After years of wondering, myopic Penny Lewis submits to laser eye surgery - and wishes she had done it sooner.
Sight was never my strong point. When I started high school, I needed glasses for shortsightedness but I was too self-conscious to wear them. Reluctantly I slipped my specs on in class, but would whip them off when lessons were over.
When I was 20, I got contact lenses and they were a revelation. I remember staring out of the window for hours, seeing leaves on the trees clearly for the first time in more than a decade. Over the next few years, my eyesight worsened so much that I couldn't function without corrective lenses. The prescription for my right eye was minus 6.50 and my left was minus 5.50/-0.50 x 80. This was classified by the experts as a moderate degree of myopia.
I had been aware of laser eye surgery but didn't really consider it seriously, thinking it too risky, too painful and too expensive, although I have probably spent thousands on contact lenses, solutions, new glasses and optometrist appointments. At my annual eye-check, my optometrist, Wendy Hill at Gates Eyewear in Newmarket, suggested I consider laser eye surgery.
Not everyone can have this, so Wendy suggested a consultation at Auckland Eye to see if its vision Lasik would work for me. Dr Justin Mora, one of its Lasik refractive surgeons, is my daughter's ophthalmologist and I had met him a few times. He has done 1500 or more Lasik eye surgeries.
Luckily, my eyes fitted the criteria (my corneas were healthy and thick enough and I have small pupils). This consultation cost nothing, so at least if Lasik hadn't been for me the bad news would have been free. Refractive technician Ian Whitworth talked me through the procedure, answered my questions and also told me the cost - $5750, including post-op appointments. Hearing there was 12-month interest-free finance available, I decided to go for it.
The next step was to meet Mora for a final check. I was instructed not to wear my soft contact lenses for a week before surgery. On that day, a Friday, I could eat and drink as normal, but could not wear makeup or perfume and had to have a driver with me. After anaesthetic eye drops were put in I swallowed Panadeine and an anti-inflammatory tablet, topped off with Valium to relax me.
The procedure to treat one eye after another took about 20 to 30 minutes. My husband watched it all from a special viewing room. Mora had warned me some of the surgery might be uncomfortable, but it was nothing of the sort. I didn't worry about the lasers missing their mark, either, as they use tracking technology. The only moment of squeamishness I felt was thanks to the slight burning I could smell.
Afterwards, transparent shields were placed over my eyes and even then I could tell my vision was vastly improved. As warned, my eyes watered while I rested at home. At my post-op check at 5.30pm my vision was already better than driving standard. I went back to work on Tuesday. A week of antibiotic, steroid and lubricating eye drops meant the healing process went very smoothly.
The redness and scratchiness disappeared in a week. I am thrilled to see clearly. If the science hadn't been explained to me I'd swear it was a miracle.