American pilot chooses Istanbul for eye laser surgery
The New Anatolian / Istanbul
Delta Airlines pilot Cameron Nosler traveled thousands of miles to come to Istanbul for eye laser surgery. After months of exhaustive research on eye laser centers, technology and techniques, Nosler chose EyeSTAR Lasik Institute in Istanbul to get rid of his contact lenses. "After hours on the job, my eyes became itchy and irritable because of my contacts," he said. Understandable, but why a clinic in Turkey? Aren’t there thousands of clinics in the U.S.? "I came to EyeSTAR because of their laser and the detailed answers they provided me with."
EyeSTAR’s laser, the WaveLight Allegretto Eye-Q, is the world’s fastest laser, not yet available in the U.S. as it is awaiting Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. This laser’s older model has FDA approval, and has been shown to have the best results yet, but it works at a speed of 200Hz. The laser which Nosler chose in Istanbul works at a speed of 400Hz, which means faster treatment time, besides the wave-front customized ablation feature of the laser.
EyeSTAR LASIK Institute, established in 1999, was one of the first clinics in Turkey to welcome patients from abroad, and so helped spark the health tourism industry in Turkey. The clinic limits their patient number to 10 per day. Though this number may not look financially very viable, the management says that every day they get flowers and thanks for their quality treatment and sleep soundly at night knowing they have done the best laser treatment available on earth.
The name Eye Star comes from the institute’s founder Dr. Ismail Gurkan Celikkol’s success, as he is the only Turkish eye doctor who was selected to be the EyeSTAR by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1998.
Dr. Celikkol had a vision of creating a laser center in Turkey dedicated exclusively to laser treatment, utilizing the finest system and best technology and holding standards equivalent or even better than the centers in the U.S. and the world. Establishing such a laser center was his ideal ever since the years he was working in U.S. at the Johns Hopkins University and the University of California. He dedicated five years to research at the best laser centers in the U.S. and abroad before founding EyeSTAR. Besides the up-to-date laser treatment methods and equipment they employ, the clinic is also noteworthy for its comfortable environment and setting. Its operating rooms were among the first to instate the HEPA air cleaner system in Turkey. It is also among the handful of laser surgery centers that employ the loop system, which minimizes patients’ stress. Other features such as transparent laser surgery rooms are also evident.
Over 90 percent of EyeSTAR patients come to Istanbul from abroad, including the new American general manager, Yasemin Yusufoff, who came here as a patient from Japan about a year ago, and was eventually recruited to work here. "My vision was really bad for most of my life. I wore contacts for about 14 years, and was always scared about there being an earthquake in Japan," Yusufoff said.
"I wouldn’t find my glasses and obviously wouldn’t have time to put on contacts," she elaborated. "I looked at clinics in the New York and Tokyo, but they all made me feel like a customer, not a patient, trying to sell eye laser surgery. It was also surprising to see that the technology used here wasn’t yet available in the U.S., it’s like driving a special new sports car that’s not yet on the market. I chose EyeSTAR not only for their superior technology, but also because it really is a ‘boutique clinic.’ It didn’t even feel like I was in a clinic, there were no nurses and doctors in uniforms, just warm and friendly people who answered all of my questions patiently and explained the procedure in detail."
EyeSTAR has treated a number of celebrities, including singer Ilhan Sesen, EuroSport broadcaster Uwe Winter, and MTV announcer Minh Khai Phan-Thi.
The miracle in Istanbul
Ole Henriksen from Denmark is among EyeStar’s satisfied patients, and here’s he what he had to say about his experience: "Give yourself the chance to experience this miracle – that is, if you’re burdened by looking at the world through glasses. I was a 52-year-old man with myopia (about –4.5 diopters on both eyes) I also had astigmatism in both eyes. I decided to go for LASIK surgery, this is very costly in Denmark where I live so I checked the web for the best place to have my surgery done, and I soon found it the EyeSTAR team in Istanbul.
"I arrived in Istanbul, was picked up in the airport and driven to the hotel that the team had booked for me. The next two days I spent as a tourist in the fantastic city of Istanbul. On my third day I had an eye exam, the evening of my fourth day was what I’d been looking forward to – the LASIK surgery. Never have I experienced such a painless and quick surgery, both my eyes was done in less than five minutes, though my eyes were filled with tears and eyedrops I could already see the world more clearly. The next morning I spent hours looking out my window amazed by my crisp eyesight, looking on faraway birds flying over the town of Istanbul and even small insects, for the first time in 39 years I could enjoy a crisp view of the world around me. Now one year later my eyesight is still perfect, my optician has just examined my eyes, and he says, ‘It’s the best result I’ve ever seen after a LASIK surgery’ and he’s seen quite a few LASIK results. I really enjoy my new life without glasses – no longer blind in rainy or damp weather – no more sweat on my glasses when I’m doing sports – now I can enjoy 180 degrees of the horizon. You should give yourself a gift you will never forget, have a LASIK surgery done by the EyeSTAR and enjoy the support of their team. And it’s not even expensive, so you have no excuse -- come to Istanbul, the city of miracles."
Health Tourism: Where the Patient is King (Switzerland)
(Above & below: patients at EyeSTAR LASIK Institute.)
LASIK in Turkey, stem cell therapy in Thailand, tube babies in Spain – more and more Swiss people go abroad for treatments
By Odette Frey and Kurt Brandenberger (Click to read original, in German)
The glass doors slides open with a smooth sound. Pop music sounds from the corridor. Welcome to EyeSTAR, a clinic in Istanbul, which is specialized in eye laser surgery. The traffic outside brews in the heat and inside there is a relaxed exclusive club atmosphere. Gilbert Schiesser takes a Cola from the bar and sinks into the white leather furniture.
The 40-year-old father of two from Dielsdorf flew to Istanbul to have his eyes treated at EyeSTAR. Yesterday he checked into his hotel in the trendy quarter of Beyoglu. He will be treated today and the day after tomorrow he will be back home—with natural, clear vision.
The metropolis at the Bosphorus is the secret capital of LASIK, the most popular eye laser treatment which treats myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism. People looking for a good deal, particularly people from Western Europe, travel here to be freed from glasses and contact lenses: In Switzerland a Lasik operation costs 7000 Swiss Franks. This is a luxury which the health insurance companies do not compensate. Schiesser has to leave just a fraction of it in Istanbul: 1000 Euro.
Eye laser surgery in Turkey, liposuction in Tunisia, the long desired child in Spain – when it’s about excellent medical results, more and more Swiss are acting pragmatically. They travel abroad to get good medicine for little money. Or for medical services not offered in Switzerland such as egg cell donation or a new stem cell therapy for the heart. Lasik tourist Schiesser summarizes it briefly: "There are good surgeons abroad as well. Why I shouldn’t I be treated there?" Medical tourism is a world-wide phenomenon: Americans without health insurance and British who would have to wait at home for months for the operation, fly to Thailand, Singapore or India. There they can have heart bypass surgery, a new hip joint immediately and for a ridiculous price. If it was considered in former times a nightmare to become ill abroad, now people are flying ill abroad. "That could have an effect on the US health system, like the way the Japanese automobile industry affected America", says the Princeton economist Uwe Reinhardt.
Club Medic instead of Club Med
Division of labor prevails in the global hospital: Cuba is considered as a haven for certain skin diseases, Brazil is a Mekka for cosmetic operations and South Africa lures with a safari after a facelift - Club Medic instead of Club Med. Gilbert Schiesser and the other five patients study the declaration of consent for Lasik. It is written in perfect German. Also two of the five employees, who take care of the patients, speak in fluent German. They strive for an atmophere in which patients can feel relaxed and well. Everybody is laughing and joking.
"THERE ARE GOOD DOCTORS ABROAD, TOO" LASIK TOURIST GILBERT SCHIESSER
The founder of the clinic, Dr. Gürkan Çelikkol, conducted research in two renowned universities in the U.S. and returned to Turkey with the goal of establishing “one of the best laser centers of the world”. That means also no mass treatment. They accept a maximum of 10 patients per day, 90% of whom are foreigners. "For us it is vital that the same surgeon is doing the pre-operation examination, the operation and the post-op examination," says Dr. Çelikkol. All EyeSTAR surgeons have Lasik treatment experience of between 5,000 and 20,000. "We operate only patients who are really suitable for a Lasik. We find about 10% of patients as not suitable for Lasik because it would not bring them good results.”
It is early in the afternoon and Gilbert Schiesser lays on the bed in the operation room. The surgeon bends over him and two assistants are helping him. Twenty minutes have passed. "My expectations were exceeded," says a happy Schiesser the next day. "I already see astoundingly sharp".
Did Schiesser simply have good luck or can a Lasik operation in Turkey can actually be as good as with us? Yes, it can. But the differences from hospital to hospital, from surgeon to surgeon are as large in Turkey as here in our country. The quality depends on many factors. For instance of the technology. The laser in the EyeSTAR Institute is the Allegretto Wave Eye-Q 400 Hz . "Top moderne," certifies Swiss Lasik expert Farhad Hafezi, who works in the renowned private-ophthalmic clinic IROC in Zurich."There are many surgeons in Switzerland who are using older technology."
Hafezi says that most people without eye conditions can be treated at many places. "There is a general complication rate of about 5%". That’s why whoever looks for treatments abroad should avoid assembly-line type hospitals.
It is clear: Whether or not a Lasik treatment is successful is not a question of the country. A Turkish or Thai surgeon who specialized in Lasik, can probably do better work than the Swiss eye surgeon around the corner, who only does a few treatments per year. And with a bad pre-op examination a surgeon in Berne as well as in Bangalore can botch the eyes.
EyeSTAR on National TV in Switzerland, "PULS" on SF1
I was skeptical until my eye laser surgery in Istanbul (Norway)
After 25 years without glasses (Germany)
For Two New Eyes after Istanbul (Germany)
Have surgery abroad and save 60% (Germany)
A treatment of a few minutes changed my life (Romania)