This year’s International Women’s Day was special, special because it got me engaged in a community eye surgical outreach in Nakapiripirit. Sight restoration is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding activities that I do, but this time around it’s special because I got the opportunity to work on Caro (not her real names), a 36-year-old female whom I thought was quite young to have mature cataract in both eyes. Usually unless someone is suffering from diabetes or had eye trauma or uveitis, it’s rare that they would develop cataract at such a tender age. I’m not sure if Caro had any of those. The weather was salubrious with a clear sky. I was enjoying the mountainous view when Caro arrived with a group of other patients in a Landcruiser. She was being supported by a certain lady of good will.
I couldn’t communicate with Caro because she had hearing impairment as well. I was embarrassed that such a person living with disability was unable to fully access my services. I know that she would have loved to tell me her history just like the other patients were. Caro, like many others I have met before under similar circumstances underwent cataract surgery without proper consent due to our inability to communicate, how sad! I envisioned her enduring anesthesia injection without any explanation as to why she was being injected and my heart broke silently. I cringe at the thought of it. I thought she was a brave lady but maybe I was wrong. Maybe she didn’t have any other alternative. Sometimes life has a way of throwing people in circumstances of no choice. Having to live with blindness is an everyday hurdle. Having to live with a concurrent hearing impairment is a nightmare that no one would wish on their worst enemy.
We worked on Caro’s right eye on day one and everything went perfectly well. The following morning, her once blunt affect was beaming with a smile. She spoke in Akarimojong and told our driver to tell me how grateful she is that she can see. Preparing her for the left eye surgery was much easier since she was well acquainted with the procedures. When she entered theatre again, I could tell how inquisitive she was as she gazed (with her operated right eye) at the surgical instruments that would enter her eye in the next few minutes. She, however, appeared more relaxed and confident about the surgery this time around.
Caro was successfully operated on, and she got a visual acuity of 6/6 in both eyes (quite an excellent vision). I could tell that her life had taken another twist. Following discharge, the Caro who needed support and guidance on arrival was now carrying her basket of belongings on her head, moving around the hospital bidding goodbye to other patients and their attendants. I smiled in ecstasy as I watched her do the ordinary yet very significant things that we often take for granted. I would have loved to have a long conversation with her but for the hearing impairment. I hope to meet Caro again and watch her carry on with her normal chores independently. Such are the caliber of women I have chosen to celebrate on this day.