In my upcoming posts, I'm sharing true success stories to show you CBM's incredible work and to inspire you to support this wonderful charity! I like to thank CBM SWISS for trusting me and sharing these beautiful life stories.
Shalom is a five year girl who had bilateral cataracts. She was identified through Mengo Eye Hospital. Shalom’s mother, Fridah, was unable to pay for the surgery because she did not have a job and was living with her mother (Shalom’s grandmother). Fridah could not afford 820,000 Ugandan Shilling, approximately 200 Euro for the surgery of her daughter’s eyes. She had lost hope. Shalom had been dismissed from school because her vision was very poor and could not read or write with ease. She could not do what other children of her age could do. She mostly stayed home and sitting on the veranda, playing with the doll, while avoiding the direct sunlight. She could join her friends to play. She was laughed at because she could not see.
CBM received her case and paid for her surgery, which surgery was successful. Six weeks after her surgery, received eyeglasses to aid her vision even better. She had to stay at home for a full school term so that her eyes could heal. After she had healed properly, she was able to go back to school. She can now see better, she is able to read and write.
Life after surgery
The beauty about cataract surgery is that the change is instant. Shalom can see well the next day, less than 24 hours after surgery. As soon as Shalom’s eye patches are removed, Shalom receives a more improved clarity of sight that she has never experienced before.
Shalom touches her mother’s face as if to confirm that she is the one and know the feeling of her mother’s face. Shalom has to make weekly trips and fortnightly trips to Mengo Eye Hospital to be reviewed by the Low Vision Therapist and Ophthalmologist. They have a look at her condition and monitor her improvement until she is ready to receive eye glasses.
Fridah, Shalom’s mother is committed to her daughter’s hospital visits because she wants her daughter to receive full healing be independent soon. From the stormy mornings, travelling in over loaded city taxis, through the crowded traffic on the roads of Kampala and the very hot weather, the determined mother always makes it to Mengo Eye Hospital in time, with her little girl.
“I cannot waste this chance. It is not every day that someone will give you a free chance to get surgery for your daughter and give you all the extra medical care involved.” Fridah Says.
“Sometimes I sit there and think about how sad she (Shalom) would still be at home, not going to school.” She adds.
Fridah gives a sigh of relief in between her speech as though she does not want to sound overwhelmed.
Fridah looks forward to the day her daughter will receive her eye glasses.
“She will go back to school.” Fridah muses with a smile.
Receiving eye glasses
It is a warm morning. Shalom arrives at Mengo Eye Hospital, walking all by herself, in front of her mother. She jumps and runs about and her mother occasionally tells her to be quiet and still, to which she obliges but soon starts running around and trying to stand on the waiting chairs again.
This is not the reserved, timid, resigned and sad Shalom of February 2019. She is now lively, happy and giggles a lot. She is even able to entertain herself when asked to wait from the Dr. Lisbon, the Ophthalmologist’s examination room.
“Tulawamu! Tonswaza.” (Losely translated as, “Settle down! Don’t embarrass me.” Fridah rebukes Shalom in whispers as she gathers the little girl to herself, lifting her on to her lap so that the examination can begin. Shalom is beaming with joy.
Dr. Lisbon motions her to come to the slit lamp so that her eyes can be examined. She quickly adheres and she is checked.
“There is a good improvement and she is due for glasses. She should go for refraction today. Once she gets her glasses, she must wear them at all times otherwise it will be a waste of time.” Dr. Lisbon the Ophthalmologist says.
Soon, Shalom is refracted. After that, she is transferred to the glasses section to try out suitable frames for her prescribed lens. The little blue frames are picked for her. Shalom moves to the mirror and sees her new look. She chuckles hilariously and tries to touch the reflection of her face in the mirror. She is just overjoyed. She dances and squats and smiles again and again at her reflection, making childish poses and smiling at her reflection in the mirror.
Fridah, her mother is seated quietly observing her daughter’s moves. She begins to laugh and smile. She holds her mouth as if in disbelief.
“I can’t believe all this is for free. Oh my God, I can’t believe it. May God bless you very much. I will always remember your goodness.” Fridah says.
When it is time for Shalom to handover the frames and leave, she begins to bargain that she does not want to take off the glasses. Her mood changes immediately and she begins to sulk. She is almost crying but the glass section attendant tells her that the frames are needed so that they can make them more beautiful for her.
Shalom reluctantly hands over the glasses and asks whether she would be coming back to Mengo to pick them up the next day. Her mother quickly intervenes by telling her that the doctor would call her to pick up the glasses.
Three weeks later, Shalom receives her glasses and tries them on. They are bifocal lenses to help her in her daily life, even at school. She receives training on how to use them. The look on Shalom’s face after knowing that she can keep the glasses forever with her is priceless. She overwhelmed with joy. She begins to giggle as if aimlessly.
She once again goes to the mirror and looks at herself. She is radiating light-heartedness and pure joy. She quickly wins over the hearts of the staff in the glass section. She enjoys her moment of attention. It is time to go back home, and Shalom walks out of Mengo Eye Hospital with a new pair of spare eyes! She waves at the hospital staff as she leaves. She can finally see with ease.
Shalom goes to school
It is a slightly chill morning but the warmth of the sun is quickly coming out. The bright rays open up the special day like a curtain. It is a special day because shalom is going back to school after missing two terms because she could not see well and teachers recommended that it was a waste of time to pay for school when she could not read or write at all.
Fridah, her mother locks the door behind her as Shalom waits outside, looking smart in her little uniform, despite the rips in her school sweater. She is still as warm as can be. She chuckles to her cousin Joy, who studies in top class. Her mother packs a snack of bread for her and drops it in her school bag. She clocks the door behind her and off the set off for school.
Shalom's mother walks both Shalom and her cousin joy to school. She wants to make sure that they reach safely. She must help them to crosses the road safely because they are still too young to cross the road on their own. She wants them to be safe. They walk while singing short kindergarten rimes. They are happy as though they have no cares in this world. The 20 minute walk to school soon comes to an end.
Fridah brings Shalom and joy each to the entrance of their classroom. Soon, Shalom is seated comfortably in her class. Her little classmates are looking at her as she settles in class.
Teacher Mercy, who is Shalom’s class teacher begins to teach the class. It is the reading and writing class. She asks questions in class and Shalom raises her hand and answers correctly. She is told to write her answer on the chalkboard, which she also writes correctly.
Teacher Mercy asks the class to clap for Shalom, which they do rhythmically as Shalom dances to the rhythm of the clapping. Shalom is free and fearless before her classmates. She is a happy middle class child.
Low Vision Therapist monitors Shalom’s progress at school
Mr. Benard Okotel, a Low Vision Therapist at Mengo Eye Hospital, a partner of CBM has been monitoring Shalom’s vision improvement since surgery. He has come to school to assess how far she has improved. Benard talks to Teacher Mercy before proceeding to greet the class of little children and teach them about eye care and glasses that Shalom is wearing.
“Shalom can now see well on the blackboard. I was her teacher when she could not see. She was very shy and kept to herself. She could not play in the bright light outside with her friends because the light irritated her eyes. We had to send her back home.” Teacher Mercy says.
Shalom is reserved and selective. With the people she knows well, she is very active but generally reserved in public.
“Shalom is a reserved girl but active in her on way. When engaged she participates. She can write on the chalkboard and shares her experiences with others. She plays with others. She is now improving to write. She can see. Thank you for you did for her. It was a really big challenge. She could not read and write but now she can read well. She will continue to improve in her class work.” Says Teacher Mercy.
He comes with a writing board which he uses to test at what distance between her eyes and the board that she can read with better clarity. He also carries a long low vision books from the low vision department at Mengo Eye Hospital with more contrasted lines to ease Shalom’s writing experience at school. He makes recommendations to Teacher Mercy and the Head teacher of the school as well.
“The blackboard is good enough. The position in class is also good. The girl is sitting in front. And the teachers seem to be helping her.” Benard says.
With the help of spectacles, Shalom can see on the chalkboard, she’s able to copy from the chalkboard and write.
She needs special low vision books which have more pronounced lines and not the normal class work books. With that we believe that Shalom’s progress and studies will be much improved.” Says Benard.
Shalom is expected to continue with regular review of her eyes and eye glasses from Mengo Eye Hospital.
“We really want to appreciate CBM for the good support they are giving these children to improve their lives so that they are able to study normally and integrate with another children so that what we call inclusive education policy.” Benard appreciates.
After the reading and writing class, the class takes a tea break where every child is free to take the tea provided by the school or eat what has been packed from home. Shalom shares her snack with her friends and her friends do the same with her.
Soon after break, it is play time. Play time is characterised by singing, jumping, running and playing on the slides and swings. The children happily sing rhymes as the dance and jump, laughing, giggling and smiling.
It is evident that Shalom has made a few friends and she carries herself with a sense of belonging to her peers.
After play time, the children return to class and wait for their parents to pick them up at noon.
Back home from school
Shalom’s mother is on time to pick her up. They walk back home while Shalom narrates to her what she studied and the games she played with her friends from her class. Fridah, Shalom’s mother listens with an interested attitude and she chips in with an occasional “oooh” to express that she is happy for her daughter.
Soon, the two are back home. Shalom takes off her uniform and drinks some cold juice and piece of bread, while Fridah looks for the Jerrycans to fetch water, first before they can sit down to enjoy a relaxing afternoon.
Soon, Shalom is walking to the well on her own, on the rough terrain. She can see where she is going and even runs ahead of her mother. She is able to manoeuvre all the corners, bumps and potholes in the narrow footpath that slopes to the well. Shalom could not do that on her own. Her mother had to hold her hand and eventually carry her because it took a lot of time for her mother to hold a Jerrycan and also Shalom at the same time.
She can fetch the water for herself and insists on fetching water for her mother as well. She is bubbly and playful at the well. She takes off her shoes and carries her three litre Jerrycan. Previously, she was only able to carry one litre.
This is the change that Shalom is experiencing after surgery. She is more involved in home activities and happily participates.
When they return from the well, Shalom pours her water into the bucket and begins to wash her school socks as her mother watches on, directing her to focus on dirty parts of the socks. After washing, it is time for Shalom and her mother to spend time as they wait for the rest of the family to come home in the evening.
“I have no words to thank you enough. You have given my daughter what I could never giver her without your help. I pray that God bless you. I cannot stop saying thank you.” Fridah Says with a wide smile.
Shalom is a changed child thanks to the CBM funded surgery. She will study with her glasses and the Social Worker will continue to monitor Shalom so that she can observe all required reviews from time to time at Mengo Eye Hospital.
Report by: Charity Ainembabazi, CBM Field Communications Coordinator – Uganda