KCMC Moshi, Visual Impairment, VI
The life of Cathleen started with troubles. Her mother Frimina Mselle (21) got pregnant while she still went to school. The father of the child refused to take the responsibility. Frimina’s family was so mad on her getting pregnant unmarried that they asked her to leave the house. All of a sudden Frimina was homeless. A relative of her finally allowed her to live at her place: a one room house in a slum of Kijenge juu, a part of Arusha in northern Tanzania. The hut was full of people even before. But with Frimina and later her daughter Cathleen there were seven people living an sleeping in one room with just one bed. So, life was already not easy for little Cathleen when she was born. But then things got even worse.
When Cathleen was almost two years old her mum recognised that something was wrong with her eyes. “She stumbled all the time and couldn’t grab things that fell down”, her mother says. “And she always halfway closed her eyes to look at things.” Frimina didn’t know what to do. Since she had to look after her child the whole day she had difficulties to earn money. She couldn’t find work as a house cleaner because it got more and more problematic to take Cathleen with her. The reason: Cathleen’s sight vanished more and more and she couldn’t walk around foreign places independently anymore. “She constantly crashes into things and falls down”, Frimina says. “And she started to cover her eyes with her hands” – obviously to try to block the sunlight that blinds her.
Nevertheless Cathleen loves playing on the street with other children. “But I am worried to let her play outside”, her mother admits. “All the time I hear her cry I think a severe accident happened. I have scars on my soul from every time I am shocked like this.” She shrugs. “Sometimes I even don’t allow her to play outside.” And Cathleen? She doesn’t like being bound to the house at all. “She has changed by now”, her mother narrates. “She is angry very often. And I think it is because she can’t see well.”
It breaks Frimina’s heart to watch her child struggling. “Since I realised that she is going to be blind I am afraid”, she says. “She will not be able to live the life she should live.”
When she heard about KCMC where children with cataract of poor families are treated free of costs her heart jumped. She immediately brought her daughter there – full of hope to find help. In the waiting area in front of the examination room Cathleen immediately starts playing with other kids. She especially loves to sit on a plastic car and drive around the room. It seems like she sees quite well – until her mother calls her. Cathleen walks over to the benches where the adults sit, but she can’t recognise her mum. She frowns and walks up and down the benches three times, trying to see her mum. After some minutes she gives up and returns to the toys. When she is called inside the examination room ophthalmologist Dr. Godfrey Furahini immediately diagnoses cataract – and a cough. As soon as his colleague Dr. Mario Monjane (resident ophthalmologist) has measured the girl’s eye pressure he sends her to the paediatric doctor to see if she can be operated although she is coughing. Does Cathleen have to wait longer for her eyes to be operated? But no – the paediatric doctor prescribes medicine to heal the cough and gives his okay for the operation.
Day of the operation: Anaesthetist Dr. Nicholas Kitunga leads Cathleen into the operation theatre. He is very caring with the little girl, distracts her with a blown up glove and talks to her in a very calm tone. “So, Cathleen. Now you go to sleep”, he says and laughs with the little girl. Together they count to 17. Then Cathleen falls asleep – without having cried. Dr. Kitunga shakes his head with a smile. “This girl is special.” Now it is the job of Dr. Mchikirwa Msina to replace Cathleen’s lenses with artificial ones. After around two hours the operation is over and the is rolled in her bed out of the theatre towards her waiting mum who starts to cry because she is so relieved to have her girl back. Some hours later the girl is already wide awake and happy. She sits on her bed and sings with her thin voice “Hallelujah” again and again. And she asks: “Mummy, why can’t we go home now?” Her mum watches her and laughs. She seems to be massively relieved.
When nurse Sarah Lutabingwa removes the eye bandages early next morning Cathleen is still sleepy. It takes a while until she seems to notice that she can see now and she slowly starts looking round, pointing at things or persons with one finger and asking: “What is that, mummy?” The visual acuity test shows her improvement. “Which letter is this?”, optometrist Zeno Mkenda asks the little girl while a colleague points on the biggest letter on the Snellen chart which is six metres away. The girl who doesn’t know the letters by now shall point out the same letter on a chart in her hand. She immediately points at the right one: the O. “Safi”, Zeno says and laughs. “Good!” Then she holds up charts with thick and thin lines on it and asks the girl to point at the lines if she can see them. “Where are the lines?”, she asks again and again and the girl quips “hapa – here” and points on it with, having more and more fun. “This is a huge improvement”, Zeno says. And Dr. Furahini who examines the girl at the slit lamp adds: “She could only see the biggest letter on the chart before. Now she can see even the letters in the fourth line. This is a good sign that her vision will improve even more in the next weeks.” He is optimistic that the girl’s right eye will see 100 percent. “The left eye might take a bit longer but it will also improve further.” In 4 weeks when Cathleen’s eyes have recovered from the operation she will receive glasses.
Back at home Cathleen doesn’t want to sleep but to play – but most of the children are at school. So she just wanders around her home, looking very intensely at everything – from her mum’s face to the toys that are around. She seems to be overwhelmed by all these impressions she only new in a blurred kind of way. Then she sits down in the courtyard and examines the toy of Furaha, a child from the neighbourhood, trying to find out how she can make it roll down the floor. Her mother watches her: “I am more than happy. And I am proud that she was so brave.” Then she sits down with her little daughter and plays with two little finger dolls: an elephant and a panda bear. After looking at the elephant for a while Cathleen suddenly looks up and asks: “Where are the elephant’s feet?” Frimina laughs. Now her girl can see she has to answer to a lot more questions than before. “Cathleen has pointed to an airplane in the sky on our way home and has asked me what this is”, she narrates. “Now she wants to become a pilot.” Now everything seems possible for her daughter to Frimina.
At home before:
Mother: Frimina Mselle (21)
Examination before OP (slitlamp): Dr. Godfrey Furahini
Examination before OP (eye pressure): Dr. Mario Monjane
Anaesthetist: Dr. Nicholas Kitunga
Operating eye doctor: Dr. Mchikirwa Msina
Also in op theatre:
Aziz (Student für Fachrichtung Anästhesie, hellblau, sitzt an Beatmungsmaschine)
Sibo Ngikosi (Student für Fachrichtung Anästhesie, dunkelblau)
Honorata Lisakeli (Studentin für Fachrichtung Anästhesie, dunkelgrün, Zopf)
Nelly (medical attendant, türkis, dick)
Salome (assistant nurse, assistiert operierender Ärztin, hellblau, dünn)
Nurse at bandage removal: Sarah Lutabingwa
Optometrist: Zeno Mkenda
At home afterwards:
Neighbour girl: Furaha, 11069343
5299px x 3533px, 44,90 cm x 29,90 cm (300 dpi)
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