On International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2020, read the inspiring story of Lydia Maundé from Malawi. Thanks to CBM-supported partners in Malawi (Macoha and Nkhoma Hospital) Lydia has regained her vision and can participate in daily life again.
Lydia Maundé rests on a root of her most famous tree in her village with an absent look. Some children from her neighbours join the 56 years old woman, but she hardly pays attention to them. You can only guess what she is thinking about, but maybe she recaps the past few days. Days that have changed her life.
Lydia has cataract in both eyes and very poor vision. “It started five years ago with the right eye. With time, my vision has gotten poor and poorer until I was blind”, she remembers. And with her vision, her independency has gone too. What was once normal for her like cooking, the housework and farming became almost impossible.
A glimmer of hope
But then new hope came. It all started with a large white all-terrain vehicle (ATV) that arrived in Lydia’s small village in Salima District in Malawi: Steve Simwaba leaves the car. He is working for Macoha (Malawi Council for the Handicapped), a CBM-supported partner. Steve is visiting the village to take Lydia and other persons with vision impairments to Nkhoma Eye Hospital – also a partner of CBM since 1977. They were identified a few days earlier by case finders of Macoha. These case finders travel from village to village in remote areas of central Malawi to identify people with vision problems and refer them for treatment if necessary.
To go or not to go?
But Lydia is not convinced to leave her home and go to the 70 kilometres away hospital. She heard rumours in her compound that they will take her eyes out at the clinic. Steve sits next to her at her small home. He examines her eyes and a vision test shows, that she can’t even recognize the symbol on the chart right in front of her. But he also listens carefully to Lydia’s fears and explains the cataract surgery and that it won’t take long… and that they definitely won’t take her eyes out. Lydia trusts the CBR-worker and starts to pack her handbag. When she heard that her friend Munoongana, who has cataract too and also refuses to go to the hospital because of the same rumours, she talks to her and convinced her to undergo surgery too. It is already dark as the ATV full of patients arrives at the hospital.
Examination and surgery
The next day, Dr Tamara Chirambo Nyaka examines Lydia’s eyes through a slit lamp. “She has a moderate cataract in her left eye, but the cataract in her right eye is already mature. And there is also a scar in her cornea, maybe because of a trauma”, Dr Tamara explains. This could explain, why Lydia had pain in this eye five years ago. After Dr Tamara explains again that the surgery has very good chances to make her see again, Lydia loses her anxieties: “I do believe now that the surgery is the best for me and that I hopefully will see again tomorrow.”
When Lydia enters the theatre in the afternoon, the fears came back. The surgical instruments and the strange people, all covered in scrubs and masks frighten her. She is about to leave the theatre but then Dr Tamara finds the right words for her and encourages her to lie down at the operation table. It takes only 20 minutes and Dr Tamara has changed the cataract lens and has inserted an artificial one into her right eye. The other eye will be operated one day later.
Moment of truth
A night of alternating doubts and hopes, whether she will see again or not, has passed. Now, Lydia waits with the other patients that received surgery yesterday before the examination room. And then, the great moment has come. Dr Tamara removes her eyepatch gently. Some moments pass by and then Lydia bursts into laughter, both cheerful and disbelieving.
I was so scared at first and I didn’t want my eye to be touched by the doctor, but now I can see and everything I can do now is smile and laugh. I can't wait for the doctor to fix my second eye.Lydia
Scenes back home
After the second surgery on her other eye, also a resounding success, Lydia is ready to head home. “The doctor is my sister now”, Lydia answers her full of joy and leaves the room – not stooped, unconfident and guided by a nurse but upright and self-confident. What a change in only two days!
Steve takes her and the other patients back home to Salima. Lydia no longer needs assistance. She walks straight back to her small home. “I recognize everything and I know my way around again. Before, someone has to assist me to find my way”, she says. And it doesn’t take long until her grandchildren show up – followed by half of the village. They can hardly believe that her grandmother can see again. “I am so happy to see my grandchildren and to be independent again.”
I am going to tell other people to go to the hospital too, when they lose their vision. I pray for the people at the hospital to continue their good work and I also pray for the donors to help more blind people like me. I am saying a big thank you to everyone.Lydia