hours a day, so I used to get headaches.

Even so, a few months after having laser eye surgery and I am really beginning to feel the difference. I no longer have those headaches.

Other people in the waiting room at the London Vision Clinic had more dramatic results, and their testimony is much more compelling.

Many went from needing glasses constantly to being given a new lease of life, able to take up sports they couldn’t do before and not having the hassle of constantly wearing glasses.

Another person described it better than I can: ‘Because my vision had been deteriorating throughout my twenties I thought I couldn’t have laser eye surgery. Turns out I was totally wrong, and a year later my vision is now better than 20/20.

‘It has been truly life-changing to be able to return to all my favourite sports without glasses or contacts (swimming, surfing and skiing especially) and to be able to get up to go to the gym without mucking around with contacts.’

Just before the procedure I was extremely nervous.

So much so that when I went to the Royal Albert Hall to see a concert I thought it could be the final time I ever get to see the building. What if I went blind during the procedure?

I took a mental snapshot of the stage all lit up and the huge acoustic bubbles on the roof. Of course, I didn’t go blind. I went back to the Royal Albert Hall for another concert a couple of months later and I can honestly say it looked even more beautiful.

What that mental snapshot had done is help me to realise just how successful the treatment had been.

I had hoped it would be my ability to use computers without using glasses that made me appreciate the surgery, or reading a book without straining my eyes.

But no, my Eureka! moment was with the ability to see the deep blues and reds of the RAH as clear as day. Before that there would have been a bit of a blur.

There are those that say laser eye surgery is still new and it’s worth waiting before getting the treatment. Well, that’s wrong. It’s been around for quite some time now and at least 15,000 people are having the surgery every year.

It worked well for me, it worked well for everyone I met in the waiting room at my various London Vision Clinic appointments, and it’s worked well for most people I know who have had it done.

I was incredibly nervous and fidgeted throughout the procedure, fighting against the clamp that was keeping my eye open. But does that matter? Not really.

It’s really quick – about 20 seconds – and at one point I thought ‘is that it?’

Professor Dan Reinstein, who carried out my operation, has done thousands of these procedures – he’s incredibly reassuring and you get the impression that there’s not a problem he can’t solve when it comes to laser eye surgery.

He’s also got an excellent team who know that people might be nervous. I was told that I wasn’t the worst patient they had. Earlier in the week there’d been a guy in the operating theatre for nearly an hour because he just couldn’t cope. Professor Reinstein was able to get him onto the operating table and it was a success.


From the moment you meet a receptionist to procedure with a surgeon, everyone works hard to put your mind at rest.

In the operating theatre, lying on the bed, I was at my most nervous, but was disarmed when I had a cuddly toy thrust in my hands and was told to hold on tight.

I suspect they go through a few of those puppies because, at first, I squeezed it really tight!

I’d had some anaesthetic drops put into my eyes and the room was gently lit as I lay there with all this machinery around me.

My left eye was first, and the bed swung round underneath Prof Reinstein who I recall was wearing a ‘Mr Incredibles’ surgeon’s cap. Another disarming technique, I’m sure!

He held my eye open and put a strange clamp in place. It was a weird sensation but the anaesthetic helped me resist the urge to blink.

Then the laser device was put in place. I had to look at coloured lights that suddenly went very fuzzy. There was a bit of fiddling with my eye – at that point I didn’t know what was going on, but it only lasted a few seconds and there was no pain whatsoever.

There was a smell of burning – but it wasn’t my eyeball burning (a popular myth). I believe it was particles in the air as they were being zapped by the laser.

Then it was all over. Very quickly. The same happened for the right eye and within 12 minutes of entering the room I had been lasered in both eyes and was ready to go and have a lie down in another darkened room.

I was given some drops that I had to put in my eyes every 15 minutes. The taxi driver offered to stop for me, but traffic was terrible and I’d probably still be in the cab now! Fortunately the friend with me is a nurse with a steady hand.

All I had to do then was get home and relax for a few hours with my eyes closed, add drops, and my eyes were fixed.

My eyes are technically still in recovery following the op – the recovery time varies from person to person – and I do have drops to prevent them from getting dry, but I’m getting used to being ‘liberated’ from glasses.

And now I’ve got the freedom to use computers without that constant, dull headache.

At work I look for my glasses when I start up my computer and go to put them away again at the end of my day, even though I can see. It’s force of habit, I guess, but I’m getting used to it slowly.

Was it worth it? Totally.

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