In March 2010 I made a decision I’ve regretted every single day since and wish more than anything I could turn the clock back.
My contact lenses were becoming increasingly irritating and I couldn’t wear them for as long as I used to as my eyes were feeling so dry. I was never comfortable wearing glasses as one ear is slightly higher than the other so they didn't sit right.
I longed not to have to mess about with contact lenses every day, to swim without contacts, wake up and see further than two feet in front of me, travel without carrying bottles of solutions, enjoy the freedom of unaided vision!
I knew a few people who'd laser eye surgery with good results and although I'd considered it for more than ten years I worried in case something went wrong.
You only have one pair of eyes and there’s no going back.
But, with all the advertising and thousands of people claiming successful results I thought it can’t be such a risky procedure after all; surely all these companies wouldn’t be allowed to perform this surgery if it were.
Optical Express was the most advertised and recognised clinic in my area and they had a surgery in Bluewater which was close by and convenient.
I had my initial consultation in Maidstone where I was told that my eyes were too dry to operate on straight away but with ten days of wearing glasses, no contact lenses, by using drops, massaging my eyelids etc... then they should be fine.
The Optical Express staff seemed mainly interested in taking a deposit and making a deal for the procedure so alarm bells should have started ringing then, but I was pressured, on my own... and being in direct sales myself the ‘sign on the day for extra discount’ wasn’t anything new to me.
Afterwards I realised that this type of selling is unacceptable for something as serious as an eye operation!
I was told I had very large pupils so I would need to have the more expensive Wavefront Intralase Lasik treatment and because of my high prescription the price kept going up!
I didn’t care what it was going to cost, I wanted the best possible result and quickest healing time being self employed and needing to get back to work asap.
Because my eyes were so dry I was told that it could be six months healing time instead of three months. Although six months was inconvenient I decided that it would be worth it long term.
I put my trust in a company I assumed knew exactly what they were doing. But that trust was lost from the day of my surgery.
It was awful! Immediately I walked into Bluewater I realised it was just one big conveyor belt with no personal care or contact.
I finally met the surgeon, Osama Giledi, who took a brief look at my eyes and said it was OK to operate.
I’m not scared of operations but this was petrifying, which I put down to the lack of pre-op care and no concern from anyone that I was more than a little nervous!
Post surgery they left me in a dark room where I was in so much pain I was terrified because no one said there would be pain, just to expect a gritty feeling.
I couldn’t see any thing and overheard a man in the room saying his eyes didn’t hurt, which was not comforting to know. No-one seemed to care that I was in pain. I begged my partner at the time to go tell someone I was in excruciating pain.
Eventually someone came in, told me to relax, that I would be seen by the surgeon soon for a check up, then left me for what felt like a lifetime!
Eventually the Surgeon gave me anaesthetic drops which was an enormous relief! I couldn’t understand why they'd let me sit in pain for so long when all they had to do was put a couple of drops in my eyes.
Since that day I have had nothing but headaches, hassle and upset from this company. Their aftercare is dreadful, the lack of supply of eyedrops at the OE stores is ridiculous and the last three years have been hell.
My eyes are constantly sore and chronically dry. I rely on so many drops and gels every day to help and massage my eyelids. All far worse than putting in contact lenses once a day!
I see halos and starbursts when driving at night so I'm unable to drive safely, resulting in my cutting down evening work so reducing my income. I was told this would heal after six months… three years on - no improvement!
The day after the op I was told I had 20/20 vision and that I could drive… but my eyesight kept going blurry and there was no way I would have risked driving like that! This worried me a lot.
About a week later my vision completely disappeared for a brief while, I was terrified - I couldn’t see the paper in front of me! I NEVER had a problem with my close up vision before laser eye surgery.
When I reported this to Optical Express they said this was normal and it takes a while for your brain to adjust to your new eyesight. I was shocked they hadn't warned me about this before the op!
My eyes were inflamed after surgery and no one at OE could explain why. They said it wasn’t normal and just kept giving me different drops to try.
Most of the time I had to chase the drops as the branches don’t hold a big supply. They suggested I take Flaxseed oil tablets which I have been taking every day since the op.
At one point they gave me antibiotics for three months telling me it's been known that a side effect of Doxycycline tablets help with dry eyes!! I wasn’t keen on this remedy but desperate to heal my eyes I gave it a go. All they did was wipe my immune system!
Temporary punctual plugs were fitted which did nothing to help the dryness - then they suggested permanent ones! I couldn’t understand this, if the temporary ones didn’t help, why on earth suggest something permanent?
In December 2011 I was told my surgeon had retired (I later found out he'd moved to a different company) and I saw a different one at Bluewater who said he would order Restasis for me – the Big Daddy of eye drops - and this would most likely cure my dryness.
I asked why I hadn’t been given this months ago and was told that they like to try a softer approach on the eyes first.
The truth is, as I was told by the receptionist, it costs £200 a bottle so they aren’t keen on ordering it!
I was disgusted, I spent nearly £3,000 on this op and they were worried about a bottle costing £200!
Advised to take this for an extended period of time once again there were stock issues and I was only given two weeks supply.
No one seemed to know what they were doing, how much I was supposed to have. Then they said they couldn’t get hold of any more supplies from America and the surgeon referred me to their Harley Street clinic saying they would be able to help.
Two years and three months after the op, I was finally referred to Optical Express’s dry eye specialist and surgeon in Harley Street.
But once there they didn’t mention Restasis and when I asked they said they couldn’t get hold of it either!
I saw a ‘top’ surgeon, Manek Patel, who said I should carry on doing what I’ve been doing. I asked why on earth I would carry on doing what I am doing when it isn’t helping?
I started crying because I realised that no-one seemed to care after being so hopeful about Harley Street thinking someone would finally find a cure for my problems.
He was so unsympathetic and said he didn’t understand why I was getting so upset because there are much worse cases than me!
I saw Derek, dry eye specialist, who was more sympathetic and gave me hope that he would keep trying until we found a cure. I left with three different eye drops to trial.
Since then I’ve tried bandage contact lenses for a month, steroid drops, numerous other drops/gels, Moorfield Hospital eye drops, then Lipiflow!
A procedure on my eyelids that I think may be a clinical trial… but I wasn’t informed of this. I was told there were no side effects and it was worth a try.
Again, put on the spot, on my own and it wasn’t until I went back a month later to get the second eye done that consent forms made an appearance.
The soreness/dryness/halos have not improved. Some days are worse than others but always there.
I can no longer look at my TV, phone or computer screen for a long period of time,; driving at night is hazardous and this has affected my life in so many ways I never thought possible.
The mornings are the worst when my eyes are so painful I find it hard to even wake up and open them.
It’s so depressing and I wish I could turn back the clock as I would never have had this done if I'd known the possible outcome!
The statistics they advertise are inaccurate and don't mention side effects.
I feel like I’ve just been Optical Express’ guinea pig for the last three years and passed from pillar to post with no-one knowing what to do with me and probably hoping I will just disappear.
What worries me the most is that I still have no idea what the actual problem is with my eyes.
At one point I was told that my eye flap hadn’t healed properly and that instead of being smooth it is creased in places, another person tells me I just have dry eyes, another says its down to my poor tear count. No one has ever explained why they sometimes become inflamed every now and then...
Which is why I now want a paid referral to an independent surgeon for some honesty!