MUMBA MWANSA, Chipata
“AT SOME point last year, my 92-year-old mother, Etase Nyirongo, began complaining of experiencing pain in her eyes and many people thought she had an eye infection. So I sought help from traditional healers, but to no avail.“After trying all I could, I gave up, especially that I had no finances to take her to a hospital in Malawi. So, when I heard that there would be doctors coming to Chipata to specifically provide free eye medical care, I decided to take my mother for check-up at our clinic in Lundazi,” says Tryness Chima, who had escorted her mother for an operation.
Ms Chima said after the medical personnel in Lundazi conducted their tests on Ms Nyirongo, they discovered that she had an eye cataract and there was need for her to seek an operation at Chipata Central Hospital.
And this is how Ms Nyirongo, who had completely lost sight, found herself at the eye camp where she was scheduled to undergo an eye cataract surgery.
“I will be very happy when her sight is restored as she can at least help look after the children as I go out to fend for other basic needs.
“The army provided us with transport from Lundazi to this place [Chipata] and now we are simply awaiting the doctors to operate on my mother’s eyes, who cannot see completely on both eyes,” Ms Chima said.
Ms Nyirongo is one of the hundreds of people of Eastern Province who trooped to Chipata Central Hospital to seek medical care during the 10-day eye camp clinic from July 9 to 18, 2018.
Another patient, Godwin Phiri, who was overjoyed after having his sight restored, said he was grateful for the miracle.
“I began experiencing eye problems in 2017 such that I was not able to read my Bible and I had to have it packed away. When I got my Bible to read, I began to have double visions and all things looked like there was smoke around them.
“So when I heard that there were doctors coming to Chipata to examine people with eye problems, I made up my mind on ensuring that I seek medical help. I registered at Lundazi clinic and we were brought here [Chipata].
“After this operation, I’m now able to see clearly and with no challenges. I’m very grateful to God for making it possible for me to have my sight restored. May God bless these doctors,” Mr Phiri said.
Mr Phiri is among the over 650 eye patients who underwent treatment at Chipata Central Hospital during the July 10-day eye camp, which also attracted 13 children.
Chipata Central Hospital eye specialist Simon Chisi said the eye camp was a success as the medical personnel attended to over 650 eye patients, which was an overwhelming response, as opposed to the initial target of 500 patients.
“We attended to way above 650 patients. We received about 13 children, of whom some were attended to here [in Chipata], but the rest will be transferred to Kitwe to be operated on from there,” Dr Chisi said.
He explained that there were about 800 people who registered to attend the sessions, but due to the time constraint, some patients were not picked from their respective places to undergo the treatment.
Dr Chisi said eye cataracts normally affect the elderly, aged above 65, but also occur among children either at birth or it can develop later in their lives.
“When you read Genesis 27, the Bible says ‘Isaac was old and had become blind…’ I believe this must have been an eye cataract that caused his blindness due to age. Therefore, successfully operating patients with eye cataracts is indeed a miracle,” says Dr Chisi.
He said a patient can either suffer from a bilateral eye cataract or only have it on one eye.
University Teaching Hospital Eye Hospital senior medical superintendent Grace Mutati, who was among the 10 medical personnel that spearheaded the eye camp, explained that a bilateral patient is one who has a cataract in both eyes.
“Eye cataract is a condition where the lens becomes white and cloudy, making an individual to lose vision. A bilateral patient is one who has a cataract on both eyes and cannot completely see.
“Mestina Phiri, a bilateral patient, has undergone surgery and we have examined her vision after the operation, and she is seeing very well. Previously, she could not see anything other than light, but now she is able to see visions and can read words from a six-metre distance.
“This is only the first day after operation and her vision is better. With time, she will be able to have a brighter vision as the lenses will soon fully clear,” said Dr Mutati.
And First Lady Esther Lungu was delighted to see a good number of eye patients have their sight restored after undergoing operation during the Chipata eye camp.
“These eye cataracts, which normally affect the elderly, who are mainly the people taking care of orphans, hinder the children’s education as they tend to miss classes in order to stay home and look after their guardians who are not able to see.
“With many of these women having their sight restored, the children will now be able to go back to school as their guardians will be able to fend for themselves,” she said.
Mrs Lungu said it is fulfilling to see many of the targeted people having their sight restored.
She said providing free eye care services of high quality to rural communities in Zambia is of great importance as it is estimated that about 80 percent of all vision impairments can be prevented and cured.
“We are responding to the objectives of Zambia’s National Health Strategic Plan 2017-2021 and our Seventh National Development Plan, which emphasise the call to not leave anyone behind in the country’s national development agenda. Indeed, no one must be left behind even on account of being visually impaired,” Mrs Lungu said.
The 10-day eye camp at Chipata Central Hospital was spearheaded by the Esther Lungu Foundation Trust, in collaboration with the Muslim World League, International Islamic Relief Organisation for Southern Africa (IIROSA) and the ministries of Health and Defence.