A normal day in the life of Dr. Slyvain el-Khoury who, until recently, was the CBM ophthalmologist working at the Kabgayi Clinic in Rwanda.
When the man in the white coat enters the waiting area of the Kabgayi clinic in Rwanda, Rebecca Uwimpuhwe jumps up. She can see him! In front of her stands the doctor who was just a faceless voice to her, and who then gave her eyesight: Dr. Sylvain el-Khoury.
Laughing, the doctor and patient greet each other with their elbows. Because of the corona virus, both need to be careful. "But I wanted to see my patient again," says Dr. el-Khoury. He feels tied to Rebecca’s fate now.
The ophthalmologist first met Rebecca in early 2020. The 32-year-old was completely blind. An eye infection had caused retinal damage, and then cataracts in both her eyes. As a result, the elementary school teacher lost her job. “I couldn't prepare for the lessons, I couldn't read or do anything,” she says. None of the doctors she visited were able to help her.
Rebecca needed a retinal specialist. But there are only two in Rwanda. One of them is the German Lebanese doctor Sylvain el-Khoury, who works at the Kabgayi Clinic on behalf of CBM.
Rebecca made a 6-hour long bus journey to reach Kabgayi located in south Rwanda. “When I arrived, I started having hope, because I heard some people recovered their sight at Kabgayi. I met the doctor, who promised me that my sight will be restored again.’’
After the successful surgery, it was a celebration of happiness in my family. I now praise God for my sight, and again I thank Dr. el-Khoury, for the tremendous work I witnessed. I wish him endless blessings, may God bless him and many thanks to the whole Kagbayi team and the donors as well.Rebecca, after recovering her eyesight.
Dr. el-Khoury's goal: to help marginalised people realise their potential
Dr. Sylvain el-Khoury decided to become an ophthalmologist to empower people like Rebecca. “As a teenager, on a trip to Mauritania, I saw that almost all old people were blind from cataracts,” recalls the 35-year-old.
That still affects him today, because: “A cataract operation is a matter of ten minutes!” But there are no doctors in many poor countries. So, Dr. el-Khoury decided to work in Rwanda.
During his time as head of the retinal department at Kabgayi, the clinic attracted more and more patients from all over Rwanda and neighbouring countries.
Although the young doctor enjoyed his work, after 1.5 years he noticed that something was missing: family and friends. “The clinic is very remote and I was lonely,” he admits. With a heavy heart he decided to end his stint in Rwanda. But as long as there is no local successor, he will continue to fly to the country for short missions.