Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital is a big sprawling facility. It’s located smack-dab in the middle of Eldoret, a small city of 200,000 people in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley. Its services range from comprehensive eye health – which is supported by Operation Eyesight donors – to mental health, emergency, dental care, HIV AIDS, and other specialties.
Moi’s Eye Unit is a bustling place that treats over 4,000 eye patients annually. Cataract surgeries account for about half of its cases, followed by approximately 30 percent cases of infections, and about 20 percent trauma (injuries, mostly in children).
In addition, each ophthalmologist provides four to five annual outreach services of two days per visit. They perform some surgeries in the outlying towns, and identify other patients who require further care in Eldoret. Only 30 to 40 percent of the patients in the Eldoret region can pay for their treatment, so support from Operation Eyesight to develop a self-sustaining fee structure accommodating patients who can pay and those who can’t is critically important.
I saw for myself the impact of this support when I was in Kenya earlier this year.
One of my favourite memories of Moi was meeting Mercy, a tiny girl who looks six or seven, although she’s actually 10 years old. The youngest of three children, Mercy lives with her family in a little town outside of Eldoret.
When I met her, Mercy had a perforated corneal injury in her right eye from a stone hitting her face. Although the injury itself healed, a cataract developed almost immediately, which is common post-trauma. Dr. Isaac Wanjala, the ophthalmologist who performed her surgery, says Mercy’s iris actually went outside her eye, so it needed to be cut out and re-stitched.
Although I don’t speak Swahili and she doesn’t speak English, Mercy and I bonded quickly the day before her surgery. She stuck close to my side and held my hand as I visited with the other children in the recovery ward.
When I went to the eye unit the following day, she ran to me, smiling and giggling shyly. Her father proudly told me Mercy was “very okay!” now. He said before the surgery, his daughter couldn’t see out of her right eye at all.
“Now she can count her numbers and read. I’m very happy and grateful. Thank you! Now my little one can see again.”
He added that Mercy had very much missed school and her favourite subject, mathematics. Now, she was so happy to have her vision back that she wanted to go to school the very next day. Mercy has a future as bright as her smile!
You can see another photo of Mercy on the front page of our recently published Report to Donors, which celebrates the ways Operation Eyesight’s donors have made a dramatic impact in the lives of children, women and men in Africa and India.