Nabeki: A new lease of life
Having taken medication for a brain condition for close to 30 years, when 50-year-old Nabeki developed painful, watery eyes in 2014, she assumed it was a side effect from her treatment.
“I thought the suffering was due to the medicine I take – little did I know that I was slowly losing my vision,” says. Nabeki, from Turkana South, Kenya. “I used to feel like there were foreign bodies in my eyes, and I could not see properly. I was suffering even when sleeping as my eyes were painful.”
As the lashes on her upper eyelids became more and more inverted, Nabeki took to wearing tweezers around her neck at all times in order to pluck the worst offending lashes out. She became increasingly dependent on her family’s help as her sight deteriorated, with her eldest granddaughter frequently missing school in order to cook, fetch water and firewood, herd the sheep and goats and perform household tasks.
When Nabeki received a visit from Susan Awaana, a community health volunteer (CHV) trained in primary eye care, she complained about the level of discomfort her eyes were causing her. Susan suspected trachoma trichiasis, and referred her to an outreach clinic at a nearby health facility where the diagnosis was confirmed.
Nabeki’s husband Philip was initially against the idea of surgery as he was afraid his wife’s remaining sight would be put at risk but, persuaded by Susan, he agreed to surgery in one eye. Following the successful treatment of the first eye, Nabeki returned for surgery on the second.
‘For sure, knowledge is power! Eye health awareness should be created in the whole of Turkana South,” exclaimed Philip.
“I was afraid I would become blind,” Nabeki admitted. “Now I’m able to see well again as my eyes are not painful anymore. I can now herd my sheep and goats and do all the chores that my granddaughter used to do.”