In September last year I joined a Hope Global team from Australia who had come to Kenya to work with Early Childhood teachers and also screen students for any eye problems which were potentially causing learning and/or behavioural issues in the classroom. Some educational sessions were done with students and teachers on eye care/ health and initial eye testing was completed. I was fortunate to be able to return to Kenya a month later to help coordinate and document some of the children’s journeys through surgery.
In classrooms we saw students eager to learn and contribute to discussions. However, we also found a lot of the children with eye problems had not talked to their teachers about the challenges they had and were sitting at the back of the classroom unable to see.
While identifying the eye issues was one factor we soon realised that there was a huge education piece missing in terms of eye care and health that needed to be integrated in all schools. There were also some myths and cultural beliefs surrounding the treatment available that had caused some small eye problems to become big issues that were too late for treatment.
Many of the elderly patients had cataracts which can be fixed with a quick and simple procedure. Although the surgery is performed regularly and has an incredibly high rate of success the patients were still scared of having it done. They believed that they would have their eyes replaced by pigs and a also faced huge fear of going blind from the surgery without considering if they didn’t have surgery they would eventually go blind.
A young teacher watches on as one of her students is seen by a doctor from Sabatia Eye Hospital at a screening session in the community.
Some of the students had simple allergies and were able to head home with just eye drops.
Further testing was performed back at Sabatia Eye Hospital a non profit eye hospital in Vihiga County North of Kisumu which specialises in eye care.
This was incredible to watch unfold… she exclaimed in a completely bewildered voice “I can see!” once she had the right glasses fitted. Her mother burst into tears.
A young boy watches as the needle goes into his hand pre surgery. He had no idea what was happening and was not happy when he felt the needle inserted but kept watching with interest despite the pain.
Incredible precision in eye surgery. A visiting doctor observes as the surgeon performs ‘sight’ saving surgery on a young patient.
Treatment is only as good as the post operation care which has to be explained in detail to caregivers in order for the surgery to be a complete success and for patients to avoid infection.
This teenage boy has a piece of debris removed from his eye which has been lodged in there for 5 years. He mentioned he had eye pain since something had flung into his eye years earlier when he was playing with friends. The optometrist removed it within a few seconds through a simple procedure (pictured here). While he is now pain free, if he had treatment when it first occurred he would likely still have his vision in this eye. Access & health education are still a battle facing many in rural areas of Kenya.
A young boy is given a monocular as a short term tool before he gets access to glasses. His reaction from looking through it at the blackboard was priceless and his friends all wanted a turn as well.
After years of being restricted and feeling so alone at times this young lady gained back some independence by being shown how to use a walking cane. She took to it so quickly and when I returned a month later expressed such gratitude for the new lease of life she had gained.