What you need to know about preparation, surgery and recovery
“I was possibly the most short sighted person in the Southern Hemisphere” – Carolyn Caukwell grew up knowing her vision was weak, but did not realise just how visually impaired she really was. With a myopia of -21 and -23 Carolyn was legally blind. However, as she had been wearing glasses since she was five, this was her ‘normal’ and she simply dealt with it. When she was 18, a new technology came into the market in the form of contact lenses. By this time, with very high myopia in both eyes, her glasses were heavy and uncomfortable. Fortunately for Carolyn, her myopia was just within the upper limit of what the contact lenses were able to resolve. They were custom made in Australia; as she also had astigmatism the lenses had to be slightly flattened on one side. As Carolyn (in a very matter of fact way) says, “I wore them all the time and just got on with life. When I had my son in 1992, I was slightly worried about how I would cope with getting up in the middle of the night and finding my lenses in the dark, but I knew no different so I just worked it out”.
Carolyn wore contact lenses all the time until in early 2001 when a friend of hers mentioned a new technology known as ICL, which had just come into New Zealand. The ICL (Implantable Contact Lens) is a tiny, individually customised lens that is surgically placed inside the eye to correct near or far (short or long) sightedness, with or without astigmatism.
Carolyn visited several ophthalmologists in Auckland before coming in to Auckland Eye and meeting with Dr Dean Corbett. She says she immediately felt a rapport with Dean and trusted his ability to help her vision with this procedure. Carolyn says that for her it was also a ‘win-win’ as it was a reversible procedure i.e. if the lens did not work out for her, it could be taken out.
Carolyn had the ICL surgery in 2002 / 2003 and was one of the first in New Zealand to undergo this surgery. 24 hours later she removed the patch and discovered the world through new eyes…. “It was mind boggling , even better vision than I had with my contact lenses”. From near blindness to perfectly clear vision. In order to achieve complete 20-20 vision, Carolyn also underwent a LASIK procedure in the eye that had the myopia of -23, as the surgically implanted lens could only correct up to -21.
For the last 15 years, Carolyn has enjoyed the freedom that comes with having great vision. Small, everyday freedoms which she had never experienced before, even with contact lenses. “Being able to swim in the sea without worrying about losing my lenses to the waves and to be able to open my eyes underwater!” She has enjoyed diving, skiing and cycling with confidence and participating in family activities without having to constantly think about whether she might lose a contact lens in the process. “My husband certainly remembers those times when I would accidentally drop a contact lens on the floor and he would have to get down on hands and knees to carefully search for them”! Carolyn has also enjoyed staying in touch with Dean and meeting with him every couple of years to have her eyes checked. She has been more than happy to come in to meet with student ophthalmologists in training, as she has the reputation of having the highest degree of Myopia that had ever been tackled in the Southern Hemisphere with ICL’s!
Fifteen years on, Carolyn has recently had to start wearing low prescription glasses again, primarily for driving. This was not unexpected for her as her original myopia was so severe. It is also now 15 years on since her procedure, and the natural process of ageing has resulted in the return of slight myopia. Despite this, glasses are still optional for her for most tasks and she continues to enjoy the freedom and quality of life that has come from having her vision corrected.
If your eyes are not suitable for Laser Vision correction due to high prescriptions or thin corneas, and you would like to find out more about Auckland Eye’s ICL procedure click here or call us on 0800 255 393 and book an appointment.
We are very proud to say that all our patients whose eyes have been implanted with the STAAR™ ICL at Auckland Eye have achieved unaided vision of better than or equal to driving requirements. We would love to speak with you and help you on your journey to great vision.