Case Study: Julie
Severe short-sightedness had been part of Julie’s daily experience for as long as she could remember. Until recently, she had a prescription of -22 and needed to wear specialist glasses or contact lenses throughout the waking day. But when an optician diagnosed her with early-stage cataracts, Julie – a 56-year-old editor by trade – began to contemplate having surgery for her vision for the first time. A year on, her eyesight has been completely transformed. We asked her to tell us her story…
“Extreme short-sightedness was something I had learned to live with over many years. It had never stopped me from undertaking anything, but I certainly had to adapt the way I approached various activities – hobbies like swimming, scuba diving and horse riding, for example, which I love.
“In a way, I had always been quite fortunate; I had the capacity to wear both corrective glasses and contact lenses, despite my extreme myopia. But the glasses were very heavy by virtue of their prescription, and as any contact lens wearer will know, eye contact with non-saline water should be avoided. This meant both diving and riding had to be adapted. And, as an editor, reading had also been a key capacity to maintain for my job.
“I walked into the operating room a bundle of nerves but came out totally transfixed by the whole experience. It was nothing like I had imagined. None of the anticipated horrors had materialised.”
“I first discovered that I had the very initial stages of cataracts at a routine eye appointment. My optician explained that, although no one could be sure, the cataracts might take some time to form. I had imagined it would be quite some time before I needed to consider surgery – as it turned out, but just six months later I was told that a referral would now be sensible. That was a huge shock.
“The eyesight I had become so adapted to may have required extreme correction over the years, but it was all I knew. Any suggestion that I needed surgery for something better, with all the known incumbent risks attached, caused me a considerable amount of worry. But the changes in my sight had been relatively fast and changes to my long distance sight could quite soon mean I would lose the capacity to drive. To leave my eyesight as it was, was no longer an option.
“When I was referred to Mr Andrew Luff at Sapphire Eye Care, he recommended surgery to remove the cataracts, replacing my natural lenses with corrective implants. However, the preparation needed for these operations was something I had not anticipated and it required some organisation around daily needs. Because I had been a contact lens wearer for over three decades, I would be required to cease all contact lens wear for two weeks before the initial consultation. This was to allow the eye to return to its default shape so that the measurements taken would be from the natural eye shape. Since I drove with a combination of contact lenses and top-up glasses, this meant I could not drive for two weeks before the consultation, so arrangements had to be made to allow for this too.
“My decision to go forward with the operations was a difficult one, albeit a foregone conclusion because of the imminent changes occurring in the eyes. There was a huge sense of the unknown, together with the anxiety that went with it. I was very scared indeed. Scared of the surgery and the actual procedure, and scared of the outcome. In hindsight, it was all a very anxious mix of emotion that I was struggling to keep under reasonable control – and only just managing to do so.
“There was a period of elation that has never quite subsided. I still have to pinch myself…”
“On the day of the first operation, I fretted that I may react badly to someone operating on my eye, even though I knew I would feel no pain. And I was also worried that my asthma, which had been around all winter and probably been made worse by the anxiety, would result in me coughing under sedation just when the operation on my eye was underway such that I would not be able to do anything to stop it. I could not imagine a worse scenario.
“But here is the thing on the day… I walked into the operating room a bundle of nerves, but came out totally transfixed by the whole experience as something amazingly interesting and nothing like I had imagined. None of the anticipated horrors had materialised, indeed for some reason from that first day onwards, my asthma subsided completely!
“The reality was that during the operation, although I was sedated but conscious, I saw just a single light in the ‘distance’ surrounded by dark, and had absolutely no sensation of the surgeon working on my eye at all. I did not register any persons or equipment in the surrounding area either. I heard a little water being used but there was no feeling of this; in fact my eye did not register any movement or pain whatsoever. My concentration was focused on the light in the distance, and that was where I seemed to be too – in the distance.
“I remember at the end of the surgery feeling totally amazed at the experience and captivated by the extraordinary nature of the op. And most of all, as I stood up, that I could see out of my eye, even just after the surgery. This was my long-distance eye – and I could see down the corridor and everyone walking towards me for the first time ever in my life with no visual aids.
“Ten days later, I returned for the second eye operation on my near distance eye and this was a totally different anticipation. I could not wait to get on with the operation; I had a complete 360-degree turnaround in confidence. But this time, when I stood up after the op, I could see out of both eyes – no visual aids.
“The recovery time for both eyes was almost faultless and there was minimal discomfort throughout the month following each op. I kept to the eye drops schedule without any deviation, and kept each eye covered with a hard patch for four nights after the op, just to try and ensure no possible risk of infection. And of course, with the eye covered at night, I knew I could not rub my eyes in my sleep and the whole recovery was made that much easier.
“The change in eyesight was immediate. The original plan had been to adjust the sight for long distance and have low-strength top-up glasses for reading and close-up work. But to my astonishment, when I had my first eyesight check-up, it was found that I could not only see long distance (and driving) but I could also read the smallest reading print size. This was more than I could ever have hoped for and imagined possible. Now I wake up in the morning and I do not have to put on glasses. I walk out to the car and drive with no glasses. I can go swimming and see without visual aids. And contact lenses are no more.
“There was a certain period of elation that has never quite subsided. I still have to pinch myself and old habits die hard – I often still think I should remove my contact lenses before I turn in at night – only to then remember I do not have any lenses anymore and I can just see properly!
“The decision to go ahead with the ops was the right one. I am eternally grateful to Sapphire Eye Care – to Andrew Luff and his amazing and attentive team – and for the opportunity to have such incredible surgery. Just 20-odd minutes in reality, yet so very important in the way it can improve lives.
“I would urge anyone with extreme myopia to pursue the possibility of lens replacement surgery if they are offered it: it can be utterly life changing and I can thoroughly recommend it.”