Mzee Waithaka: Were it not for you people, I would be blind now
When Mzee Waithaka welcomed a team from the Kenyan Ministry of Health to his home, two months after receiving treatment for severe trachoma trichiasis in both eyes, he left them in no doubt as to the impact the treatment had had on his life.
The 72-year-old farmer from Matwiku in Kenya’s Lakipia County, had spent nearly a decade in constant pain, unable to monitor his crops or livestock, and unaware that treatment was possible. When the county team conducted door-to-door trachoma screening, Mzee was quickly diagnosed and learned that surgery could end his pain and prevent further sight loss.
Although the thought of eye surgery terrified him, Mzee was persuaded of its benefits – but he was insistent that he would only risk treatment on one eye. By the following day, overjoyed by the results of the first operation, he was delighted to repeat the 10km journey to Mwneje dispensary for surgery on his second eye. He has since become a local goodwill ambassador for trachoma treatment.
Mzee showed the team the improvised tweezers he used to rely on to pluck out the inward-turning eyelashes (caused by repeated trachoma infections) which scraped against his eyeballs with every blink. “This is a reminder of the daily pain I endured,” he explained, “as my vision slowly deteriorated to an extent that I could no longer look after my farm and animals. I can once again comfortably look after my cattle and supervise people working on my farm. I am so elated!”