Monday, February 8, 2010

An Eye Care Story From Butongole

We had our second eye care outreach last Friday, organized for Butongole villagers at Namalemba Health Center. We brought an eye doctor over from Jinja, who was very fatherly and obliging, and the Health Center staff was incredibly helpful in organizing over fifty patients, taking records for the doctor, and generally facilitating the process. The doctor saw, in total, 11 Butongole villagers and 43 villagers from other areas around the Health Center. 

One girl was particularly memorable.  She was perhaps 8 or 9, and the doctor called me over to see her eye. It appeared, at first, like there was a funny shaped hole right next to her pupil. Open closer inspection, however, it wasn’t a hole – it was a large piece of wood, or rock, or some hard thing. Most of it was stuck right into her eye, but a tiny bit rose above the surface, like a splinter in one’s finger but a thousand times more painful.

The girl’s eye was tearing constantly, and she was absolutely silent. Her entire body looked fragile and pained, as if her spirit had been worn down, atom by atom, by ongoing pain. The doctor told me that this “foreign object” had been in her eye for 2 months – if it remained so for much longer, he said, she would have run the risk of permanent damage or blindness.

Luckily for us, the doctor carried numbing solution in his little medicine box.  A nurse tipped the girls’ head back, holding her chin and her forehead, and the doctor splashed a few drops of the solution into her eye.  I had no idea that eye-numbing solution was painful, but I learned that day that it was.  The girl – a skinny little slip of a thing – made not a sound, but clenched her hands to the seat and held her body absolutely rigid with pain, pushing her feet against one another in a sort of desperate motion-cry.

The nurse continued to hold her head, and eventually the girl’s body relaxed – the numbing solution had evidently kicked in, and she was no longer in pain. Then the doctor took a long needle from a sterilized syringe – nothing in it, just a needle – and brought it close to the little girls’ face. I can only imagine how it must have looked to her, held down as she was by the nurse, the needle looming above her face. Tears began to run down her face, from both eyes this time, and she whimpered in fear, clutching her hands again. The doctor murmured something to her, perhaps ‘don’t fear,’ or ‘it will be over soon,’ and lowered the needle down and touched it to her eye to remove the foreign object.

I couldn’t see very well what he was doing, but it looked to me very similar to the process of extracting a splinter out of one’s hand or foot. The entire procedure probably took no more than 15 seconds, but it seemed an eternity. The little girl, her body again rigid and her feet writhing in pain, was silent except to cry out once, and all I could think was “What does that look like to her?” If it had been me, I was quite sure that no doctor could have gotten that needle anywhere near my eye without putting me into a dead faint first. But I suppose this little girl was in so much pain that she was too exhausted to fight –either that, or she just genuinely wanted the pain to end, and figured that any short term pain was worth it in the long run.

A week before our Butongole eye care outreach, we brought an eye doctor right into Bugabula village, and that doctor saw 21 Bugabula villagers. In the coming weeks, we’ll be bringing doctors to see villagers from our three other villages: Bulumwaki, Nabitovu, and Walukuba. Some of these villagers will receive a simple antibiotic, or some other medication or small procedure that will cure them right away. Many of them, however, will require further treatment or surgery – those individuals with mature cataracts or advanced trachoma, for instance. For these individuals we will organize transportation to Iganga Hospital, where we will bring in eye surgeons from Jinja to operate on their eyes, free of charge. By the end of the entire program, UVP will have helped heal hundreds of Iganga villagers with eye problems.  


jayne said...

I had also no idea that eye-numbing solution was painful. Anyway thank you for the information I really enjoyed reading this.

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Atlanta Plastic Surgeons said...

Good to hear the story.The process is very sensitive and delicate as with most eye care treatments.

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