By Yvon Brenda Bageire
I met Allan Patrick Mbisyo at Salama School for the blind, located 10 kilometres off Mukono-Katosi Road in Kisoga village. The jolly 11 year old was born in good health, third among four brothers to Nakasi Juliet and Mbisyo Patrick.
Blind now, Patrick was born with perfect eyesight and went to school at triple star primary school in Luweero district.
“One day I was at school and one eye stopped seeing, when I was being taken to the hospital, the other eye also stopped seeing,” he says.
Nakasi Juliet, Patrick’s mother still wonders what happened to her son till this day.
“I gave birth to that boy and he was perfectly healthy with no problem. One day he just stopped seeing I don’t even know what really happened.” She said during our telephone conversation, her voice filled with sadness and worry that her son may never be able to see again.
Many attempts to restore his sight have been futile. Patrick Mbisyo, Allan’s father took him to Tororo Hospital but was later referred to Mengo Hospital because they could not detect what had caused his blindness. While at Mengo Hospital, Allan’s father was advised to take his son to Kenya because the only doctor that could have operated on him was away. He was then referred to Kikuyu hospital where Allan underwent his first surgery. Fortunately, this surgery was successful and Allan started seeing again for a while. According to the doctor, Allan’s retina was damaged.
The retina is the part of the eye that sends images through the optic nerve to the brain. When the retina pulls away from the back of the eye, the cells begin to die if there is no blood supply causing visual impairment which may become permanent. According to Allan’s father, the doctors in Nairobi put oil in his eyes which kept the retina from detaching thereby allowing him to see for a while before he got blind again. Allan then had to go back to Kenya for another operation and checkups.
The doctor proposed for Allan to be taken to India for further treatment, but the family could not raise the money. The first operation in Kenya had cost Mbisyo, Allan’s father four million Ugandan shillings and the second had been three million shillings, all exclusive of accommodation and travelling expenses. He is unable to estimate how much will be needed to take his son to India for further treatment and yet the longer treatment is delayed, the harder treating him becomes.
Mbisyo originally declined to take his son to a school for the Blind but a friend advised him to take his son to Salama School for the blind which he later agreed to.
Allan that never stops smiling, has a great time at school, he has good friends like Eric Mbalaga who make his stay at Salama interesting. He wants to be a lawyer when he grows up because daddy told him he will be a lawyer.
Allan still remembers a few things from when he still had his vision like his parents, siblings and his school. He still remembers going to the hospital but with time he is forgetting some things.
At this same school, many students, like Allan Patrick, wake up one morning and cannot see again. They are taken for treatment but no infections/illnesses are detected yet they remain blind.
Eric Mbalaga, 11 years old also got sick on his way from school. His eyes started itching and he was later operated on at Mengo hospital, regaining sight in one eye. Nabunya Mariam also got blind while in primary three. She got a terrible headache which was rumored to be a sign of cancer. She did not get any medication and the headache persisted. On returning to the hospital, no cancer was found in her body but she was later operated on, causing her to lose both her eyes. She currently wears shades because both her eyes were removed.
All these cases could be investigated and all these Hospitals in Uganda could get better in terms of facilities and equipment but a lot is spent on corruption. It becomes a threat to national security when children get sick and lose their sight without any diagnosis. Investigations and awareness should be done to determine the presence of opticians in hospitals and access to eye specialists allover the country.