Dom Joly: I've seen the light
PUBLISHED: 09:44 12 July 2016 | UPDATED: 09:44 12 July 2016
I ignored the hunger, the thirst, the bites, the Cayman attacks, the other people… I was blind, now I was going to see
I had 20/20 vision until about five years ago. In fact, I think I had better than 20/20 vision. Can you have 30/20 vision? Whatever, I could see stuff really well and would secretly chuckle at the genetically unfortunate amongst us who needed glasses, bi-focals, contact lenses, etc.
Then… it happened. Age, that is. About five years ago I started finding it harder and harder to read things. At first I just thought I must be tired… or drunk. But it got worse and worse and eventually I tried on a pair of random reading glasses someone had at a restaurant and I realised that I had become middle-aged and needed glasses for my presbyopia.
So, a whole new avenue of shopping opened itself up to me – the world of the optician. It’s not a cheap world. Glasses cost a fortune – the frames, the lenses, even the cases. On top of that I’m a bloke – I lose things regularly. I’m clumsy and often break things. Glasses were not the best accouterment for me. I’d endlessly forget to bring them with me and then have to guess what I wanted on restaurant menus or be unable to read my sat-nav or struggle with parking meters. Somebody suggested that the answer would be to wear reading glasses on a chain round my neck. I looked at them as though they were insane. There is nothing that symbolises giving in to old age more than the wearing of glasses round your neck on a granny chain.
So, I stumbled on in my fuzzy world, upsizing my iPhone text to the largest option, squinting at computers and (my biggest bug-bear) being unable to read the labels on bottles in the shower. It was particularly in hotels. There’s always three tiny bottles of free stuff in the shower with tiny, tiny print on it. WHY? Who wears glasses in the shower? Just put a huge S, C and BW (body wash) on the bottles. I know these are first-world problems, but that’s where I live.
I’d heard about laser surgery but when I asked around it all seemed to be for people with problems seeing distances. My distance vision was still perfect. I wanted a miracle cure for my reading problems. Computers said no.
So that was that and I reconciled myself to a life of expensive ocular equipment… until I was marooned on a desert island in Panama with Dr Dawn Harper from Ch4’s Embarrassing Bodies (for a forthcoming celebrity version of The Island with Bear Grylls). As usual I was bemoaning my poor eyesight and she suggested that I visit her friend who had invented a laser eye surgery technique (known as laser blended vision) for just this problem. From then on I could think of nothing else. I ignored the hunger, the thirst, the bites, the Cayman attacks, the other people… I was blind, now I was going to see.
The moment I was back in London I visited Professor Dan Reinstein, a charismatic American who moonlights as a jazz saxophonist at the London Vision Clinic in Harley Street. You have to go through some reassuringly elaborate screening procedures before you get the go-ahead, but his treatment is suitable for about 98% of patients. He invented the process back in 2005 but, despite this, there is shockingly little information about it available from anyone else. I rather suspect that the usual, more intrusive practitioners of laser surgery see him a threat to their rather closed shop.
The day came and I had my 15-minute operation. It didn’t hurt at all and only two hours later I found myself being able to read the small print on a medicine bottle. It was genuinely miraculous.
It’s been over two weeks and things are still going fine. My iPhone text size has been reduced to ‘young person’ mode and my glasses sit forlornly staring at me from a shelf as I set out on reading expeditions.
Most excitingly, I was in a hotel shower the other day. I turned to face FIVE tiny bottles of random washing liquids. In the old days, this would have been hell… but no longer. I scanned them, selected tiny shampoo and moved on with my life. I now believe in miracles… they’re not free but by God are they worth it.
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