Joanne's Story

In August 2012 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 and 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.

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 store in Aylesbury which was close by and convenient.

I had my initial consultation in Aylesbury where an Optical Express member of staff suggested that I booked my eye operation before my holiday on 1st August, which I declined in case any problems arose while I was abroad.

I advised her that we would be home on 8th August as well as informing her that I had a spa pamper day booked on 22nd August & an overnight stay booked for 28th August. 

Optical Express confirmed that if I had the eye surgery on Monday 13th August I would be absolutely fine to do these as I needed a week to recover before doing any swimming.

The reason for booking 13th August was I would be able to have my follow up consultation meetings in Aylesbury, which I could do in my work lunch break & that I should be able to drive the next day.

On arriving at the Optical Express Milton Keynes branch for my surgery I was advised I would need to return there the next day as they had transferred the Aylesbury staff due to Milton Keynes branch bring short staffed due to holidays.

I wasn’t told at this point I couldn’t drive the next day until after I’d seen the optometrist, so I therefore had to arrange a lift.

The Optical Express staff seemed friendly & asked if I had any questions, which were all answered beforehand.

I was feeling quite anxious about the surgery & visibly shaking, however they assured me everything would be fine.

Straight after surgery I was moved into a side room & told about the eye drops. I was rather annoyed not to mention disappointed that on being offered a hot beverage and requesting a cup of tea, a member of staff brought me a cup of coffee - which I don’t drink - and also had to ask about protective goggles which weren’t mentioned & they said they’d forgotten.

I couldn’t see anything, wasn’t even assisted down the stairs by an Optical Express member of staff and was left to struggle on my own. 

On reconfirming with one of the Optical Express assistants that I was still able to go for the two spa days that I had booked, the assistant said she didn’t believe that I could swim for two weeks but advised that she would seek additional confirmation, so went & had a word with a colleague. They confirmed this was the case and suggested I spoke with the surgeon.

The surgeon told me I could not go to the spa for over THREE weeks after my treatment as it would cause problems with my eyes & be very painful.

I had specifically checked with Optical Express about my two pre-booked spa days before scheduling my laser eye surgery due to the fact that the terms and conditions of these spa pamper days state that no changes are allowed and refunds are not permitted once the reservations have been made. 

If I had been advised during my initial eye appointment that there was a three week recovery period, instead of being misinformed it was only one week, then I'd have waited until September when I didn’t have other prebooked arrangements.

Included in the post op surgery documentation Optical Express gave me was a contact telephone number for the Milton Keynes branch in case I had any concerns or problems.

However it was a good job I was due to return to the Milton Keynes branch the next day as I called the emergency number countless times but no-one answered.

On Tuesday 14th August, when I returned for my 10.30am appointment I was not seen until fifty minutes later as apparently a clerical error had marked me as having being seen. 

On finally being attended to I was advised that my eyes had a lump & dry patch, so I would either need a contact lens inserting or different eye drops; however the assistant commented that she would need to check with the surgeon.

Eventually a response was received from the surgeon at 13.30pm and a protective bandage lens was inserted and I was given eye drops.

Having popped out in my lunch break expecting to need no more than 15 minutes it took up a staggering THREE hours!

During my long wait a previous patient came in quite obviously distressed and I noticed her trying unsuccessfully to communicate to the two girls on reception about her severe eye condition. One of the girls walked off laughing & the other didn’t seem sympathetic but went to get a male colleague who took the woman off to a side room. I was disgusted when the two girls continued to talk about her after she'd been taken into one of the side rooms .

I had to go back to the Milton Keynes branch for the third day in succession as there was still no one at my local Aylesbury branch, so advised that I shouldn’t drive more than a couple of miles yet again I had to inconvenience a work colleague for another lift.

If everything was alright I'd still have to visit Milton Keynes again the next week, whereas I was told by Optical Express that apart from the scan & surgery, I would only need to go to Aylesbury.

During my Wednesday check-up I was advised by one of the staff that I should be OK for my spa visit and swimming once I received the all clear a week later. Not confident that this information was correct I asked for confirmation from the surgeon - who said I needed to wait two weeks!

The Optical Express website states "swimming after 4 weeks of surgery if not wearing goggles’". So I now had a staggering FOUR contradictory pieces of advice & didn't know what to believe.

During a post op consultation at Milton Keynes I was advised I needed glasses, even though at my pre op consultation I was advised that I wouldn’t require them for five years after the laser eye treatment. Yet another false piece of information from Optical Express.

I chose a pair of frames & was told they would action this straight away. However, when the glasses arrived, not only were they NOT the frames I'd chosen, but I couldn’t see out of them - and I couldn’t even get them on they were children’s frames!

Querying this with Optical Express I was advised to send them back and the correct pair would be dispatched as soon as possible.

The second pair arrived but yet again I wsa unable to see out of them - incorrect prescription and AGAIN children's frames!

A few weeks on I had still not received the correct glasses having chased Optical Express a number of times. But. as I previously mentioned, there is no way to contact Milton Keynes store as they don't answer their phone, so I had to call OE's central number where no-one knew the answers to any of my questions.

During this ridiculously lengthy wait for a pair of glasses my eye sight was extremely poor and I needed a pair of glasses just to see to get through the day, so booked an appointment at our local Boots Opticians in Aylesbury - whose readings totally differed to those of Optical Express!

I then purchased a pair of daily glasses and sunglasses for an unnecessary cost of £125.00.

Unbelievably, approximately a week later, I received the third pair of glasses from Optical Express, yet again incorrect prescription and AGAIN in a child’s frame!

I gave up with Optical Express and just carried on using the glasses from Boots Opticians.

With advice kindly supplied by Sasha Rodoy at My Beautiful Eyes advisory service I wrote to Optical Express asking for a referral letter to an independent surgeon, a full refund and a copy of all my Optical Express medical notes.

Around two weeks later I received copies of all of my Optical Express medical notes together with a covering letter stating that my request for a full refund had been declined.

However they were prepared to cover the cost of one consultation appointment with a leading professional eye surgeon Mr Daya at Centre for Sight. Since receiving that letter back on the 15th February I have received no further communication from Optical Express.

But I did receive an unexpected call from Centre for Sight in early March asking when I would like to book an appointment with Mr Daya.

Following my consultation with Mr Daya on the 12th March and the extensive eye tests that I underwent that day, Mr Daya was extremely concerned about my eyes and the poor visibility in my left eye which is being compensated by the right one due to the scarring and inconsistent thickness of the cornea.

Ever since my surgery in August 2012 I have suffered with blurred vision and was advised by Centre for Sight that this should have been picked up by Optical Express and dealt with accordingly. Unfortunately there was worse to come when I was advised they were more concerned that the various eye maps taken that day showed that Optical Express had not lasered my eyes centrally forcing me to look out at an angle.

Centre for Sight did reassure me they're able to repair the damage, however, although the operation would be a short one, it would be extremely painful for the first day and rather uncomfortable for the following three days. I was also advised that no reading, watching TV, or driving was possible for a week.

After this operation, and once everything has successfully healed - AND only if I wanted to - I could then undergo corrective surgery to improve my vision.

Unfortunately, owing to the amount of stress, depression and anxiety caused by the whole saga, I definitely don’t want corrective eye surgery.  But more importantly, at this moment in time I am too scared to even have the repair operation done.

I truly wish I could turn back the clock as I would never have had this done if I’d known the possible outcome!

]I am now in a battle with Optical Express to get them to pay for the corrective repair eye surgery to be carried out by a proper professional eye surgeon at Centre for Sight and not by a straight forward optician at Optical Express to resolve the nightmare caused by them.

This is why the government MUST get involved soon and I wish Sasha Rodoy at My Beautiful Eyes the very best in her campaign against this devious industry.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story.

OERML & My Beautiful Eyes Foundation rely on your support to expose the horrors of this unregulated industry.

Your help is very much appreciated!