Eleven year old Lazarus Mwenya had a cataract in his left eye. He was treated at the ORBIS Paediatric Eye Care Centre at Kitwe Central Hospital, Zambia and his story highlights the challenges and triumphs of a rural child’s journey to better vision and a better life.
Lazarus lives with his family in a rural part of Laupula Province, Zambia. The Mwenya family depends on subsistence farming and bee keeping to support their nine children and dependents. As a result of helping his family, Lazarus started his schooling late.
Ath the start of this school year in the fourth grade, his new teacher noticed that he always sat in front of the class near to the blackboard and, although he tried very hard in lessons, his reading was slow and he was falling behind. She noted a ‘white dot’ on this left pupil and she suspected that he had a sight problem. She alerted his parents of her suspicions and they swiftly took him to a nearby community clinic for an eye test.
From there Lazarus was referred to Mansa General Hospital, the largest hospital in his province and the only hospital with an ophthalmologist. He was immediately diagnosed with a cataract. Things had gone smoothly until this point but it was explained that he required a complex operation to have it removed and as paediatric eye care resources are very scarce in Zambia he would have to travel 800km (three days by road) to the recently opened ORBIS Paediatric Eye Care Center at Kitwe Central Hospital to receive the care he required.
Just months before, this Zambian hospital in Kitwe had limited facilities to help children who needed eye surgery but fortunately for Lazaras, ORBIS has recently provided state of the art surgical and diagnostic equipment and refurbished the children’s ward. ORBIS is also providing ongoing training for the paediatric eye care team – from the ophthalmologists and nurses to outreach workers. The newly established Kitwe Paediatric Eye Care Center has a referral relationship with Laupula Province and so arrangements for his travel were quickly made.
Lazarus and his mother’s transport and subsistence costs were funded by the project as ORBIS has found that one of the main barriers for rural children accessing services is the cost of getting to the facility. He was met by Dr Chileshe Mboni – Kitwe’s paediatric ophthalmologist who is being extensively supported and trained by ORBIS. Dr Mboni successfully removed the cataract and after a few days Lazarus’ sight was greatly improved.
In addition to the successful surgery he was also given a pair of glasses. He was taught exercises to practice to ensure that he does not develop ambiopia (lazy eye) and his sight is maximized.
Ariel Phiri, Kitwe Central Hospital’s child eye health coordinator, will remain in contact with Lazarus and his family to make sure he returns for regular follow up appointments.
The Mwenya family thanked the team at Kitwe for the life changing work that they do for children with eye disease.
Lazarus will return to Kitwe for his annual follow up next February. Equipped with his glasses and buckets of enthusiasm he is excited to get back to school.
Join us on our journey. Give the gift of sight to others like Lazarus.