Compass-Nov05I can see clearly now the frames are gone!

At 20 I had perfect vision, at 30 I needed reading glasses, at 40 bifocals and at 50 varifocals worn at all times. From then on the first task on awakening was to grope for my specs, knocking over my night-time drink in the process.

Every 18 months I paid a visit to the opticians to check on how much worse my vision had become and searched for frames to match the increasing thickness of my lenses. Faced with regular bills I would stagger at the cost of such a simple piece of face engineering but pay begrudgingly and hope they lasted until the whole process started again.

Some time later I was on holiday in Barbados sporting my new reactor lenses, splashing along the beach acknowledging that the sea was unusually rough, when a chunk of dead coral came hurtling towards me at the speed of a surfer, sending me flying into foaming shallows. My new glasses flew off my face and disappeared into the ocean never to be seen again.

For the remaining ten days of my holiday I lived in a sort of haze wearing an old pair of specs, not looking forward to the next visit to the opticians.

On my return however, I got lucky, a chance remark from a friend about the advances made in eye surgery over the last ten years, together with an introduction to The Grange Eye Consultants at The Wessex Nuffield Hospital brought me to Robert Morris a pioneering consultant ophthalmic surgeon with over 9000 successful operations under his belt using state-of-the-art technology to restore 20/20 vision to people suffering from presbyopia and cataracts as well as other equally nasty eye conditions.

Robert is one of those experts you occasionally meet in life who exudes confidence but is without arrogance and knows exactly what he is doing, communicating it in such a way that you have total trust in him from the outset.

At my first appointment he laid out the options following a comprehensive examination and concluded that my condition would deteriorate, as I got older. The good news was that my eyesight could be restored to pre-glasses days; the bad news was that this could only be achieved by surgery, a prospect that sent shivers down my spine.

The surgical procedure called Prelex (presbyopic lens exchange), removes the natural lens in the eye, which is no longer focusing properly and replaces it with a multi-focal intra-ocular lens implant that sits in the same capsule. Glasses or no glasses, it took me about a nanosecond to decide and I booked in for surgery there and then.

Quietly efficient, the staff at The Wessex Nuffield greeted me as a day patient and having read as much as I could about the procedure, I waited with much trepidation.

A few eye drops later and changed into green theatre garb I walked into the operating theatre. Staying as calm as I could I watched as bits of technology, lights and complicated apparatus were plugged in and then I was ready for the off.

In came Rob Morris and a calm descended about the place. We chatted about this and that as he made the first incision, did what he had to do and popped the new lens in place. The procedure was painless, hardly uncomfortable and took about 25 minutes. At the end Rob said “that’s you done, all brilliant, no problems we’ll do the other eye next week” and I was shown to my room for a sandwich and a cup of tea.

60 minutes later Dorothy was driving me home with my eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses. Something remarkable had happened, I could read the number plates on the car in front, without specs. An hour earlier all I would have seen was a blur.

For seven days I used the special eye drops three times a day and got used to free ears for the first time in 30 years. The lens in my other eye went the way of the first seven days later and some three weeks later the whole process is just a memory.

I no longer wear glasses and have perfect vision for reading and distance. I feel that I have just been part of a miracle.

I still catch myself searching momentarily for my glasses and then smile with deep gratification to Rob Morris and his team for making me see again. What a wonderful world we live in!

Compass – November 2005