I've been wearing glasses for 25 years and recently I looked into getting laser surgery for my eyes.
I went to optilase and they said I have a stigma so basic eye surgery (lasik) wasn't going to fix it. What I needed was Clear Lens Extraction (CLE), otherwise known as Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE) which is basically a natural lens replacement with an artificial one. It's basically cataract surgery and this was something they couldn't do.
I then went Optical Express. They quoted my €10,000...yeap. I said I would think about it. They must have rung me 10 times over the course of a month trying to close the sale. I told them I wasn't interested at that price.
I looked into my options and came across a company in Prague called DuoVise. Their price was 3,000! That included the most expensive, Multi-focal Toric lens that corrects stigmas and vision.
I thought their must be some kind of catch. How can they cost 3k and optical express charge 10k?
I rang optical express to see what they do thats so different. They told me that the technology is more up to date with them. Sounded fair enough.
I then rang Duovize and it turns out their equipment is better then Optical express as they could even offer "laser assisted" surgery which is much more accurate with a faster healing time. This service isn't even available anywhere in Ireland.
In this case, the laser breaks up the natural lens into segments..(not the surgeon) and creates a tiny keyhole in the side of the eye. Again, the surgeon would normally do this with a scalpel. After the laser is done, all the surgeon does is remove the old lens through the tiny "slot" and replace it with the custom lens.
As well as the cheaper price, I get 20% back in the form of a tax rebate, even though it's abroad. All you need is proof that the surgeon is qualified to do it.
When I asked my health insurance company about getting a rebate, they told me they only deal with optical express. If a health insurance company is offering a 25% rebate on the cost, what does it matter who does it, once they are qualified. The word "back handers" popped into my head straight away. Perhaps one of the reasons they are 3 times the price in Ireland.
After doing some browsing online the cheap prices advertised by the larger companies is a "get them in the door price" (which includes health insurance discount) and nobody actually gets that price. People usually end up paying a minimum of 3k just for the very basic Lasik flap surgery. Whereas Duovize charge €500 for the PRK / TE-PRK which is the Flapless procedure (again, more advanced for half the price). Go figure?
Anyway... I jumped on a flight to Prague for the weekend and saw their consultant on a Saturday morning. I was very impressed with their setup. I thought it might be some soviet style old hospital...far from it. Ultra modern. I still couldn't get over the price difference.
I had a complete examination which seemed to be a lot more thorough, complete with ECG tests and more. No stone was left unturned. They explained my options in detail and put no pressure on me whatsoever and at no time did I feel rushed into making a decision. I came home..had a think and paid a deposit for the lenses to be custom made in Germany by Zeiss.
I booked a return flight €150 and a nice 1 bed maintained apartment bang in the centre of the city for €350 (4 nights - 5 days), 2 minutes walk from their clinic and I flew over on the Tuesday. I was met at the airport and accompanied to my apartment. The next morning, I was met outside my apartment by Rita, a very nice lady and brought to the clinic a couple of minutes away and had the first eye done. It took about 10 minutes and I had zero pain...not even a tickle! They stuck a patch onto my eye and away I went with some eye drops. All in all, from arriving to leaving, it took an hour and a half.
The next morning, I took the patch off and applied 1 drop to it as I had been told to do and was very impressed at the instant clarity I had in that eye. Had an examination that next morning and was told it was a case book job and looked perfect. It felt a bit odd walking around with one perfect eye and one dodgy one but i got used to it.
The consultant said there were no restrictions on watching Tv etc. Just no swimming in public pools or heavy lifting. Common sense stuff really.
On the Friday the procedure was repeated. The next morning (Saturday) I took the other patch off and again...amazing clarity.
I went for a checkup again and they did a complete eye examination on me. I could read the smallest text on the chart but it was slightly hazy. The consultant told me it will take up to two weeks for the sharpness to return. Even with that I was delighted and the idea that it would get better was an added bonus. He said my eyesight will never deteriorate until the day I die and I will never get a cataract.
When I asked about aftercare, he said he had done over 20,000 of these operations and less than 100 had ever developed complications. On a rare occasion, someone could can develop an infection but simple anti-biotics cured that. He said if I did have any issues, they would be more than happy to address them if I returned to Prague but if not any qualified person in Ireland could deal with it.
It's very important to manage your expectations. After surgery like this, it can take weeks to heal and for older people longer. Don't expect to walk out with perfect vision straight away. It takes time for your brain to adjust to your new eyes and for your eyes to completely heal.
I hopped on a plane back to Dublin with my "new" eyes very chuffed with myself.
I was told to apply the drops 5 times a day for week 1, 4 times for week 2, 3 times a week for week 3 etc...
Two days later, I do notice a slight halo around lights of on coming cars when driving at night. I was told this would happen by the consultant but he said it would go away after time. Even 5 days later it's a lot better.
For those of you considering getting it done abroad to avoid what I would consider to be unjustifiably high costs in Ireland, I highly recommend it.