Andy Bourne 2007

The reason given by almost all vision correction surgery patients is that they seek an improvement in their quality of life. In other words, they want to see better, feel better and above all live better – just like Andy Bourne of Willerby, East Yorkshire. Andy’s ambition was to be a pilot, but his poor eyesight meant that he ended up, ironically, as an optician. But his knowledge of advances in eye surgery meant he now has good enough vision to pilot a plane.

“I was short-sighted, so my distance vision was quite poor and I couldn’t see to drive without glasses,” said Andy. “Anything beyond my arm’s length was blurry. I’d always wanted to be a pilot but my vision without glasses just wasn’t good enough.” At work, he found glasses an impediment when looking through optical instruments. And being a lover of outdoor activities, Andy found his poor eyesight caused him problems outside of work too. “When I used to go paintballing I had to wear special goggles that fit over my glasses, and for scuba diving I had to have a special mask with lenses grafted onto the inside,” he explains. “I like riding motorbikes but you can’t really do that with glasses. And I tried rock climbing with glasses, but after the rope knocked them off I went onto contact lenses. I wore these for quite a few years, but as an optician I was aware that prolonged contact lens wear is not without its costs.”

“It’s a disability not to be able to function without glasses, but I knew that advances in eye surgery meant I might not have to,” he says. He went to a consultant whom he knew professionally, Mr. Milind Pande, who heads the Vision Surgery & Research Centre, to find out what the options were and which of the various vision correction options was best for his eyes.

“I trusted Mr. Pande and knew the recommendations he made wouldn’t be biased towards selling me a procedure. I also knew if he thought something was unsuitable he would tell me. Because I move in the same professional circles, if there had been a problem he’d never have heard the end of it.”

Andy had his consultation and discovered he was suitable for LASEK surgery. In this procedure, a thin flap is made in the cornea and then a laser is used to reshape the eye underneath to correct the short-sightedness. The actual laser work, which is completely painless, takes around 20 seconds for each eye, then the flap is replaced and antibiotics squirted into the eye.

“Fifteen minutes after the operation I could see half-way down the chart, which previously I couldn’t have done. My vision was hazy, but that was expected,” says Andy. Although his eyes were sore once the anaesthetic had worn off, he had been told to expect this. “I put some anaesthetic drops in my eyes at bedtime and slept like a log,” he says. “I woke the next morning and sat up in bed watching TV.” The procedure was carried out on a Friday, and at his check up the following Tuesday he was told his vision was good enough for him to drive.

In the unique position of being able to check his own eyesight at work, Andy could see how his vision improved gradually over the next few weeks. “Because of the work I do, I don’t take my eyesight for granted,” he says. “I’m overwhelmed that I now have natural normal vision. I can do motor biking, scuba diving and rock climbing now – I can do it all. I could even be an airline pilot now.”

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