, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 11 – “My eye problem began when I was small. When I started going to school, I could not read books like others. I cannot see far. I wish someone could help me, maybe donate a cornea for me,” says 14-year-old Reynard Omondi.
The brilliant, obedient and ambitious standard eight pupil who wants to become an engineer in future is one unfortunate boy.
He may lose his eyesight if nothing is done urgently.
For most of his 14 years, he has been suffering in pain with itchy eyes assuming it is just a normal allergy.
Only last year did Ronald Ngala Primary School Deputy Head-teacher John Waithaka realise that the boy’s eye problem was serious and required urgent medical attention.
“We detected there was a problem because of the way the boy was straining to use the spectacles he had,” explained the teacher.
Omondi’s mother had moved from chemist to chemist, from dispensary to dispensary getting eye drops and prescriptions with the hope that her son’s eye problem would go away.
But his teacher explains Omondi’s problem got bigger by the day. He has to move close to read any writings on the black board.
“He is seated at the front (as you can see) so that he can read what is written on the board and still whether he will remove the spectacles or not, you can identify the boy is still straining,” he asserted.
“If nothing is done urgently, this boy may even become blind,” he further warns.
Ronald Ngala School is under the Nairobi City Council. During one of its free eye check-ups Omondi was discovered to have a grave eye problem that requires him to get cornea grafting.
He was referred to Lion’s Eye Hospital in Nairobi where he was told he needed Sh120, 000 to get cornea grafting.
The hospital’s eye bank technician Gerald Muriithi says his case is a priority since his right eye is already developing other complications.
“The right eye is quite serious. The vision he also has on the left eye is not as much too. He is not able to see very far. He can only be able to count fingers at a range of one metre. The right eye is the one scheduled for cornea grafting because it can only see movement of the hand from a very close range. It has also developed some other complications,” he details.
Unfortunately, his parents cannot afford anything close to Sh120,000.
Situated about 10 metres away from Nairobi’s eyesore Dandora dumpsite is Omondi’s one roomed house on the fourth floor of a block of flats.
Their room is divided with a curtain to separate the single-bed sleeping side from the other side which serves as the kitchen and the sitting room.
Omondi, his older brother and their parents are forced to live in the little room.
But with the hard biting economic times, Omondi’s mother says she struggles to make ends meet since her husband lost his casual job.
His mother parades herself around estates to get hired to wash clothes.
She makes around Sh200 on good days. She is now appealing for help to ensure that her son does not become blind.
In Kenya there are 250,000 blind people. Fifty thousand of them can regain their eyesight if they can get a cornea transplant. Already 2,000 people are on the waiting line of Lion’s Eye Hospital.
But due to lack of corneas and funds, Omondi has to wait for well-wishers to donate a cornea and also help him pay the 120,000 shillings required.
Lions Eye Hospital eye bank technician Gerald Muriithi says the hospital has to transport cornea from the US or the South Asian countries as no Kenyans have donated their cornea.
“Getting one cornea from the US is about Sh123,500 and not very many people are able to afford that. That is why we are appealing to Kenyans to start pledging their corneas when they die so that they can help those who need grafting,” he begs.