Free eye ops for elderly and poor restore sight

FOR more than two decades, Nomonde Mfaca had been unable to see out of her left eye owing to an injury from a mugging that scarred her for life.

When her right eye started acting up, the 60-year-old was sure she would go blind, as her left eye socket was already filled with an artificial eye owing to the incident.

Speaking to the Dispatch at the Life Eye Hospital East London ahead of her free eye surgery yesterday, she said an optometrist had told her of the project at the eye hospital.

For the past 15 years, the Life group has been offering free cataract surgeries to patients who do not have medical aid or could otherwise not afford the surgeries during the week of World Sight Day, ending today.

The campaign is a joint venture between Life Healthcare and four local specialist ophthalmologists – Dr Lizo Mbentshu, Dr Kelvin Rivett, Dr Janet Edeling and Dr Niel Holmberg.

This week the team will restore sight to 17 patients, who have been pre-selected and are either partially or totally blind.

To make the initiative work, the specialists as well as staff present in the theatres, donate their time and resources, and Alcon, an eye care company, sponsors surgical packs and lenses for the procedure.

The procedure on a single eye would otherwise cost upwards from R10000.

Though her cataract was at a severe stage, Mfaca said she only started noticing a problem a few months ago.

“My children took me to and I was told my situation was so bad I couldn’t get glasses.

“They told me about this project, saying I would not have to pay any money as I do not have a medical aid,” she said.

Performing the surgeries at the hospital yesterday with was Edeling.

A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision, it mostly occurs in elderly people.

The Daily Dispatch observed the short and seemingly painless procedure which removes the cloudy lens and replaces it with the artificial intra-ocular lens which restores the patient’s sight almost immediately. The procedure took 20 minutes, and on less severe cases it takes 15 minutes.

The team uses modern technology and Edeling used a 2.8mm blade for the incision making sure the patient would need no stitches and there would be no wounds.

Rooksmanie Jogee, who went into the surgery before Mfaca was optimistic about the procedure, though she said her eye had not cleared up yet.

With a transparent plastic eye cover with holes on her right eye, Jogee, 68, said it had been a year since she noticed she could not see clearly through that eye.

Edeling said most patients would start seeing perfectly this morning when the patch was removed.

The project is not limited to East London – specialist ophthalmologist Professor Juzer Surka will remove cataracts from seven patients at Life St Mary’s Private Hospital in Mthatha; and Dr Pilile Ngxukumeshe will perform the procedure on 10 patients in Port Elizabeth’s Life Mercantile Hospital. —

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