RAF applicant becomes first patient in north west to have latest laser eye surgery

For Mancunian Bea Hare, her dream of applying to the RAF was foiled due to the very poor vision which meant she had relied on glasses since the age of four.  But a second opinion at a specialist eye hospital in Manchester led to her discovery of the latest laser eye technology which has transformed her sight.

Bea, age 23, is the first person in the North West to have this procedure. SMILE, the third generation laser eye technology is now available at Optegra Eye Hospital Manchester in Didsbury. 

SMILE stands for SMall Incision Lenticule Extraction and is a bladeless, flapless, minimally invasive alternative to traditional laser surgery. Considered the ‘keyhole surgery’ of laser, the technology means that the popular 30 year old laser eye techniques can, for the first time, be performed without creating a ‘flap’ on the surface of the eye.

Having endured a very strong prescription throughout her life, Bea has been used to only seeing 15-20 centimeters in front of her without glasses, and remembers her childhood in ‘gold-plated Harry Potter-esque’ specs which did nothing for her confidence.  But she can now see with better than 20/20 vision for the first time which means she can re-apply for the RAF as she hopes to fulfill her dream of serving on the frontline.

However, with her great enthusiasm for life, she has a number of things she wants to do first, before reapplying in a year.

As well as planning some travel – to destinations as varied as Europe, Peru and South East Asia – Bea is also an award-winning ultimate Frisbee enthusiast.  She not only coaches the Manchester University team but also competes at national level in the third best women’s team in the UK.

She says: “For the past four years I have been dedicated to playing ultimate Frisbee – not only is there a strange addiction to chasing a piece of plastic around! As part of the women’s team, I’m in a new support network – we are like a second family, we all know each other so well and support each other in all of life’s challenges and ups and downs! 

“I love sports, so having excellent vision is a massive help.  If I’m in a tournament I can be in contact lenses for 12 hours which is just too long and really makes my eyes very uncomfortable.  Now, for the first time I can play Frisbee without having to worry about any of that, or that a contact lens might come out, or being hit in the face! It’s incredible to see so clearly!”

A great advantage of this newest type of laser surgery is that the incision is miniscule – just 2 mm – and heals completely and naturally.  Longer term, this is less risk than the traditional ‘flap’ of LASIK and LASEK laser eye surgery which can potentially dislodge.

At Optegra Eye Hospital Manchester, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon Mr. Shafiq Rehman, who treated Bea, explains: “SMILE is the third generation of laser eye technology and has many benefits over traditional methods. It was ideal for Bea who had a very strong prescription and also astigmatism, which affects the shape of the eyes.  As she wants to join the RAF and also enjoys many sports, this latest technology is so safe, the eye is less likely to suffer trauma with SMILE.”

Bea describes the procedure as very comfortable, it only took 15-20 minutes, and she could see well immediately, with vision getting clearer and clearer over  the next 48 hours.

She says: “When my parents both had laser surgery years ago, I remember them having to wear big goggles for days afterwards. I had none of that!  When I was told I already had better than 20/20 vision, I couldn’t believe it – that’s not really me is it?! I feel very blessed to be the first person to have this procedure, it has completely changed my life.

“I always thought I would have laser when I ‘grow up’ and have realized I am now a grown up!  I also totaled up the amount of money I was continuously spending on contacts, lenses and solutions – and realized that the cost of surgery is what I spend in a decade of glasses and contacts. But now I have fantastic vision with no hassle whatsoever – for me the decision was just nonsensical.”

Bea is also part of a start-up food company based in the Arndale Food Market called Mac Daddies, which offers gourmet Mac and Cheese.  She is thoroughly enjoying her life-long passion for food and no longer having glasses steam up from opening the oven door!

Optegra Eye Health Care is a specialist provider of ophthalmic services in the UK, China, Czech Republic, Poland and Germany. It operates 23 eye hospitals and clinics, bringing together leading edge research, medical expertise and state-of-the-art surgical equipment.  Its top ophthalmic surgeons are renowned for their areas of expertise, offering excellent clinical outcomes for the A to Z of eye health care.

For more information please visit Optegra.com or call 0808 159 9580.

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