Margaret: Relying on helping hands
When eye problems prevented Margaret from farming crops, she not only lost her independence and her ability to provide for her family, but also her trust in her neighbours.
Forced to ask others for help when she found herself unable to see well enough to handle cash, people regularly stole from her, increasing her sense of vulnerability.
A 78-year-old widow from Kenya’s Meru County, Margaret had suffered from poor eyesight and inverted lashes for ten years. She was unable to see small objects or anything at a distance, and her eyes were continuously irritated and teary.
“I realised that my eyelashes were irritating me, which led me to pluck out my lashes whenever I felt the irritation. Then came a point when plucking out the lashes was no longer helpful because most of the lashes were touching my cornea and making my eyes itchy. I was forced to keep on wiping my eyes with a handkerchief because of the continuous tearing.”
Meru North has experienced a longstanding water shortage, meaning that many people are unable to maintain sufficient facial hygiene standards to reduce the risk of trachoma infection. A key role of outreach camps is to highlight the importance of preventative measures, as well as providing treatment.
Unable to perform basic chores for herself, Margaret became wholly dependent on the help of her daughter and grandchildren for day-to-day living. Although she sought treatment from various hospitals, she was only offered the temporary and minimal relief of eye drops, until a Community Health Worker let her know about an eye treatment camp.
Margaret was in two minds about surgery, having heard that it could destroy what little sight she had left. But after being persuaded by her daughter and a counsellor, she agreed to treatment.
“I am so happy to be able to see and be independent again. My family is happy because they no longer need to stay at home and watch over me, which took up a lot of their time. The most amazing thing about my newfound eyesight is the ability to sort and pack crops, which is my source of income.”
One of the ophthalmic nurses inspecting eye wounds post TT surgery.