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Jabes’ story in pictures

Posted on: Wednesday, December 16th, 2020

Jabes was born with cataract in his right eye. This caused him many challenges in his daily life – playing, learning and helping his family out. But, thanks to CBM supporters, this 12-year-old from Malawi has had sight-restoring surgery and can see through his right eye again! He has big hopes for the future “I would like to be a nurse, to help people who are sick.”

This is Jabes’ story…

Jabes sitting on a wall at home in Malawi, looking to the side.

Jabes lives in Salima County, Malawi.

Jabes’ father, Hijo, first realised that Jabes was having difficulty with his right eye when he was four years old.

Jabes sitting next to his father

Jabes’ father works as a farmer, raising chickens and growing rice and maize crops on a nearby plot of land. He worries that if Jabes comes to help in the fields dust or flying objects might damage the other eye, so they leave him at home.

Jabes sitting against a wall, looking to the side.

Although he loves to learn, Jabes has some difficulties at school because of his sight problem. He sits right at the front of the class but still finds it hard to read the blackboard. Sometimes Jabes comes home crying because he cannot see what is on the board. And when Jabes plays with his friends, he often runs into things.

“Sometimes I can’t see properly when playing and I bump into people. At school, I cannot see properly what has been written on the board. If I can easily see what’s written on the board I will be happy.”

Jabes leaning on a window sill and looking outside

The family don’t have their own transport and couldn’t afford to travel to the specialist Nkhoma Eye Hospital for the surgery on their own.

Thankfully, a CBM-supported community health worker, Miriam, organised a cataract screening outreach event in the community where Jabes lives.

Jabes sat on the floor smiling with Miriam

During this outreach event, Jabes’ eyes were examined and it was confirmed he had a cataract.

Jabes having his eye examined by a CBM health worker

Jabes’ family were delighted when they discovered he could have free cataract surgery at CBM’s partner Nkhoma Eye Clinic.

Jabes could even get transport to and from Nkhoma hospital for free – a huge relief for his family.

CBM health worker shining a torch in Jabes' right eye to examine it

Jabes’ father was very happy. “His life will change, he’ll be able to do better at school”. Jabes looks forward to being able to receive the blackboard at school.”

Jabes in a tree, leaning back against the trunk and smiling

Jabes and his father are picked up and taken to Nkhoma Eye Clinic. At the hospital, staff measure the length of Jabes’ right eye and the size of the lens using specialist equipment to establish what size of artificial lens they will insert during surgery.

Jabes at Nkhoma hospital, having an eye examination

Jabes is ready for surgery. The doctors have decided to do it under local anaesthetic to reduce the risk of complications from general anaesthetic, so his eye has been numbed and he feels no pain.

Jabes is nervous, but he manages well and lies still as the theatre assistants speak gently to him, explaining that they will clean the eye and remove the cataract and reassuring him that it will not take long.

Jabes being operated on at Nkhoma Eye Clinic

Dr Vincent Moyo, ophthalmologist, conducts the surgery to remove the cataract. It takes a little longer than expected, he explains, as the cataract has calcified, or hardened. This is because it’s been there a long time. It makes it a little harder to remove but everything goes fine. A patch is placed over Jabes’ eye and he is led, slowly, to the ward.

After surgery, Jabes returns to the ward and rests. He is tired but happy the surgery is done. The cataract surgery on Jabes’ eye was just one of twenty carried out today.

Jabes sat on a hospital bed with Dr Vincent Moyo, smiling.

After he’s had a chance to rest, Jabes is full of smiles – he is relieved that the surgery is done and excited about the bandage being removed the next day.

Jabes smiling with an eye patch over his right eye

Early the next morning, the bandage is removed from Jabes’ eye. Dr Moyo tests the eye to see if the vision has improved. Before, Jabes could not see anything on the Snellen eye-test chart with his right eye. But now, he can see the third line of the chart from six metres away. Being able to see the fourth to sixth lines on the chart is a good result, the third line is borderline, but is sadly understandable because Jabes has had to wait so long for surgery.

Dr Vincent Moyo pointing to an eye chart

When a child is born with cataracts it’s vital they are treated as soon as possible, ideally within the first 3-4 years, to get the best outcome. Leave it too late and even with surgery the eyes might never learn to see properly. Jabes’ vision should continue to improve over the next few days.

Dr Moyo and Jabes, smiling during an eye examination

Jabes is handed a pen and paper. He starts to write his name and draw a happy face. He’s looking forward to going home.

Jabes smiling at the camera, with a note pad on his lap and a pen in his hand

Jabes’ favourite subjects at school are Maths and Chichewa (Malawi’s main language). His dream is to one day become a nurse. Thanks to CBM supporters, Jabes will go be earn to learn in school more easily and the future is much brighter for him!

L-R: Jabes' father holding a UK Aid Match logo sign, CBM staff member holding #SeeTheWay sign and Jabes holding a Thank You sign.

Thank you to everyone that’s supported our See the Way appeal, which has now ended. You have given the most important gift this Christmas… the gift of sight.

Together, we’ll continue to fight avoidable blindness in the world’s poorest communities.

Find out more about our sight-saving work.

Photos ©CBM/Hayduk