|Posted on:||Monday, 5th September, 2016|
I wake early on my third day at CBM supported Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC). I am leaving this evening but have a day full of meetings and visiting, starting with a visit to the ward where 2 year old Sheldon has spent the night.
The nurses who are keen to release the children from their dressings, have already removed the bandages from Sheldon’s eyes and when I see his father, Esmond carrying him towards me across the ward, you could easily imagine that nothing has changed. As they get closer, I see that Sheldon is turning his head to the window, and then back to his father, and then back to the window. He can already see the clear difference in the light, and is intrigued.
We greet each other warmly and I carry Sheldon into the examination room where paediatric ophthalmologist, Dr Forahini is waiting to check that both of Sheldon’s eyes have responded well to the operation. He sits the toddler on a push along car and then has to try and catch him to hold him still enough to examine – but Sheldon has found a new joy and is off!
After a pincer movement by the nurses, Dr Forahini confirms that he is satisfied that the operation has been successful. Sheldon has been almost blind for so long that his eyes will take some time to become used to doing their job and for the time being he continues to touch and taste everything he comes into contact with.
When Esmond takes his son from the ward to the pharmacy to pick up eye drops to take home, Sheldon lets the entire floor know how unimpressed he is with being separated from his transport. But they are soon back for some more playtime, until the nurse advises bedrest and we find ways to distract him with pages from my notebook, crackly sweet wrappers and my camera lens cap in order to extricate him from the toy car and head back to the ward. I follow behind and notice over Esmond’s shoulder that Sheldon is actually looking at the lens cap and then by extension at his own hand, much as a baby often does when its eyes begin to learn how to focus. I cannot help smiling at all the moments to come when he will “see” things for the first time.
As we arrive in the ward, I look for 14 year old Ezrah but he has gone for his food. I am really happy to hear the ward nurse confirm that the surgery in his left eye has gone well and that his sight has been fully restored.
It is time to go and attend the appointments of some patients being treated for glaucoma and with some difficulty, I say my goodbyes.
Sheldon is a bright bundle of energy and smiles, but still has a journey to travel where he will need to learn how to see, and may in due course, need to be prescribed glasses. His cataracts have been removed soon enough for him to regain complete use of his eyes, to attend school and to have a much broader range of opportunities than he would have had. This is all thanks to services provided by KCMC, which is only made possible by CBM supporters.
So many of the young patients who are brought to KCMC have health problems that are treatable or completely preventable –impairments caused from prolonged or problematic childbirth, inadequate nutrition, poorly administered drugs or injections, and lack of basic healthcare information and treatment. Without the services provided by hospitals like KCMC, these would go untreated and could lead to long term disabilities which can have far reaching effects on quality of life, ability to go to school, and the opportunity to earn a living. Prevention or at least early detection make a huge difference to the life chances of children like Sheldon.
As I’m walking down the stairs, I bump into baby Elizabeth whose ingrowing eyelashes were causing her a lot of pain and risked scarring the cornea. The operation was a complete success and she is already leaving the hospital to return home. She will never remember this surgery or Dr Forahini but what he has done will benefit her for the rest of her life.