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Away from the bombs, Kaduna has a new place for the blind to see

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By Luka Binniyat
With no cut, no blood, no pains and all the trauma associated with a normal  surgical operation, here, it takes less than 15 minutes to operate  on an eye long infected with cataract and almost gone blind.

Testimonies and  reasons to believe that  people who have been blind for years have regained full vision here abound,  not to talk about mundane daily eye problems.

Dr. Agarwal’s Eye Institute jointly owned with the Thelish Eye Centre, Kaduna

Welcome to the  Dr. Agarwal’s Eye Institute jointly owned with the Thelish Eye Centre, Kaduna.

From far and near, Kaduna has become the  hope for those desperately seeking for solutions to visual problems and so far, in the past eight months, since the institute arrived Kaduna, thousands of eye conditions have been corrected with 80 major eye surgeries, all successful, the experts here claim.

This is where man and technology team to make the totally blind see again, serving as science’s conquest  over Boko Haram (Western education is evil) and  a refreshing  distraction  to the violence that Kaduna has become so notorious for.

Emmanuel Dare, 29 was taking a stroll around 10am at the old GSM village, Central Area, Abuja on the 26th May, 2010 when some hoodlums pounced on him unprovoked.

“I was punched heavily on my left eye. I managed to escape”, he says to Saturday Vanguard, at the Conference Hall of the Institute, looking good in Jeans and T-Shirt.

“I started losing vision with the eye. For months, I was blind on the left eye. I could not see anything with it again” he says. “But, yesterday, when I was brought here, after an operation I can see everything”, he says, pointing to all objects, and persons with the other eye shut.

“When he was brought here yesterday”, explains, Dr. Khalid Lateef, General Ophthalmology Consultant and eye surgeon who had performed a few thousand eye surgeries before, “ we tested him with one of the world’s latest and best machines in our laboratory and  discovered that he still had some reserve for vision. The operation took less than 30 minutes yesterday. He could have gone home same day to play football if he liked”,  says Lateef,  who possesses “a very strong academic acumen and is very keen of research and publications in scientific Journals”, to quote a source describing him.

The Thelish Eye Centre, a sparkling clean,  one story building of gray dark crystal looks, sits on the tidy Lafia Road, Kaduna where surprisingly, both the poor and the rich flock to correct one or two problems with their eyes.

“The estimate cost of our machines alone is about N200 million”, says “ Dr. Sundaresan Rajagopalan, the Director of the Institute, “you can also see how we spend much to keep this place and machines at world class level.But we have never turned back one patient  because he came here and did not have money for treatment”, he insists.

“We can always arrange something for everyone”, he says.

Saturday Vanguard was taken to the upper floor and shown an array of uncommon looking lab machines, some of which could  see right into the centre of the retina without removing the eye. “The problem would be seen and corrected with LASSER beams, all under 20 minutes, and painless”, this reporter was told.

Some of the machines have esoteric names like, Zies Optical Coherence Tomography; Zeis Fundus Flouecsein Angiography, Zeis Surgical Microscope and even one that had sounds like “sovereignty”, called – Sovereign Phacoemalcification Machine and many others.

All the doctors swore these machines are the latest and the best in the world, with world class experts manning them.

“If it is about the eye”, says Dr. Akbar Salem, a Vitreorentinal Consultant, and Surgeon with the Institute, “you don’t have to go Europe  or America”, he says.

“What we have here are some facilities and technology some of the places you maybe referred to may not even have ”, he says.

The Institute  according to the Executive Director of Thelish Eye Centre, Dr. Ime Etuk came after  he had  attended a eye seminar in India in 2009 and met with the world renown Dr. J Agarwal, founder and Chairman of Dr. Agarwal’s Eye Institute .

He says he was  captivated by the class and quality of his Institute  all over India.

“I wanted Nigeria to also have this kind of quality and yet affordable eye treatment. So we entered into a collaboration that has yielded this fruit”, says the Cross River born, University of Benin graduate of Medicine.

After a tour of the other facilities at the Institute, with a kind and smiling staff corporately dressed, it is hard to imagine the place as a “mere” eye hospital, knowing the normal standards here.

As this reporter thanked the doctors and was  about to take his leave, Dr. Rajagopalan said, “Yes, just a minute” and  gestured with a hint of mischief. “Journalists are the eyes of Nigeria. I want you to come have a free eye test. If you don’t see well, that means that the country can’t see well”.

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