A sports physiotherapist who has worn glasses since the age of 11 has become the first person in Ireland to undergo pioneering new eye treatment which is set to revolutionise the industry.
Colin Coleman, 32, says his life has been changed by the Visumax SMILE procedure carried out by the country’s leading eye specialist Professor Johnny Moore at Cathedral Eye Clinic
The VisuMax laser is the latest third generation laser technology and is currently the only one in the island of Ireland.
The VisuMax SMILE procedure at the Cathedral Eye Clinic is a minimally invasive, flapless procedure that combines the advantages of previous generations of laser eye procedures.
As a result, there is less incidence of dry eye and other postsurgical effects. The overall treatment is gentle and visual recovery takes just 24 to 48 hours.
“It is like driving a convertible car for the first time. It is just fantastic. I’m so glad I had the treatment,” said Colin.
Colin says he first noticed his eyes starting to deteriorate when he was aged just 11 as a pupil at Wallace High School in Lisburn.
“I use to sit at the back of the class and was copying work off my mates simply because I couldn’t read the blackboard.
“The result was that I failed my maths exam. So I ended up having to get glasses.
“Over the years my eyesight steadily got worse and with every appointment at the opticians I was getting stronger and stronger lenses. I just was worried that I would end up with big milk bottle lenses.’’
And with his eyesight gradually deteriorating through growing astigmatism in his eyes and short sightedness, Colin was finding that he wasn’t enjoying his outdoor pursuits of hiking, trekking, swimming, cycling and triathlon just as much as he used to.
“It was getting a bit frustrating at times,’’ explained Colin who lives in Coleraine, Co Derry, with his wife and their two children and who is a regular on the triathlon cicuit around Ireland.
“I would be out sea swimming with my friends without my glasses on and they would say that ‘we will use the white house over there as our shoreline mark’. I was saying to myself: what white house? I can’t see any white house!
“So all I could do was to tuck in behind another swimmer, follow him and hope for the best. Without my glasses on, I basically couldn’t see five or six metres away. In the swimming pool, I couldn’t even see the clock when I was doing my lengths.’’
Colin said he had been considering having laser eye treatment for a number of years but didn’t believe it would work for him. He had previously been told that his eyes were too far gone for a corrective laser procedure.
That was until one day in the North Coast when he bumped into Andrew Spence, principal optometrist at the Cathedral Eye Clinic in Belfast.
“He told me to come to Belfast and see Professor Jonny Moore for a chat and see what he could do for me.
“Professor Moore is the best in his field and he told me about the new Visumax SMILE technology he had installed. He examined my eyes and said he could fix the problem that was there. Basically, my pupils were rugby shaped instead of being oval shaped like a football.
“I was booked in and the whole procedure lasted no more than 20 minutes. I didn’t feel the laser, I didn’t even see the laser.
“The only way I can describe it is that you feel a wee bit of pressure, that’s all it is. There is no pain during or after.
“I remember sitting up afterwards and Professor Moore had a German guy with him and I could see every single stripe on his shirt. I just thought: ‘Wow! This is amazing.’’’
Within one day of the treatment, Colin says he was back treating his patients at his Causeway Physio Clinic in Coleraine.
“I had the treatment on the Wednesday, I took the Thursday off to recover and Friday I was back at work.
“I didn’t really know what to fully expect from the treatment but the results have just been absolutely fantastic.
“I don’t have to wear my glasses anymore when I am out cycling. I no longer see the side arm of the frame when I turn my head.
“One of the greatest benefits has been improvement in my night time vision. It was amazing.
“I compete in triathlons and with the open water swimming element of the competitions; it will make such a difference.
“Before, when I put the goggles on, I was essentially blind. Now I will be able to see the markers on land; monitor for riptides and currents – it will improve my performance and safety whilst in the water.”
“I can only describe the feeling now it is like driving around in a convertible car with the roof down. I can see everything just so clearly. It is such a great feeling.
And Colin’s wife, who has only ever known him with glasses, is also impressed with his new look.
“She says I look a bit younger!’’ he laughs. “I think I can live with that.’’
Cathedral Eye Clinic are the first clinic in the island of Ireland to boast the new VisuMax procedure.
The technology is part of the £2 million investment that was that also seen the completion of a brand new clinic on Academy street in Belfast where Professor Moore has treated a host of athletes from gaelic games, rugby and soccer.
Professor Moore, Clinical director of the clinic said “The aim of the new clinic is to provide the pinnacle of ophthalmic care within the island of Ireland by providing unparalleled expertise and an extensive range of eye treatments.”
Commenting after the treatment Professor Moore said “I am delighted for Colin. This sort of procedure, though quick and painless, makes such a difference to people’s lives, but especially those involved in sport. They really appreciate the difference it makes to their lives.
“I am seeing more and more sports people in the clinic from football, rugby, gaelic games and athletics. These procedure is giving these sports people back their edge.”