It was one year ago when the problems started. Mohamed had just started in first grade at school when he was sent home by his teacher. “The teacher called me and said Mohamed couldn’t see well”, his mother Jacqueline John (35) says. Not even when he was sitting in the first row of the class he could read what was written on the blackboard. He couldn’t manage to write letters or numbers down. And he couldn’t read the small letters in books as well. The exam at the end of the year revealed the whole problem: Mohamed was last of his class. So he had to quit school. “His teacher said he can’t teach him anything when Mohamed can’t see”, Jacqueline says and shakes her head in a helpless way.
Since then Mohamed stays at home the whole day. Alone – since the other children all go to school, also his bigger sister. “He is jealous”, his mother says. “He wants to go to school. Every morning when his sister is leaving he cries.” Jacqueline sighs. She and her husband try to teach Mohamed by themselves. But it is just not the same as going to school. “I want my son to go to school. But I can’t afford to bring him to a doctor”, Jacqueline explains her problem. Although she is working hard as a farmer selling vegetables to her neighbours and her husband is every day on search for work as a daily labourer on fields or construction areas the family is poor. The four of them live in Kijenge juu, a part of Arusha in northern Tanzania. They have a small mud house with two little rooms. One is completely filled with a bed for the parents, the second is cramped with a bed for the kids and three armchairs. You have to climb over them to reach the bed.
When the night falls and it is getting darker inside the house Mohamed can’t see anything. He has no chance to move around independently. But even when outside in the sunlight he has problems. “He can only see big objects, not small things”, his mother narrates. “He often makes a telescope with his hands to try to see better.” She demonstrates it with her own hands. Since his sight started to vanish more and more he has problems to play his favourite game: football. “The other children tease him therefor”, Jacqueline says. “He often comes home crying and being angry.” Being bound to the house is not what Mohamed likes at all. He is very lively, loves to run around and learn new things. He hates to sit around. Being forced to watch her son struggle without being able to help him makes Jacqueline feeling miserable. “To imagine he could get blind is terrifying me!” Her voice breaks and she has to dry her tears with her kanga (her skirt): “I am sad, very sad.”
When she hears one day that KCMC is treating children like her son free of cost she is immediately full of hope. She brings her son to the CBM-funded hospital in Moshi which is 1,5 hours by car away from her home. At KCMC Mohamed is examined by paediatric ophthalmologist Dr. Godfrey Furahini. The diagnosis: congenital bilateral cataract. Mohamed can only see 6/60. That means: “Mohamed can only see the biggest letter of the Snellen chart from 6 metres distance”, the doctor explains to mother Jacqueline. “We have to operate him.”
Day of the operation: Dr. Nicholas Kitunga leads Mohamed into the operation theatre. He is very caring with the boy, distracts him with a blown up glove on which he painted a smiling face and talks to him in a very calm tone until the boy falls asleep. Now it is the job of Dr. Mchikirwa Msina to replace Mohamed’s lenses with artificial ones. After around two hours the operation is done and Mohamed is rolled in his bed out of the theatre towards his waiting mum.
A day later: When nurse Sarah Lutabingwa comes to Mohamed’s bed to remove his bandages he is already waiting for it. After the removal he doesn’t open his eyes for some minutes, suddenly shy. But then he blinks – and from then on starts to look at his surroundings with curiosity, pointing with one finger to anyone who passes by in the ward. Towards the visual acuity test he walks already without a helping hand. He easily and with TZA-19-0514_story.pdf self-confidence reads out the letters of the second line of the Snellen chart from six metres distance, with glasses he manages even to read the sixth line. “This is an improvement”, optometrist Zeno Mkenda says. She will adjust glasses to the boy’s eyes in 4 weeks when his eyes are stable after the operation. “He will be able to go to school for sure”, she says and points laughing on the boy who has started to read the smallest letters on the reading test in his hands. “He will be able to read everything!”
Back at home Mohamed is eager to test his new ability. He gets out one of his old notebooks and a pencil and tries to write: “Mama” he writes down in big letters. Then he looks up and smiles broadly. It works! Now he is ready to go outside and play football with his friends Elias and Joshua. Soon the laughter of the three boys can be heard along the whole street. Mohamed’s mother watches her son and looks like she can’t decide either to laugh or cry: “I am very happy. My dream came true.” When the doctors allow Mohamed at the next checkup in two weeks to go to school she wants to send him there immediately – even if the school year has started already. Her son shall learn – and one day be able to fulfil all his dreams. “I thank all CBM-donors who made this possible!”, she says