(2017: Currently in litigation)
November 2007: Aged 37 I went for a consultation at Optical Express in Cross Street, Manchester and after eye tests told I was an ideal candidate for Wavefront Lasik Treatment.
I was told I’d definitely be able to read without glasses which I wouldn’t need again until my mid fifties. This was great as although my distance was always good and clear I needed glasses for reading.
The ‘sales counsellor’ told me I could have surgery the next week, but had to pay full amount immediately. I’d been hooked by the advertised £395 per eye so when she asked for £2,900 I questioned this. She said £395 was only for low prescriptions and that anyone with such a low prescription wouldn’t have it done!
She pushed the papers in front of me to sign, but as my eyes were still dilated by the drops administered for the tests I couldn’t see. She assured me not to worry, the surgeon would talk everything through with me on the day and if he didn’t think me suitable they’d refund my money immediately. So I signed the agreement - which I couldn’t see, and paid £2,900 on my credit card.
A week later I went to the Rosen Eye Clinic in Manchester where I met the surgeon Stefan Klopper for just five minutes before treatment and asked him what I could expect from surgery. He told me with Lasik Wavefront I would be free of glasses for a long time and assured me that included reading too.
My right eye was first and took about ten minutes. No pain, just the smell of burning. Then my left eye, which seemed to take forever.
It went very quiet in the room and I heard Mr Klopper say that the Wavefront machine had stopped tracking.
After approximately another twenty minutes I was told, “all done” and sent to wait in the recovery room.
Fifteen minutes later I went back into Mr Klopper’s room for him to check all was OK. He was speaking to his next patient but told me to sit down and wait.
I heard Mr Klopper tell the patient he had to postpone her appointment as the Wavefront machine was not functioning correctly - what a lucky lady she was!
He checked my eyes, said all was fine, to go home and sleep.
The next morning my eyes were sore, which I’d been told to expect, but my left eye was really weird and I could hardly see.
Returning for my post op check the next day I was told there was a crease in my left eye and I would need a flap lift. After Mr Klopper had checked it I was back in surgery within ten minutes.
The next day the optometrist removed the bandage lens and said my vision would improve when the eye healed, but over the next three months my vision got worse in both eyes and I was referred to Professor Jan Venter.
He said my eyes were still healing and would get better over the next twelve months.
After about six more checkups I was sent to OE's 'Complex Cases Clinic' in Harley Street to see Professor Venter again.
Prof Venter said my eyes were regressing and the only thing he could offer was Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE), but because I’d had laser I would always need reading glasses. RLE would be for distance vision only but he would not do it until I was forty.
I had only undergone laser eye surgery to be rid of glasses, so it took me two years to psychologically come to terms with this.
David Mungall (Optical Express Customer Care Manager) was present and said OE would be more than happy to do this at their cost, as if they’d be doing me a favour.
Over the next two years my eyes continued to regress and I was wearing glasses full time, plus seeing starbursts, halos, ghosting and glare. But if I could just get through it until I reached forty I believed Jan Venter would sort it out with RLE as promised.
Early 2011: Now forty I went to the Westfield Centre where Jan Venter said he would do my left eye first as it was the weakest.
The operation was painless: I was given a cup of tea and a biscuit then back to the hotel which Optical Express had paid for. In the morning I took off the bandage to put my drops in and discovered I had no peripheral vision, just a black arc across my eye and unable to see to my left.
At my check up the next day the optometrist ignored my complaints, told me it wasn’t possible as there was nothing black in my eye, said it would heal, just give it time.
The next three months were hell, unable to see out of my left eye I complained so much that I was sent back to Jan Venter, who told me I had developed ‘Negative Dysphotopsias’, but it would eventually go away.
I found this quote from surgeon Carlos Buznego: “As busy cataract surgeons, we are constantly reminded of our success when patients rave about their postoperative visual improvement. The occurrence of negative dysphotopsia after uncomplicated cataract surgery is frustrating.”
'Frustrating'? Poor him - try being the patient!
After six months, complaining so much, Jan Venter said I needed a ‘piggyback lens’, which would definitely sort it!
Back to Westfield for the piggyback lens, but at my post op check up the next day there was no difference. I still had the black arc and no peripheral vision.
Again, give it time to heal he said… another three months went by with the worst vision ever.
Professor Venter then blamed it on my not having my right eye done, claiming it was part of the cause of Negative Dysphotopsias. I told him he was not doing my right eye until my left eye was fixed.
Nearly four months on and Prof Venter said he needed to remove the piggyback lens and move the original lens out of the capsular bag so it would sit on the outside of the capsular bag.
Back to Westfield for a fourth operation!
I complained of pain as the needle pulled on my eyeball as Jan stitched it, whether too little anaesthetic I don’t know, but he told me not to worry and bear with him as it was nearly done. My records show Jan Venter put TEN stitches in my eye!
Next morning most of the black arc had gone and I was left with what looked like an eyelash in the shape of a half circle (the edge of the lens), but my vision was still blurred and really poor. Again, told it would improve in time.
I was still refusing RLE on my right eye, my only means of reasonable sight.
Over the next few months no improvement in my left eye and I was told I needed Yag Capsulotomy Laser to clear the blur and fog.
My fifth operation by Andre Oberholster in Manchester. Four or five quick blasts of the Yag Laser and I was told to go home and it will get better.
Andre also said the fact I had not had my right eye done would not be helping my left.
A few months later with no improvement I was sent back to Jan Venter in Harley Street who said I needed more Yag Laser treatment to make a bigger hole in the capsular bag and told that’ll fix it.
A couple of months on: no difference in vision – except the black arcs had returned and again I had lost my peripheral vision.
October 2012: Back to see Andre who said: “NOTHING ELSE COULD BE DONE FOR MY LEFT EYE”! He blamed it on the fact that my right eye had not had RLE, advising that would solve my problems.
It is with great regret I agreed, trusting that the surgeon must know best.
November 2012: Andre operated on my right eye and next day I had developed Negative Dysphotopsias in that eye too! It’s like tunnel vision. My right eye was really blurred, apart from close up reading - which was crazy as both eyes were to be treated for distance vision!
Again the optometrist told me it would heal and improve with time.
Three more checkups where they kept telling me “all is well”, that I had good vision. (They should try looking through my eyes and tell me how good my vision is!)
April 2013: Told I need Lasek to correct the prescription in my right eye.
Unfortunately I have since learned that because of the Yag Laser treatment Optical Express have limited future options to correct their mess as I now have a hole in the capsular bag and it would be very complicated to change any lens or attempt further surgery without significant risk to my sight.
November 2013: My left eye is as good as useless, with no close up or distance vision, plus halos, glare, blurring, ghosting, floaters and black arcs from Negative Dysphotopsias.
My right eye has limited reading and close up vision, no distance vision at all, glare, halos, starbursts and really bad floaters – none of which I had before I went to Optical Express.
Having laser eye surgery was meant to free me from wearing glasses.
It has not.
Having RLE was meant to leave me with distance vision and reading glasses.
It has not.
I now wear glasses all the time with multiple prescriptions.
After five years of depression, painful headaches, being constantly tired, too many weeks off work and sheer visual hell, I will not be taking Optical Express up on their generous offer of more ‘free’ treatment. If they can’t get it right after seven or eight procedures the next one could render me totally blind!!
Optical Express paid for all retreatments, travel and accommodation – but they have NOT refunded my original payment!
To add insult to injury they charged me £50 to provide my medical records promising they’d reach me within 21 days. It actually took 33 days and countless phone calls before they were finally sent to me last week, suggesting maybe they didn’t want me to have them?
My records have at last put a smile on my face :) A great work of fiction!
Meanwhile, after two independent eye specialists have expressed horror at what OE have put me through it’s time to consult a good solicitor and complain to the GMC.
Watch this space!
29 December 2013
NB: When you pay for your records please pay with a Credit card, because if your records do not arrive within the 21 days you can report this to your credit card company for a ‘charge back’ for none receipt of goods (fraud). This puts a black mark on their merchant account and the more complaints made to credit card companies will have a massive effect on Optical Express being able to accept any card payments for transactions in the future.