Liberated from a life of glasses: How laser surgery changes lives
Dr Mukesh Joshi (L) prepares a donated cornea for transplanting at Laser Eye Centre during a past surgery / FILE
While South Africa has made tremendous progress in science and medicine, no one there could treat the condition of former Swiss Ambassador to Kenya Jacques Pitteloud.
The envoy had travelled there for the traditional Lasik surgery so he could see without glasses or contacts lens. But ophthalmologists said his cornea was too thin and nothing could be done.
His situation was salvaged in Nairobi, which is now becoming a centre of advanced medical practice.
“I met Dr Joshi and was told about the new technology, C-ten, no touch, no cut,” he says.
The envoy completed the necessary assessments, after which Dr Joshi Mukesh informed him he was a perfect candidate for C-ten.
Dr Joshi is a leading ophthalmologist, who runs Africa’s only C-ten services at his clinic at the Sarit Centre in Nairobi.
“After my laser correction, I have got perfect eyesight; I can see better than I could with my contact lenses,” he said in a testimonial.
WOES OF GLASS WEARERS
Pitteloud’s frustrations with sight would probably only be understood by people who wear glasses. While wearing glasses can be fashionable, they are first and foremost medical devices.
That is why, despite going through most of their day wearing them, many glass wearers picture themselves as having perfect 20/20 vision when constructing their self-image in their mind.
When taking a group photo, some even take their glasses off, because their self-perception is as a non-glass wearer. Being forced to carry around a flimsy piece of vital equipment changes your life.
“Literally your world is framed and it’s narrower,” says Imre Makaka, 25-year-old third-year Bcom student at the University of Nairobi.
He is shortsighted and was on glasses for 20 years. “If you need to look to the side, you have to turn your whole head, rather than turning the eye itself, like other people.
He says there is no spontaneity in life. “You cannot take part in a fight or random game with your glasses on. You’re also cautious during shoulder-bump greeting. It makes people think you’re weak.”
Makaka was liberated from glasses after a C-ten laser surgery two weeks ago.
“I was told about C-ten by my mother, then I checked the credentials of the doctor. Of course it was more costly, but I used to spend close to Sh50,000 every month for check-ups and glasses,” he says.
More Kenyans who can afford are now making this step.
HOW IT WORKS
Dr Joshi has been a consultant ophthalmologist for 25 years, and is easily one of the most experienced and respected laser eye surgeons on the continent.
The surgery took 30 seconds for each eye. Dr Joshi explains that C-ten uses the latest technology, where there is no contact with the patient’s eye.
“The procedure is the safest and fastest treatment available with minimal recovery time,” he says. “It is very important for you to come in for an assessment, as not everyone who wears glasses or contact lenses is a suitable candidate for Laser Vision Correction.”
Makaka’s assessment took about an hour. He placed his chin on the front end of a Modern Tomography Precisio machine, which provides a detailed, three-dimensional mapping of corneal inner and outer surface.
The machine takes about 39,000 spots of the eye and defines the real shape of the cornea’s anterior and posterior surfaces.
The doctor also used pMetrics machine to measure the size of the pupil in different lighting conditions.
Since pupil size varies from person to person, it is important to determine how each pupil reacts to provide a customised procedure. The machine measures the size of the pupil in six different lighting conditions.
“After evaluation, the doctor said I was a candidate for C-ten, and I was excited,” Makaka says.
Dr Joshi explains that some people are not suitable for the procedure.
“If you suffer from an existing corneal or retinal disease, Type 1 diabetes, inflammation in the eye or Aids, an extremely thin cornea or Keratoconus, it will not be possible to perform this procedure,” he says.
If the patient has pre-existing lazy eye (amblyopia), then after C-Ten or any laser vision correction, vision cannot be improved, but they don't have to wear glasses.
Also, if the patient has previously done Lasik surgery elsewhere, and vision had gone down, C-ten can improve the sight but the result cannot be 100 per cent guaranteed, as it is not a virgin eye.
During the laser treatment on a later date, Makaka was asked to lie under a machine in the theatre. After inserting an anesthetic drop into the eye, a small clip is put in place to prevent blinking.
“I was then asked to look at a red light,” he says.
During this time, the surgeon activates the machine. Laser light is a low-energy coherent light of a single wavelength, whose energy is concentrated and works together in one direction.
Lasers work with the heat generated from light, or with many tiny energy pulses, to reshape the cornea. Because laser light can be controlled so precisely, it is safe and reliable.
The procedure is done within 30 seconds. “There was no pain. Afterwards the doctor had me wear contact lens for about three days,” Makaka says.
Makaka says vision was hazy on the first day. He was also asked not to strain the eye by looking at light. He could also not irritate the eye by scratching.
Dr Joshi says the contact is a bandage that protects the eyes as the cells of the cornea regenerate.
It is removed after four days. “It feels like a miracle. I can see perfectly without glasses for the first time in my life after two decades,” Makaka says.
Dr Joshi says doctors achieve perfect vision correction in 99.7 per cent of C-ten patients, which means that only three people out of every 1,000 will require a touch-up in the future.
“C-ten laser vision correction is a very popular treatment in Switzerland, Canada, Norway and Europe, and is now available for the first time in Africa and Asia at Laser Eye Centre,” he adds.
He strongly recommends it above the traditional Lasik. In Lasik, the surgeon creates a micro-thin flap on the surface of the cornea and lifts it to one side, exposing the stroma.
The laser reshapes this surface to re-focus the lightwaves on the retina. After three to five minutes of laser, the flap is repositioned, where it holds naturally in position.
“In order to make the flap, a very high vacuum is applied on the eye to flatten the cornea. This high vacuum can be detrimental to the cornea, especially in short-sighted patients,” he adds.
Lasik patients can also suffer dry eyes, infections and halos when looking at a light. While Cten patients recover in a few days, Lasik takes longer.
Tourism services operator Nicole Hankar says she was on glasses and contacts for 12 years because of short-sightedness. She was also blind in one eye since she was six years old.
“I had heard about Lasik but was afraid of someone cutting my eyes,” Nicole says. She was referred to a doctor in Norway, who advised her to go to Dr Joshi.
“I was still scared but now I’m excited because I can see from both eyes without contacts,” she says.
Media personality Jeff Koinange says the procedure saved his life and career.
“As a journalist, I was literally going blind and it was affecting my work. I couldn't read the teleprompter anymore and worse still, driving at night was becoming a major challenge,” he explains.
Jeff does not wear glasses but had never explained to the public his struggles with poor vision.
“Dr Mukesh Joshi and his clinic changed all that in 23 seconds of painless laser surgery (C-Ten), and my eyesight was restored to a full 20/20,” he says in a testimonial.
Written By: By JOHN MUCHANGI
Published: Dec 12 2018