After a hectic week in India reporting on the Commonwealth Games, Nigerian television sports show anchor Frank Ilaboya is getting eye surgery done before heading home.
“I hadn’t planned ahead but once I was here, I decided to make use of the medical expertise here,” said the 45-year-old, who has a sports show on Channels Television in Nigeria.
Foreign visitors and spectators for the Games who have come with a ‘get-rid-of-specs’ agenda are making eye clinics busier, even those where overseas patients account for 7-8 per cent surgeries.
“Lasik surgery remains the most popular but we are increasingly getting patients for cataract, corneal grafts, complex retinal surgeries, and trauma and reconstructive cases,” said Dr Mahipal Sachdev, director, Centre of Sight.
According to the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) estimates, 1.1 million foreigners travelling to India each year for treatment make it the second-most popular destination for overseas surgery after Thailand.
Ilaboya chose Chaudhary Eye Centre in Daryaganj for surgery, as it was closer to his hotel in central Delhi.
“He wanted Lasik surgery to get rid of his spectacles but the eye examination showed he had a fleshy growth on the cornea called pterygium,” said Dr Sanjay Chaudhary, director, Chaudhary Eye Centre, Daryaganj. “All other patients want Lasik.
Some, such as Keith Mallon from the UK and Rini Puhaloo from Mauritius, plan to travel after the surgery, while others such as Aznon Omar from Saudi Arabia just want to see the Games, get surgery and go home,” said Dr Chaudhary.
Lasik, which costs between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 2.5 lakh in the West, costs round Rs 50,000 in India.
Among the two patients waiting for surgery at the Centre of Sight today are two Iraqis: Ali Daud (41), a policeman who lost an eye in the series of explosions that rocked Najaf in January, and Wasim (22), who was injured while training in military school in Baghdad in 2009.
“Delhi was wonderful. I had read horror stories on the Internet but the Games were okay, comparable to international events,” said Ilaboya.
And he knows what he’s talking about, having covered the Olympics in 2000 and 2004, CWG in 2002) and World Cup in 1998. Every second Thursday of October is celebrated as World Sight Day.