Stafelo: From carer to cared for – and back again
When 60-year-old Stafelo developed trachoma, she wasn’t the only one affected. With eight children and 29 grandchildren, Stafelo’s the lynchpin of a large extended family, many of whom live at home. Looking after her younger relatives, as well as her own parents, had been the focus of her life for many years, but as her sight deteriorated and she found herself in increasing pain she became the one in need of her family’s care.
Having previously farmed tobacco, soya, maize and vegetables, the family suspended its farming activities to focus on Stafelo’s health. Her son Benjamin, a part-time builder, shouldered the responsibility of providing for the family. At the same time they began to feel increasingly isolated as they attempted to find a solution.
“We had no time for interacting with people or doing anything profitable as we spent most of our time going from one traditional healer to another,” explains Stafelo’s husband, Monjezi.
Stafelo describes the condition as feeling as though her eyes were being rubbed with sand. For three years she suffered pain, blurred vision, irritation and discharge as a result of her eyelashes turning inward and scratching her corneas every time she blinked.
“I didn’t even know that it was the eyelashes. To me it was the eyes themselves that bothered me,” she says.
In early 2015 a district ophthalmic clinical officer diagnosed Stafelo with trichiasis in both eyes. Stafelo’s home district, Kasungu, is one of 17 in southern and central Malawi where trachoma is thought to be endemic. Across the country, nearly 6,000 people are currently in need of treatment for the advanced stages of the disease.
A month after her surgery, Stafelo is delighted to be reclaiming her role at the heart of her family.
“I am now reborn and have plans to go back to my farming ways which I have missed a lot. Before I got seriously ill we had started building a new family home but it had to stop because of my condition. We are going to finish it!”