Isiko: “I’m so happy that I finally went for surgery”
Isiko Viriano, aged 77, lives in the Busoga region of eastern Uganda with his wife and children.
For five years he suffered from the consequences of trachoma infection: his eyelashes turned inwards and scratched against his eyes, causing constant pain and watering.
He found it hard to work and couldn’t earn enough to pay for his children’s schooling. “I am anxious to educate my children. I want them to live in a better house than mine. I pray that things will be different for them,” he explains. Yet despite his struggles, he was reluctant to seek help – he believed surgery was akin to witchcraft.
His views are not uncommon: in developing countries, encouraging patients to seek medical treatment can be a challenge. Many people may never have visited a hospital or had surgery, believing that if they agree to have an operation the surgeons will remove their eyes.
After suffering years of pain, Isiko eventually met eye surgeon James Mukwambe, who visited the community as part of an outreach programme. After visiting Isiko several times, James reassured him, gained his trust and explained how surgery could prevent him going completely blind.
“It took several visits from James to encourage me to go to the hospital,” says Isiko. “But I agreed to go.” It was this close relationship between doctor and patient that helped to change Isiko’s life.
“I thank all those who enabled me to have surgery,” says Isiko. “I can now pound ground nuts and help my wife while she cooks. I can walk around safely, and soon I hope to be able to go to church and socialise with my friends.”
“I had been so reluctant to come for surgery, but I am very happy that I finally did.”