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Carol Smillie feels like “the bionic woman” after pioneering eye procedure

Television presenter Carol Smillie has told how she feels like “the bionic woman” after undergoing life-changing lens replacement surgery.

The businesswoman and TV personality had all laser natural lens replacement at Optical Express after becoming fed up of constantly juggling pairs of reading glasses and not being able to enjoy television properly.

Now Carol has spoken of how the procedure has transformed her life, enabling her to easily read small print formats where before she had struggled.

She said:  “I feel incredible, somewhere between the bionic woman and a sheer miracle!  One of the things which hammered it home was sitting with my 19-year-old daughter on the night of the second operation and being able to read her texts. Although I didn’t tell her that, obviously!

“The whole procedure was so quick and painless, and the effects, even more so, in fact the morning after my first eye was done, I was brushing my teeth and looked into the bathroom cabinet and was suddenly able to read the writing on the medicine bottles. These used to be the bane of my life because the writing is so miniscule.  It was just one eye at that stage but it was like a rebirth.

“I ran downstairs and said to my kids ‘give me something to read’ and my daughter shoved the Weetabix box under my eyes and said ‘what are the contents’!  The only downside? I can now see the areas in the house that need dusted.”

Carol began to think about her eyesight when she had to have a separate prescription for reading and distance glasses.

 “It was annoying because I had pairs of glasses everywhere – in the car, beside the computer etc. The font on my phone was also getting embarrassingly large. I then had to get a separate prescription for distance and watching television because the detail on people’s faces wasn’t quite there.”

She decided to investigate replacement lens surgery after an eye surgeon she had been interviewing for a TV programme suggested she might be suitable. “Then I was at a dinner for Netball Scotland and a woman on the same table had had it done a couple of weeks before and was absolutely evangelical about it,” said Carol. “So it was a real affirmation to me that there was nothing to be afraid of and her life had very clearly been turned around by it… and I thought ‘what are you waiting for!’”

All laser lens replacement surgery involves removing the natural lens and placing a new lens into the eye, correcting vision much like a contact lens. But the lens remains in the eye, eliminating the inconvenience of frequent removal.

Carol had her first eye procedure at UK eye care leader Optical Express’s state of the art clinic in Glasgow and then followed up with the second eye 1 week later.

 She said: “I had never heard of lens replacement previously. I was also surprised that it was such a short, quick process not requiring a general anaesthetic, a stay in hospital or any of the things I assumed must surely be involved.

 “The Optical Express team were also very calm and reassuring. I am the biggest wuss on the planet but it wasn’t painful at all.  There was a mild grittiness in your eyes for a few days afterwards but that’s all and it doesn’t last.

 “The whole thing was very smooth. I had the first eye done at 2.30pm, I was home by 4.30pm and had the eye patch off by 7.30pm. I had a little bit of redness in my eye, but I’ve had that when flying, and it went down after three days.”

Now Carol is looking forward to utilising her new sight professionally as a presenter and as a holidaymaker on the beach.

“Autocue is always quite big, so I never struggled with that. But any professional person would always have a back-up paper copy and that’s when I could have become unstuck,” she said. “I would have to have a pair of glasses and a printed script for if it went wrong… thankfully that never happened. It would have been slightly unprofessional scrabbling around with a pair glasses when you’re trying to find where in the script you are.

“I’m also looking forward to going on holiday without packing the bifocal sunglasses! They cost me a fortune, because I wanted nice ones which were big enough for reading in the sun… I was so reliant on them. If I left the house without them my day would be ruined. 
“I’ve also had the situation of wearing reading glasses with sunglasses on top… that’s a really humiliating moment when you look like some crazy, mad old woman on the beach. No longer!”

Carol added: “I live and work in an industry where people will have Botox, and have their lips done and God-knows what else, that’s not for me. Your eyesight is your most important faculty, now I’ve had my teeth straightened and my vision corrected and that’s enough for me.

“Friends and family are genuinely fascinated, but so many just don’t like the idea of someone touching their eyes, especially under local anaesthetic. My response is always that if someone talked you through the basics of childbirth, nobody would do it!”

David Teenan, Carol’s surgeon at Optical Express, said: “We were pleased to treat Carol and delighted she’s so happy with the results. Natural lens replacement is an increasingly popular treatment using femtosecond laser.

“More and more people now choose Natural Lens Replacement for improved quality of life. This sophisticated lens can now be customised to the exact shape and size of each eye and the added benefit is that you can never develop cataracts after this procedure. It’s one of the quickest surgical procedures, with many people returning to their usual daily routine within 24 hours.”

In addition to her treatment, as part of her consultation process, Carol was one of the first patients to benefit from a revolutionary new examination system called iScan

The iScan advanced eye care report is a detailed series of diagnostic tests and prescription analysis which is the first of its kind within the industry. In addition to setting new clinical standards throughout the optical sector iScan and improving patient care it also acts as an early warning system by detecting both visual and general health conditions, many of which can be life threatening if left undiagnosed.

Carol added: “I was quite blown away by the number of machines and the procedures which went into every conceivable part of my eye to check what exactly was going on in there. It was quite mind-blowing and very reassuring that the margins for error were virtually nil. 

“The iScan report was so impressive. It’s clearly a very comprehensive break-down of what’s going on in your eyes.”