After nervously counting down the magic time to my laser eye surgery, it had come.
At my initial consultation I had been told not to travel home on the tube after surgery as it is dusty - living an hour's tube journey, or a million pound cab ride away from any of the London locations, I decided to stay at my boyfriends house while I had my surgery. He lives 20 minutes from Bluewater so it was very easy to drive to and from Optical Express, plus the added bonus of someone to look after me afterwards - win/win!
My appointment was for 8.45am which meant that although it was half term, Bluewater was eerily quiet. I think Optical Express was the only place open, bar the coffee shops, and off we went to the back of the store to the special waiting area for the laser patients.
Although the surgery itself normally takes around 10 minutes, I had been told to allow 2 hours for various tests... and so the wait began. I couldn't help but look at the other patients waiting; were they getting their eyes lasered too, were they post-op, could they see now?! I made the mistake of eavesdropping on a lady sitting too far away from me for me to hear properly, and thought she was telling her partner that they had stuck needles in her eyes, which clearly hadn't happened. My nerves were getting the better of me.
Once I'd filled in a health form there was a short wait before I was called through for some scans of my eyes, just to check my prescription again and that everything was fine for the go-ahead. I then went to meet Panos, my surgeon, who ran through what was about to happen. Meep! He told me that my right eye would need 14 seconds of laser and left eye needed 16.
After another short wait, I was called through to surgery. I was extremely nervous, despite having all of my fears and questions answered. I requested that I had someone from Optical Express to hold my hand, wuss! There were two ladies in the room, initially, who were both very friendly and introduced themselves - although due to my nerves everything they were saying was going in one ear and out of the other. While one of them cleaned around my eye area, the other was asking me how I was feeling. Panos had told me that there is a part of the surgery where your vision goes black for 30 seconds - that really worried me, and when I voiced my concerns she told me she had had the surgery herself and not to worry, she would count it down for me. She also turned the laser on so I could hear what it sounded like - a very loud clicking noise - so I wouldn't get a fright once it came on for my eyes.
Panos entered. Eek, this was it!
Once my hand-holder was doing his job, the surgery began. Panos put anaesthetic drops into my eyes so I wouldn't feel what they were doing. I don't know exactly what he did do to my eyes, I didn't want to know - but I liked the way that every step of the way I was told what was going on.
My left eye was covered with a hard patch-like thing. With my right eye I started by looking down a 'tunnel' of darkness at a red light, which then lead to the suction going over my eye. This was the part when the vision goes completely black, I'm guessing while they cut the flap. I kept the left eye open, and through my patch could see a little bit of light, which made me feel better in the knowledge I still had some kind of vision. It is scary though, as your eye is open yet all you can see through it is black. Panos told me once we were half way through, then the lady counted down in seconds for when it would be over. Phew. It wasn't as bad as I'd thought, and pain wise, although I squeezed my hand-holders hand and oohed and ahhed a fair bit, there was no crying or screaming.
The bed was then moved round to the laser machine and a clamp (I realise clamp makes it sound awful - and it's really not that bad) or peg-like thing was attached to my eye to make sure it stayed open and I didn't blink. It felt just like you pulling on the skin around your eyes to open them more, due to the anaesthetic I didn't really feel any discomfort from this at all.
The laser machine then came over and I was told to look at the light. I saw lots of dots which I remember thinking looked like fireworks. The desire to close my eye was immense. Panos told me to stop frowning, which I hadn't realised I was doing. I couldn't really feel pain from this, it was just a strange sensation. I was glad Panos had pre-warned me that the gas from the laser will let off a smell, otherwise I'd have assumed it was my eye burning!
After the required 14 seconds of laser treatment Panos removed the clamp, put some drops in my eye, and put something across my eye which I assume was him putting the flap back over, I didn't want to ask *vom*.
Then off we went for round two with the other eye. It was all pretty much the same, however with the laser part, I was trying to close my eye so much that I moved. Any slight movement and the laser stops, which it did. I relaxed and on we went with the rest of it.
We were done.
My total time in theatre had been around 10 minutes.
Panos then took me into his room to check my eyes with the microscope. He said "they're looking great" - I misheard and thought he'd said they were red. He laughed and said they were red too. And boy, were they red! I was told these are burst blood vessels from the suction, and they will go in a couple of weeks.
It was then off to see someone else, who happened to be my hand-holder - he went through my aftercare; what I can and can't do (no eye make up for a week, no rugby for 2 weeks - damn ;) ) and explained how I might be feeling.
After getting the debrief from fellow Team 21er, Ellen, on how her surgery had gone, I had decided to take some Nurofen Plus before I left the house that morning, ready to fight any pain that may have come along after surgery and it did the trick very well.
Initially, after the surgery, I could see, albeit very hazily, and my eyes were very sensitive to light. I must admit I was relived I hadn't been blinded, even though that has never happened to anyone having laser eye surgery before, vision is such an important thing and a big thing to trust by putting it in someone elses hands.
As I sat listening to Rob the hand-holder, my eyes began feeling very heavy, and eventually I sat there with my eyes closed. I think my body had gone into shock too as I was freezing and shivery, so put on by big coat and scarf. Thankfully my boyfriend had joined me by this point, and was listening intently on which drops I needed to use when.
I left Bluewater clutching his arm, sunglasses on, with my new eyes closed behind them, excited for a world where everything was crisp.
I am glad we only had a short drive to get back, as as soon as we had I wanted to eat then sleep. Trying to put the drops in before I went to sleep was quite fun as it literally took everything in me to open my eyes only a millimeter. Eventually we got them in, and off I went to bed with my very fetching protective goggles on, dreaming of a crystal clear future.