This essay deals with laser surgery warning. No, not the contractor variety from that body enhancement company that is making waves from Nigerian ladies who are enhancing every part of their bodies, courtesy imported foreign doctors a.k.a. “Beverly Hills surgeons.” Laser treatments are used not just to erase tired old faces, to aid orthodontic surgeries but also in eye correction among many other uses. I hope, though, that the one for the eye is not the same “eraser” process as is done to rejuvenate the face that I have watched on a documentary. Can you imagine the result of having the outer layer of the eye “erased”!
I have seen ads in Nigerian newspapers lately asking you to throw away those old glasses and contact lenses and “see with your naked eyes”. The ads, like those in developed countries, also claim “a safe, … virtually painless technique called LASIK, the treatment only takes minutes …”. While I am no medical correspondent or columnist, the information used for this essay is available to anyone on the internet as well as through other means on various medical procedures. I try to spread words of caution whenever I come across any that I think would or could be of interest to the public. Unlike the body enhancement essay in which I sought to educate our women to be careful of undergoing invasive surgeries by foreign medical doctors procured from a contractor here, this piece is not out to discredit laser surgeries on the eyes because these are real “highly experienced ophthalmic surgeons” based in Nigeria, but to ask you to exercise caution all the same before undergoing this procedure.
I’ve worn glasses since 1986 and it is true that one does get tired of these after a long while. I have never, however, considered the option of contact lenses but some years ago, December 2000 to be exact, I made an appointment with an eye doctor in the U.S. to see if I could undergo laser surgery. I picked the lady from the Yellow Pages and then called the LASIK hotline where I was assured that Dr. X was accredited. She explained everything to me and after telling me how much the surgery would cost (about the cost of five pairs of good bifocals), she asked how I got to her office and I let her know that I drove myself. She warned that I must arrange for somebody to drive me back and we parted after fixing the appointment for a week later. Three days later, I chickened out because my better half was to come two days after the surgery. “What if,” I thought wildly, “I never could see again!” Even though I am an incurable optimist, I decided to pass for no other reason than mere intuition.
Meanwhile, an old family friend who lives in retirement with his wife in Vero Beach, Florida was contemplating the same procedure at about the same time. No coward like me, he underwent the surgery in 2001, and horrors, not only could he not drive himself home after the surgery, he had to undergo another surgery after he could not see anything! Worse, he had to depend on his wife to read to him for a long time and later, on his glasses (I never asked if he threw away the old ones!) for a long time. He’s told me I was “smart” to have avoided laser surgery; talk of a negative attribute turning positive.
Of course I do not know anybody, unfortunately, who’ve had successful laser surgery correction on his/her eyes, has 20/20 sight and has no need or use for glasses. I have no success story to go by, therefore. Since it is a fairly new medical procedure in these parts, a lot of people are going to make their decisions based on advertisements and surgeons’ claims.
At best, laser surgery on the eyes are quick, simple and very corrective. And, you really can say bye-bye to those eyeglasses. We must know, however, that while clinics and doctors will highlight a low risk of complication, if any, in Nigeria, there ARE risks that are very real. From the advertisements that I have come across, I have not seen any caveat emptor warning, and knowing the way medicine is practiced in Nigeria, the buyer (patient) is not going to be warned. I hate to be down on teachers and medical doctors here because as it is, most of them are doing their best under very trying circumstances. But if the truth be told, medicos here are lucky because there are no malpractice insurance and suits. Doctors rarely, if ever, lose their licenses here and definitely not because Dr. X forgot to remove a surgical instrument from the stomach of a patient.
When patients become corpses even under circumstances that are glaringly doctors’ faults, relations would never sue. They have other things to worry about: losing a loved one, wondering which relation or co-worker did the deceased in through “spiritual attacks”, “diabolical attacks”, etc. There are medical doctors who wear certain rings that supposedly prevent patients from dying when being operated on! At the other end of the social ladder is a driver that I know whose swollen feet was ascribed to his “stepping on something” (no, not nails!) even though he should be off and running to the hospital to check his inside. The well-qualified physician, does not believe in the efficacy and sufficiency of his medicine and knowledge. Neither do the people whom he serves. That cuts out the attorneys.
Laser surgeries, at worst, can have very serious outcomes. Complications can lead to fluid pressure building up on the eye. In the handout that I have, it’s called corneal ecstasia which supposedly may require corneal transplant to correct the condition. Now, that sounds like a big time operation to me. Patients may also experience dry eyes or night vision problems which doesn’t sound pleasant, either. At worst, too, are cases of massive discomfort (as experienced by our retiree friend in Florida) which pain killers and sleeping pills cannot reduce. There have even been cases of complete blindness for a period of time.
So, here are some guidelines (from the web as well as from hand outs in my possession) to help you make an informed decision.
Be sure that the ophthalmologist who will carry out your surgery is not only a consultant/ophthalmologist at UCH, LUTH, etc. but that he has had specialist training in this area. It is your right to ask to see proof of training which he probably should have hanging in his office.
Ask for patients who have had the surgery at the particular clinic; if you cannot ask the doctor, ask around. People who have had it are your best reference sources. Remember, you have only two eyes and medical practice here is still way behind what obtains in many countries. If there are complications, ask yourself, can I afford treatment abroad?
I find the next questions on the web and they are very interesting. They are part of the problems that the essay on Body enhancement dealt with because doctors are being imported to perform surgeries on different parts of women’s bodies here, and after the surgeries, these “Beverly Hills surgeons” are gone. Here is a question that Britons who are thinking of laser surgeries are supposed to ask among others: “What are the complications rates?” “What will happen if something goes wrong?” “Will I see the surgeon again?” May I suggest that Nigerians also ask themselves those same questions?
All the above are not meant to scare or deter you from having laser surgery. For those who may want to wait a little while they think it over, or forego the operation entirely, welcome back to the world of glasses. They are not as bad as our parents’ (or even older relations’) glasses. We do not occupy a world of forever trying to push glasses up our noses or with strings attached so that they do not drop off! These days, there are very lightweight glasses, bifocals with no lines, tinted ones, rimless fancy numbers – all of which make you feel as if you are not really wearing glasses. They may even enhance your look.
Please make an informed decision.
THE COMET ON SUNDAY, February 2003