SMILE Laser Eye Surgery and Paradise

Fri 27th Oct 2017

I blink my eyes open. A dizzying glow of white obscures my vision. I blink a few more times. The white glow quickly fades as my eyes adjust to the bright mid-afternoon sun reflecting from the untouched yellow sand. It’s oddly quiet for a Friday afternoon. The leaves of the palm tree I have found myself under are completely still and the only sound I can hear is the distant rumble of waves roaring down the peninsula reef.

I sit up and focus on to the peak of the peninsula. There, in the distance, I clearly see a surfer, taking off on a spectacularly long barrel ride down the wave. I must have fallen asleep in the shade whilst waiting for low tide to pass. I quickly scan the shoreline expecting to still see the razor sharp coral reef exposed, but all that shines back at me is the crystal clear water, the surface glimmering like a thousand diamonds.

I curse that I let myself fall asleep so easily and glance out at the surfer in the distance again, now solidly carving his way up and down the face of the wave. I pause for a minute as my mind reminds me that just 6 months ago all this would not have been so easy.

Had I woken up from a mid-afternoon nap 6 months ago my eyes would have been dry, and would have taken far longer to focus out at that surfer. This is because an inadvertent mid-afternoon nap back then would have been punished by sleeping with contact lenses which had been my lifeline to the world since I was 17 years old.

Luckily today this is no longer the case. It has been exactly 6 months to the day since I had my ReLEX SMILE laser eye corrective surgery, a procedure I had been contemplating for years prior, but had never conjured up the courage to have done.

However everything changed at the turn of this year, when I decided to get out of the corporate world, leave London, and head off on an unknown adventure. As soon as I started making plans for this next chapter in my life and deciding what minimal possessions in this world I would need to survive travelling with I quickly realised that the only thing I was truly reliant on to live (apart from the obvious food and water) was having access to either glasses or contact lenses. This worrying thought spread to the “what if” scenarios: what if I couldn’t find contact lenses in various 3rd world countries. What if I lost my glasses. What if I got an eye infection from a contact lens whilst surfing the beautiful Indonesian waves. All of these scenarios, alongside the fact that contact lenses had been getting annoyingly in the way of doing sports and hobbies for the past 8 years finally convinced me to go ahead and have laser eye surgery!

Hence, 6 months ago I found myself under the sophisticated laser and skilful hands of Prof. Dan Reinstein at the London Vision Clinic. I had spent the good part of two months painstakingly researching the best place, procedure and surgeon to use. In the end it was a combination of world-class expertise, superb patient reviews and the dedication to on-going research in laser vision correction that made my mind up (as a researcher in the field of artificial intelligence myself, this constant research initiative is something that I can personally highly appreciate and to me showed that Prof. Dan truly believes in his cause and making the world a better place through laser vision correction). I also chose the London Vision Clinic in hope that I would be suitable for the latest ReLEX SMILE surgery they offered, rather than the most popular (to date) LASIK procedure. Why? I won’t go into the technicalities of the two procedures, but in a nutshell SMILE is the latest incrementation to the LASIK procedure that has been the most popular procedure for almost two decades now. Whilst LASIK gives outstanding results, the recovery period can suffer from a slight dryness of the eyes and one has to refrain from contact sports for up to a month. SMILE helps to overcome this by minimising what is done to your eye, turning the procedure into essentially a small, completely painless keyhole procedure. What this meant for me, importantly, was that I could get back to my passions of skydiving and surfing as quickly as possible with barely any downtime and discomfort! As I said, I won’t discuss the technicalities or my experience in depth here, however if you are interested, I made a vlog style video two weeks after I had the procedure done:

Back on the shores of the Alas Purwo National Park off the East coast of Java island my mind focuses back on the present, 6 months has passed since I was in that pristine waiting room, ready to have my life changed in the next 15 minutes, and as I sit here now I wonder where the nearest contact lens opticians would be. Maybe a hundred miles away, maybe several hundred miles away. Certainly it would take the best part of a day or two to get there. I think to myself how much of a hassle it would be if I had to lose a box of contact lenses right now, or how much trouble I would be in if I broke a pair of glasses.

But the thought no sooner enters my mind than it’s gone again, as I spot yet another perfect peeling wave in the distance.

Fully awake now, I brush the sand from my surfboard and head into the water. The thoughts of a past life where my vision lacked clarity and where I needed artificial aids to help me survive washed away into the crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean.

I want to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart to Prof. Dan Reinstein and the whole team at the London Vision Clinic who looked after me and did the most fantastic job in fixing my eyes. I went from -3.5/-3.25 with an astigmatism in my left eye (i.e. not being able to see a clock on the wall) to being able to see 20-16 (clearer than the 20-20 standard of perfect vision for the average person) and I can honestly say that having this procedure done was one of the best decisions in my life.