ADE IS 5YEARS OLD. HE IS on his third pair of glasses but his last eye examination was November last year – just about a year ago! He broke his first pair within a month and lost his second pair about three months after. Now on his third pair, I wasn’t surprised he was here again. When he was getting his first pair of glasses, I had told his mother to be ready for a new pair every month. I knew “boys must be boys,” because they’re naturally careless and playful. Ade is now complaining that he cannot see with his glasses. “Why?” I asked myself.

“Please read the chart,” I requested as I projected a set of letters on to the screen 6metres away. He had no difficulty reading the first two lines. My heart sank when he started struggling and stumbling on the third and suddenly came to a standstill on the fourth. Little did I know that his mother could discern the anxiety on my face! “Doctor Ben,” she asked, “is it a serious matter?” she asked. “I can’t answer that question until I have examined him. I shoved his glasses aside and took out my torch to look at the external part of his eyes. “What are you looking for sir?” asked the young medical student in training by my side. “I am trying to find anything on the surface of his eyes such corneal opacities that may interfere with his vision.” I found none. Then, I took out my ophthalmoscope and looked into the inner recesses of his eyes. Satisfied, there were no abnormalities, I beamed a smile. I faced his mother, “Ade is fine.” “Why is he not seeing with the glasses?” she asked. “Just wait, madam. I’ll answer in a minute.” I went back to Ade’s pair of glasses. The lenses were badly scratched. I showed her and said ruefully, “He needs yet another pair.”    

Mr. Ben, my namesake, has nonspecific symptoms. He was experiencing fatigue, pain in the eyes, intermittent blurring of vision when reading or looking at things at near. Sometimes he shuts one eye at a time because of double vision. Symptoms also include headaches and neck pain towards evening. Recently, his pains and headaches go to bed with him and disturb him through the night. Mr. Ben turned 50 on June 25th I knew from his records. I asked him a barrage of questions. His last eye examination and change of glasses were about three years before. He spends an appreciable amount of time on the computer at work and on his handset, reading and replying messages.

“Who are you?” I asked him. Startled, with eyes wide open and dilated pupils, he replied, “Sir, you know me very well. Why do you ask? Is there anything seriously wrong with me?’ I ignored his questions and went on to examine his eyes as I did for Ade. This time, I did a little bit more. I went on to do a refraction to determine if his prescription for glasses had changed and checked his intraocular pressure. Then I asked a few more searching questions about the state of his general health. He wasn’t hypertensive and not on any systemic medications, he stated but wasn’t sure if he was diabetic or not. He hadn’t checked his blood sugar in the last five years. “Why?” again, he asked. This time, more worried than ever before. I quickly told him, I wasn’t worried about him but about myself. “Why?” he asked again, with disbelief. “Should I tell him or not?” I asked myself. I made up my mind to tell him because if I didn’t, after raising the alarm, he would think I was hiding something from him.

“Your eyes are normal,” I said, “All you need is a change of glasses and better work ethics. I am actually worried about myself.”Unconvinced, he asked again, “Why? I am the patient, I did all the talking and you examined my eyes. How can you say you are worried about your eyes? It doesn’t make any sense to me. Doctor, come out with it, I am not a baby. I deserve to know.” I replied, “Mr. Ben, you share my name and my pains. I have been experiencing the same symptoms and was just planning to do something about it! I wished I could reverse the roles.”  To buttress the point and convince him it was not an after-thought, I showed him the text messages I had sent to family and friends, a day before, telling them I was reducing my interactions on the computer and the social media because of severe and intolerable eyestrain.

“Mr. Ben, do you know you have taught me a lesson?” “Me, teaching the doctor a lesson?” he reacted with disbelief. “You have challenged me to see my doctor! I am a doctor but, then, I am human just like you, Mr. Ben. I must, like you, take regular care of my eyes to keep seeing at my best – to be able to do my work. In this increasingly sophisticated world, the majority of knowledge we have about the things around us comes through our eyes. I must see my doctor tomorrow and have a comprehensive eye examination. Thanks, Mr. Ben, for reminding me.”


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