Twelve elderly disadvantaged patients suffering from cataracts, including 102-year-old Nomanhlanhla Hadebe from the iLembe district in northern KwaZulu-Natal, have had their eyesight restored, thanks to an eye specialist with a big heart and a hospital that cares about the community it serves.
Mrs Hadebe’s granddaughter, Busisiwe Mabaso, says hergrandmother is “absolutely delighted” that she can again see after recently undergoing a cataract operation, which was performed free-of-charge by ophthalmologist Dr Malcolm Carey at Netcare Alberlito Hospital in Ballito.
“My grandmother has said repeatedly over the past few years that she wants to be able to see her grandchildren and the world around her once more. Now her dream has come true and she is overjoyed to be seeing again. She is grateful to Dr Carey, Netcare Alberlito Hospital and the other sponsors of this project for having made this cataract operation possible.”
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Helping those in need
Over the past five years Dr Carey and a group of anaesthetists teamed up in a project to undertake sight-restoring operations for disadvantaged cataract sufferers during Eye Care Awareness Month, which ran from 21 September to 18 October. Dr Carey says that he is most gratified to have been able to assist Mrs Hadebe and the other eleven individuals whom he operated on late last week.
“Despite an intensive state campaign to reduce cataract blindness in South Africa, thousands of people still suffer from the condition because waiting lists for the procedure are long and many people do not realise it is treatable,” points out Dr Carey. “This is unfortunate as cataract blindness is completely reversible in the overwhelming majority of cases. Cataracts can be successfully removed, a special new artificial lens surgically implanted and the patient’s vision completely restored.”
Speaking of Mrs Hadebe, Dr Carey said her operation had gone had gone exceptionally well. “When she came for a follow-up appointment on Friday, she expressed her satisfaction at the restoration of her sight. She is in good health for her 102 years and is an expressive and most remarkable individual.”
Read: Relief for long cataract surgery waiting lists in Gauteng
Restoring sight is highly rewarding
“Cataract procedures are one of the most rewarding aspects of my work as an ophthalmologist. It is amazing that within the space of just 24 hours a person’s sight can be restored along with their ability to engage in simple pleasures such as reading, writing, making coffee and cooking food. More than this, the patient’s independence is given back to them, which is extraordinarily powerful,” adds Dr Carey.
“A cataract is a progressive clouding of the lens inside the eye, causing sight to become fuzzy which makes every activities and leading a normal life increasingly difficult for them. These changes in eyesight typically start slowly and progress over months or years, which is why cataract sufferers are mostly elderly.”
The 12 patients had their eyesight restored thanks to the annual cataract project undertaken by Dr Carey in cooperation with the hospital. Dr Carey and anaesthetist group Beck, Danchin and Partners provided their time and expertise free-of-charge, while Netcare covered the other costs of the operations including theatre time and medication. Alcon provided all the lenses and Genop Healthcare donated consumable for the procedures.
General manager of Netcare Alberlito Hospital, Sara Nayager, says: “This remarkable project is one of our community outreach initiatives and one that is particularly close to the hearts of the staff and management of the hospital. We are grateful to Dr Carey and the other partners involved for collaborating with us to make the initiative a reality.”
According to Nayager, the patients are all from the North Coast communities. “None of them were able to afford the surgery and most were elderly. After their surgery, a number of them expressed their pleasure at being able to see their grandchildren for the first time ever.”
“Another aim of the initiative is to create awareness during Eye Care Awareness Month about the importance of eye care,” adds Nayager. “It is not commonly known that as much as seventy percent of blindness is avoidable with timely medical intervention. For this reason it is critical that everyone whose eyesight is failing seeks consults a healthcare practitioner.”
Dr Carey agrees, stating: “Having your eyesight tested regularly is critical and the older you get the more important this becomes. While eye conditions can affect people of any age, the elderly are at particularly high risk of developing a problem. Some 80% of blind people are over the age of 50 and the chances of developing cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and other diseases increases with advancing age.”
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