Who Knew Eye Surgery Would Give Me 20/20 Vision?

April 30, 2022

Jude Dike was diagnosed with myopia after his fifth birthday and had worn prescription glasses all his life. But that changed when he underwent laser eye surgery in 2022.

This is Jude’s journey from prescription glasses to 20/20 vision, as told to Ama Udofa.

My grandparents and some of their siblings wore glasses; my parents and their siblings all wear glasses. I and my two siblings wear glasses. Growing up, whenever we went out together, we were known as the family where everyone wore glasses. In church, we had special seats.

Until this month, I’d never known life without glasses, as I started wearing them when I was five. I would sit dangerously close to the TV, and my parents would warn me against it. After my fifth birthday, I’d had headaches for three days, so my mother took me to see an optician who diagnosed myopia. 

In school, I was a walking stereotype: the smallish smart kid who wore glasses. I got into JSS1 on my 10th birthday. At boarding school, kids always wanted to try my glasses on to see how they’d look in them. I had three pairs, so when the first one broke after going through several different heads, I switched to my backups. They wanted to try those as well. My dad kept buying pairs, until one day, he got tired and said fuck it, he wasn’t going to buy them again.

For a year, I went without glasses. I didn’t write notes in class. I’d only copy from my seat partner later, or sometimes, I’d just walk to the blackboard. My classmates complained, but except they wanted to fix my eyes, there was nothing I could do. After a year, my dad finally bought me a new pair, and I never shared them again.

My whole life, I’ve worn glasses, and for the longest time, I hated that I couldn’t wear sunshades. I could wear photochromic glasses but they are still your glasses, not actual sunshades. I’d see some really dope ones, but I couldn’t rock them. I was always too scared of getting things in my eyes so I never considered contact lenses. Then in January 2022, my girlfriend gifted me a pair of recommended sunshades. I’d dreamed about wearing sunshades for the longest time so you can imagine my joy.

I’d always wanted to do surgery, but I didn’t know how to go about it, so I never really made it a priority. 

Two weeks later, I saw a tweet about LASIK surgery, a type of laser eye surgery to correct vision. I thought, “You can do that in Nigeria?” I always assumed that it was an elaborate process and would be like $15,000 or even up to $30,000, so imagine my shock when people started recommending an eye surgery foundation in Lekki Phase One, Lagos.

I went to make inquiries in February. I was told that I had to do a bunch of eye tests, to check my cornea, to make sure my pupils dilated properly, and so on. The bill stunned me — everything came to just over ₦200k — but nothing could have prepared me for how much the actual procedure cost; it was ₦2m. I baulked. I started thinking,  “Do I really want to do this right now?” My girlfriend encouraged me to just get it over with.

What sealed my resolve was when one of the nurses who had recently done hers shared that it changed her life. I had some forthcoming business trips to Kenya and Ghana, so I scheduled my appointment for the middle of March.

But when I came back from Ghana in early March, I could no longer wait, so I called and asked the doctor to move it forward.

On the day of the surgery, I did some more tests and signed an I-will-not-sue-you type of agreement. Before the LASIK procedure, I looked at the doctor and told her, “My eyes are literally in your hands right now.” She laughed and responded, “Your eyes are in God’s hands.” 

I got on the operation table and she numbed my eyes with an anaesthetic. That’s when things got scary. There was a circular mechanical contraption, on the laser machine, that opened up my eyes, and even though I was numb, I could feel things move around in them. It was not painful at all, but the swiping at my eyeballs was a strange feeling. 

Throughout the procedure, all I was thinking was, “How many people went blind when scientists were testing people to figure out this process? How many people had to die to perfect this?” And then, “Shit. I’m already here now. It’s either my eyes get better or I go blind as fuck. I’m a CEO now; would I lose my company and have to settle for jobs that don’t require reading or writing?” 

My only job was to focus on the light source no matter what, so I forced myself to think happy thoughts. 

My right eye was easy and took five minutes to complete, but with my left eye, I felt some pain. I think the anaesthesia had started to wear off, so I told her. She reapplied the numbing medicine and the pain reduced. Twenty-five minutes later — the longest 25 minutes of my life — we were done. The entire experience was interesting and scary at the same time. 

It was after the surgery that I realised what had just happened. According to the tests, the laser had cut my cornea to adjust to a certain refraction level. It was painless and, after the surgery, I realised that the procedure didn’t actually take long. ended pretty quickly.

Jude Dike taking photos before laser eye surgery LASIK

When I got off the table, everything was blurry. The doctor gave me some eye drops and instructions: apply the drops every hour for the next 24 hours and visit the eye clinic three more times within the month. Then, my friend drove me back home.

That night, I didn’t touch anything. Not my phone, not my TV, not my laptop. I just went to sleep. My friend would wake me up every hour to apply the eye drops. Thankfully, I’ve never had problems with falling asleep, so it was easy to drift back each time.

I woke up in the morning very groggy, but when I saw the painting in my room, I was like, “Shit. I just fucking saw that clearly!” I texted my friends, “Yooooo! I dey see die!”

My life changed that day. The first thing I did when I came online was to on Twitter to ask where I could buy sunshades. I had to get U/V-blocking glasses because my eyes were still very sore, and I had also been instructed to avoid direct U/V light for the next few weeks. A nurse told me she’d made the mistake of watching TV during her recovery period. Her eyes became swollen, prolonging her healing period. I had to be careful.

A Twitter mutual suggested a place in Lekki that sells designer glasses. The Chief Operating Officer’s mother had recently done eye surgery so she knew how to help me pick a suitable pair. The U/V-blocking glasses I bought cost ₦165k but they took ₦30k off because the person who recommended me is a “friend of the house”.

₦135k for glasses!

And they’re ugly as fuck, but at least they got the job done.

It’s been weeks now, and I still find myself instinctively reaching for my prescription glasses. There’s this thing people who’ve worn prescription glasses for a long time do, they adjust them at the bridge of their noses when they’re slipping off. I still do that out of habit. Well, I’ve sha thrown my prescription glasses away, and I’m glad I no longer need them.

Even though I paid all that money to see shege clearly, have you seen how cool I look in sunshades now?

If you liked this story, you’ll also like: I’m Lactose Intolerant, But I Can’t Leave Milk Alone

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