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Witnessing Etienne’s Miracle

Posted on: Wednesday, June 10th, 2020

In February 2020, TV presenter and CBM supporter Diane Louise Jordan travelled to Rwanda to witness the impact of our sight-saving work. The broadcaster, best known for presenting iconic TV shows Blue Peter and Songs of Praise, was accompanied by her grandson, 12 year old Preston. Watch this heartwarming film (YouTube – open in new tab) of her visit and read Diane’s diary of the trip below.



We arrived in Rwanda’s capital Kigali last night.  It’s been a long journey. We’re here to see how the sight-saving work of CBM transforms lives. This trip has particular meaning for me, because of my dad’s experience of losing his sight, but also because I’m sharing the journey with Preston. I want him to see a very different part of the world and learn that not everyone has the things we take for granted.  

Tomorrow, we’re going meet a very special boy by the name of Etienne. This week, at CBM’s partner hospital, he’s due to have surgery that could restore his sight. I feel so privileged to be able to be here. Preston and I are a bit nervous about what tomorrow will bring…but we’re also thinking about how Etienne’s family must be feeling as surgery day approaches.


We arrive at Etienne’s house after two hours’ car journey south from Kigali. After an hour, we left the tarmacked main road for an unsurfaced, mud track. The driver dodges the huge potholes skilfully – the only other vehicles we see here are bicycles; children wave and shout as the unfamiliar car goes by.

It’s an emotional moment to finally meet ten-year old Etienne and his parents. Etienne and Preston are so close in age, yet their lives are so far apart. Etienne was born with cataracts. He doesn’t ever remember being able to see. He has never been to school, unlike his brothers and sisters, and needs help to do most tasks. Much of the day, he sits alone in the house while his mum works in the fields, as he can’t get around safely alone. It’s heart-breaking.

Etienne and his parents at their home. His mum has her hand on his head.

As a mum and grandmother, my heart goes out to Etienne’s mother Seraphine. She is so amazing. She’s had to watch ten years of her child suffering – due to an eye condition that could easily be put right. Hearing their story, I feel a real sense of anger. It’s so wrong that in the 21st century, on this incredibly rich earth, there are people who don’t have something as basic as sight, simply because they’re poor.

But for Etienne, finally, life could change tomorrow. With his father, also called Etienne, he sets off with us to CBM partner Kabgayi Eye Unit and, God willing, to surgery that will give him sight.


It’s surgery day and we’re all nervous. For the first time in his life, Etienne spent last night away from his village and away from his Mum. This is a big day for the family; a day they have waited and prayed so long for.

For most of Etienne’s life, his family had no idea he could be treated. When they finally discovered he could have an operation to restore his sight, they simply couldn’t afford it. Just a few days ago, they heard that thanks to CBM supporters, Etienne could have surgery for free.

Finally, it’s time for the operation. Etienne is one of four children having cataract surgery today– there are around twenty adults too. Eye surgeon, Dr Theophile Tuyisabe, talks me through the procedure as he removes the cloudy cataract from each eye. He works swiftly and precisely, taking less than an hour. Everything has gone well but Dr Tuyisabe warns the outcome is still uncertain – because Etienne has had the cataracts for 10 years, it significantly reduces the likelihood of the best outcome.

Dr. Theophile carries out cataract surgery on Etienne

So an anxious wait until tomorrow. Already I feel such love for this little boy. I can’t bear to think that maybe they will take those bandages off his eyes and he will still not be able to see. I can’t imagine what his parents must be feeling right now. We’re all praying.


The next morning we arrive at the hospital early. My heart is in my mouth as Dr. Theophile gently peels away the bandages covering Etienne’s eyes. The tension is almost unbearable. Etienne’s eyes look quite red.

Diane sat with Etienne and his father, before his eye patches are removed

“Open your eyes”, the doctor urges Etienne gently. He takes his pen from his pocket and holds it up. “What is this? Can you take it?” And Etienne reaches out and takes the pen.

It is a miraculous moment. Such a simple action that means so much.  A smile spreads across Etienne senior’s face – joy and relief. His son can see.  It is a moment I will always remember.


Etienne was discharged yesterday, with eye drops to apply regularly and a follow up appointment in a couple of weeks. So today is our final visit to Etienne’s family home.

Preston and I are excited to see how the family is doing. When we arrive, the smiles on everyone’s faces tell a thousand words. Seraphine looks like a different person: she can’t stop beaming.“I’m very, very happy!” she exclaims. “I thank the doctors and God.”

Etienne too is transformed from the shy boy we first met. Preston gives him a notebook and pens as a gift and watches his new friend draw and colour for the first time. It really starts to come home to Preston what this means: “It’s crazy because yesterday he couldn’t even draw. I’m really happy for him.” 

Diane watches Etienne do his first drawing

The future is now looking so much brighter for Etienne. He will have a lot of catching up to do, especially at school. But Seraphine is positive and determined: “I’m thinking he will grow up and have a good life. Etienne Senior adds: “I pray he will go to school and become a doctor and treat others.”

It’s been a truly amazing week. Precious little Etienne, who yesterday was blind, can see. I believe we’ve witnessed a miracle.

Diane and Preston with Etienne and his parents outside their house, all smiling

Donate now to help make miracles for more children like Etienne.

Images  © CBM/Tugwell