You need to get all of your facts straight before accusations are made.
Fact 1: Joanna McGraw DID work at Optimax.
Fact 2: Stephanie Holloway DID sue both Optical Express and Joanna McGraw, and was awarded £569,000 (plus interest!). And, another fact, Joanna McGraw apologised to Stephanie in open court, I was there!
Fact 3: Joanna McGraw DID leave Optical Express in December - if she was sacked then I will amend my post.
Fact 4: There ARE many more legal claims against Joanna McGraw currently in process.
And, while certainly not an accusation, I am willing to concede my assumption that Joanna McGraw has been unable to find a UK medical insurer prepared to indemnify her if you prove otherwise.
Identify yourself and I will be happy to engage in further discussion with you. Otherwise I will accept that you are yet another sad little troll hiding behind a keyboard with nothing better to do!
Optical Express surgeon Dr Joanna McGraw previously worked at Optimax, alongside fellow South African Jan Venter - before David Moulsdale poached him (according to Russell Ambrose) - and she is probably best known for the highly publicised trial in September 2014, when Stephanie Holloway sued both Optical Express and Joanna McGraw, and was awarded £569,000 (plus interest!).
Scroll down to September 2014 to read my daily posts written throughout Stephanie's trial, and Google 'Joanna McGraw' to read more.
I’m told that Joanna left OE on 9 December and has retired as a surgeon.
I’m assuming the latter is true, because it's unlikely that she would now find a UK insurance company to indemnify her, especially with a number of other legal claims against her currently in process.
In fact, by the time the hundreds of legal claims against OE and their surgeons are settled, I predict a mass evacuation of ophthalmic surgeons, relocating to far flung corners of the world where no-one will know their name!
It's been fairly quiet over xmas, giving me the chance to catch up with a lot of admin... but this evening it was back to normal with a flood of unhappy people contacting me for help!
I was saddened when one woman described how she'd spent much of the holiday crying in front of her children, in pain because OE had run out of the medication she needed and wouldn't have it in stock until January!
What really shocked me was when she told me her surgeon was Dr Joanna McGraw, and described how Joanna had treated her.
I was present in court when Joanna made her little speech to Stephanie, apologising for any harm she'd done to her!
It seems lessons have not been learned, certainly not by Joanna
Thanks to being sidetracked by the problems with OERML Facebook last week, I haven't had time to keep you updated with recent news!
In April '14, when they lost their 3rd complaint to Nominet re my domain name, 'Optical Express Ruined My Life', Optical Express told The Observer: "We are extremely disappointed and surprised by the decision of the Nominet Dispute Resolution Service appeal panel as we believe we had a very strong case. We are now actively considering our options with regard to pursuing our challenge via other avenues."
Xmas on its way and no challenge!
Almost word for word, when Stephanie won her legal case - on lack of informed consent alone, the company's spokesman said: "We are extremely disappointed... will be exploring the options for further legal action relating to the case."
Yada yada... £569,000 was recently transferred into Stephanie's bank account
In her own words, an exclusive interview with Stephanie Holloway, following her successful court case last month
It's nearly seven years since I first underwent laser vision correction.
In 2007 I had applied for an information and application pack to join the police force. Although I met the physical fitness requirements, my only problem was high myopia, and I knew I would have to have this corrected to follow my dream.
At that time I had a successful and well paid career with an antiques company, and I hoped to use this experience to join the Arts & Antiques police department.
In January 2008, I was shopping in Southampton when I walked past the West Quay Optical Express store displaying an advert in the window for surgery at £395 per eye.
I went in for a consultation and talked to a 'sales counsellor’ who filled in a few forms and then passed me over to the optometrist, Mark Glover. He had a look at my eyes and told me all about the laser surgery he claimed to have recently had. (I wish my barrister had asked him about this because not only did he wear glasses on the witness stand - and lie, but he looked far too old to have had laser)
He discussed the price and quoted a cost of almost £3,000 - a lot more than I’d expected according to the sign in the window!
I said I wanted to think about it and left.
After discussing finances with my partner, I phoned the branch and booked an appointment for surgery a couple of weeks later, on the 19th February.
Accompanied by a friend I arrived on time - and waited five hours! The clinic was very busy, with at least thirty patients coming and going. Eventually I was called in to see the surgeon, Dr Joanna McGraw.
Dressed in blue operating scrubs, she welcomed me into her ante-room, and my first impression was that she was very busy. She told me that she would not be proceeding with my surgery that day as she wanted to change the procedures from LASIK to LASEK. Naturally, I was extremely annoyed as I had been waiting five hours, and I asked why she hadn't told me sooner. She was very polite and explained that she had only just been given my file. She continued to tell me that on my return, if I chose to come back, she would explain in detail why my procedure was switched from Lasik to Lasek
I was then dismissed, made my way downstairs to the desk, got a little heated with the receptionist, and left without booking another appointment.
In court Joanna said that she was required to give Head Office a reason for cancelling treatments and had told them that she was unable to perform Lasek that day because there was no Mitomycin C in stock. (MMC is a controversial drug supposed to reduce glare - which I have!)
Someone called me the next day, full of apologies, asking when I wanted to rebook. I had calmed down by then so I re-booked for the following week.
My mother and I arrived at the clinic very early on the 25th February. Extremely nervous, I waited for about an hour, until a woman approached me with a clipboard, asking me to initial where she had marked. She did not leave my side, impatient to take the clipboard with her. I signed where she’d indicated and she left.
A few minutes later she returned and gestured for me to go with her to Dr McGraw.
My mother stood up to accompany me, but was told she wasn’t able to. I became even more nervous at this stage, as I hadn’t realised that I couldn't have someone with me.
The meeting with Dr McGraw was brief. She was polite, shook my hand, and asked me to sign a form. At this point, I was shaking like a leaf and I told her how frightened I was. She gently placed her hand on my arm and told me not to worry, that she had even treated her brother’s eyes.
As she was saying this the surgery door opened, and before I knew it I was on my back staring up into a machine.
During the Court trial, under cross examination (5.5 hrs), I was asked why I didn’t ask Dr McGraw to explain everything as she’d told me she would do if I returned.
A fair question, and as I replied, something I will regret for the rest of my life. When I look back, I was only 21 yrs old on the day of my surgery. I was so nervous that I was shaking - a nurse actually held my hand throughout the procedure! And at the time I had no reason to doubt the surgeon or Optical Express. When Joanna McGraw told me that she had treated her brother, I felt reassured by this because I have four brothers myself and would never risk harming them. And as I have said, it all happened so fast.
The procedure I had was PRK - similar to Lasek, but the epithelium cells are discarded instead of being spread back across the cornea after the eye is lasered.
No-one warned me that I would be in excruciating pain after surgery once the anaesthetic drops wore off! And everything was very hazy - like looking through a foggy shower screen.
The haze decreased over the next few weeks, but the sensitivity remained. I made over forty trips to West Quay, many for emergency appointments, as I was struggling with the pain and sensitivity. At every one of these visits I was told that what I was experiencing was normal.
Eventually, in the summer of 2009, I was referred to Harley Street where I had another operation on my right eye to remove the scarred epithelium tissue. During this procedure the surgeon, Dr Jan Venter, talked me through what he was doing and made a reference to a bandage lens being inserted in my eye. I imagined a large white cotton patch, asking if that’s what he meant. He told me no, that it was the same lens I'd had after PRK, but I couldn't remember a bandage lens then so I started to think that maybe something went wrong.
I made a mental note to ask for a copy of my notes and left the clinic.
The next thirty hours after that procedure is not something I am comfortable talking about. It was the worst pain I have every suffered in my entire life, and just thinking about it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
Within a couple of weeks it was clear that the second procedure had made no difference to my vision or haze. I was back at square one, despite what I had suffered after the procedure. I received a copy of my notes, but they really did not make any sense to me.
I had been communicating with David Mungall, the Customer Care Manager, who had been trying to "move the situation forward”, which resulted in a meeting when he asked me what I wanted from them, i.e. compensation.
It was at that point, 18 months after the initial surgery, when I realised that I had no idea what had actually happened to my eyes. I regularly panicked about going blind and believed OE were trying to buy my silence. I contacted solicitors and began legal proceedings.
During the five years of litigation, I attended so many medical examinations, met all the experts (both sides), learnt more about PRK and Lasek, and what the prognosis was for my eyes.
Both medical experts, mine and the defendants, agreed during the trial that I CANNOT have any further treatment, despite recent clams to the press from OE that my vision can be corrected with more surgery!
My eyes are similar to those of an eighty year old and the pain I suffer is for life. I also have photophobia, which means wearing sunglasses even in winter - and I now know that many of you reading this suffer the same! And although advised by top medical experts to try and wear normal glasses for a little while each day, after a short time I really struggle with the discomfort, needing strong painkillers to help with this.
During the litigation process I was under video surveillance for three days. I understand this is normal with bogus insurance claims etc… but until litigation began not once did Optical Express dispute or disbelieve my claims. In fact it was the opposite, with apologies, free sunglasses and consultations, hotels and travel paid.
After watching the surveillance DVD my only concern was the weight I had gained! Other than that it simply showed me leading my life, dealing with my problems as best I could.
I am very critical of a person being filmed in their own home, in the bathroom and kitchen as they did me, it is invasive and inappropriate. It took a long time to overcome my fear of being watched and I still have occasional set backs, with anxiety and paranoia added to my problems. It has been hard to deal with the thought of being watched by strangers hiding in the bushes!
The trial was a surreal experience. Despite the relentless attacks on my character by the Defendants’ barrister (Li’l Crid as Sasha so perfectly named him), I managed to get through it and feel stronger having done so. At the time it felt like the longest two weeks of my life, yet in some ways the shortest.
The relief after the verdict, when we rose for the Judge as he left the courtroom, knowing it was all over, left me filled with mixed emotions. Happiness that I had won the case, tainted with the realisation that my eyes still hurt, and no amount of money can ever fix the damage to them.
Now begins the journey of healing. I've spent the best part of my twenties seeking justice and having done so must look to the future.
I want to thank everyone for their messages of support. I did see all the Facebook comments here, and I truly appreciated each one, especially after a rough day in court.
Sasha was a fantastic support throughout the trial. If you haven't met her, she is a bundle of energy and positivity. We'd previously spoken on the phone, but I only met her in person on the first day of the trial.
She is the person you want by your side if you were to enter the gates of hell! She is confident, objective, kind and honest. When I was in tears, Sasha was there with a hug or pep talk. She has dedicated her life to the MBE campaign, and despite not being one of her clients, she spent every day of the trial rooting for me.
It was so comforting knowing she was there in the court room with me, understanding that I was telling the truth, experiencing the same pain as I do, because much as they can sympathise, it is difficult for a person with 'normal' eyes to fully understand what we go through, and I'd thought I was alone in the world with these problems.
My Beautiful Eyes Campaign highlights that is sadly not the case.
We didn't choose to have this happen to us, and we would all do anything to have our healthy eyes back, but tragically for most of us, this isn't possible.
I know she was paid to do a job, but from the first moment I met my solicitor she wanted to help me. She truly cared and believed me from day one, and five years later was by my side when we won the case. Thank you Liz!
Thanks to Judge Bailey's verdict, based on lack of consent alone, I believe with Sasha alongside them, solicitors will now will be able to help far more people like us.
I wholeheartedly support the MBE campaign and I urge everyone else to do so, as without Sasha fighting, there would be no hope of government legislation, or emotional and practical support when it is needed the most.
To anyone thinking about having this unnecessary surgery, please think very hard - it could be you in my place next time!
We all arrived comparatively early on Friday morning, the doors to the court room still locked.
A completely different atmosphere as we all waited, even Defence lawyer Susan Silk was laughing with me.
Mrs Joanna McGraw was not present, as I predicted.
We were all taken aback when the Judge (sans robe) unlocked the doors himself to let us in, because his clerk hadn’t yet arrived!
Although Stephanie’s original claim was based on both negligence and lack of consent, by the time it reached Court her claim rested on lack of informed consent alone.
Had she won on negligence it wouldn’t have really helped anyone whose claim was refused by solicitors because they'd signed a Consent form, but to win on lack of informed consent alone has set a precedent, and it changes everything for thousands of people!
Therefore, the result was vitally important, and I was trying hard not to throw up with nerves. And I am NOT a nervous person, as I’m sure many of you realise - especially if you’ve read the “Patrick James Green" page (see link to right).
As a result of my own debilitating lasek surgery, I now suffer with stress induced asthma, and was hyperventilating as the Judge began.
All I could think was: “Please don’t let me die before I hear the judgement!”.
Expecting to be in and out within an hour it was quite a surprise to be entertained by Judge Bailey for 3.5 hours. However, not one minute was boring or repetitive.
He summarised the case from start to finish, adding background details taken from reports not previously discussed in court, relating to Stephanie’s childhood etc…
Instinct, and belief that truth would prevail, told me Stephanie would win - and I'd seen two magpies sitting in the road walking my dog early that morning! But of course a judgement must follow the letter of the law.
However (a word Judge Bailey repeated many times), after less than an hour I was convinced Stephanie had won.
Luckily the court was always relaxed enough to allow people to enter and exit as they chose, so visits to the bathroom were never an issue - eight floors down, so thankfully the lifts were working over the two weeks we were there!
Stephanie and I met on one such visit, approximately two hours into the judgment, when I gave her a big hug telling her she’d won. "No, no…” she said, “I haven’t, I know he’s going to say something bad about me!”.
It was of course very difficult for Stephanie to be objective having waited so many years for this day!
Although, when I spoke to one of her legal team later, he too said he wasn’t 100% sure at that point, because he’d seen judges swerve the the other way close to the end.
But, as you already know the result, I won’t bore you with more on that.
On 7 October 2009, Stephanie and her mother met with Tweedledee (David Mungall) at OE’s Harley Street premises, to discuss the fact that Stephanie had not been properly consented.
Supporting the Judge’s decision was a letter from Tweedledee, dated 16 October 2009, when he had not disagreed with Stephanie’s complaint that she had not been fully consented by Dr Joanna McGraw, writing that he: “apologise(d) profusely”.
Tweedledee also wrote that he: “completely agreed” that every patient should be: “fully informed”.
Btw, Dr Jan Venter removed scar tissue from Stephanie’s right eye in 2009, saying he hoped the epithelium might grow back evenly. Instead she was left in pain with no improvement to her vision.
Judge B said that, although the 1st Defendant (Optical Express) is a commercial organisation, it is: "important that its employees still behave appropriately" (apropos to a medical situation).
Judge B said he believed that, had the boards in OE’s window advertised surgery: “From £2,900” he had no doubt Stephanie would not have stepped inside the shop. The boards had of course advertised surgery: “From £395 per eye”.
He added that he expected: “very few” people met the criteria for such a low cost.
Told you he’s a smart cookie - OE didn’t manage to pull the wool over his eyes
As I mentioned on 17 September, the evening before I'd sent Stephanie’s legal team a copy of OE's 2013 Patient Advisor Flow (See 21 Sept), proving OE’s pressured sales tactics.
Cridland had objected to its inclusion when Nicholas Yell produced it, and as a result OE were forced to produce the 2008 version, which is really not much different.
In summing up, Judge B said: "I know Optical Express are embarrassed by this document, but I will be mentioning it three or four more times”!
It should be mentioned that by now L’il Crid was consulting a fat legal tome and scribbling notes, presumably preparing his appeal, that’s when I had absolutely no doubt of the Judge's decision!
A few of Judge Bailey's observations:
• "It should be noted that that the Court should exercise great caution accepting written notes from the 1st defendant (OE)"
Dr Joanna McGraw ruined my eyes in August 2009 after she performed a so called "enhancement" because my Lasik operation at Optical Express in September 2008 performed by Mr Rodney Blumenfeld did not give me the vision I had been promised. Like Stephanie I also ended up paying £2900 and not the advertised £325.00 per eye!
Mrs Joanna McGraw also failed to tell me I had a tear in my retina when I went to see her because I was having so many problems with my eyes after surgery. I was left for over 6 months with this tear!
After numerous procedures to try and sort out my eyes I suffered a detached retina because of her negligence and underwent an emergency operation to save my sight.
I have complained repeatedly to Optical Express but they don't want to know. They lure you into their clinics with the promise of 20/20 vision, then apply the hard sell to convince you to buy their supposedly "best" treatments which of course are much more expensive than the advertised low prices.
You do not get to see a surgeon until minutes before the operation. You sign a consent form after they have put dilating drops in your eyes so you cannot see to read it and the whole process is like a cattle market.
You're rushed in and the surgeon is finally introduced to you, numbing drops go in, and job done... herded out and left in a darkened room until the surgeon checks eyes. You're given drops and sent out the door, but when anything goes wrong they don't want to know - the lifetime care they promised for your eyes is a total lie!!
I now wear prescription glasses again, suffer constantly with floaters, flashes, starbursts and need dark reaction lenses on bright and sunny days. I had to have a cataract operation last September and will get another cataract in my other eye. I have also been told by the surgeon who saved my sight that I will eventually have another detached retina in my other eye.
I deeply regret walking into Optical Express and will do so for the rest of my life