, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 24 – Reynard Omondi and his family cannot hide their joy after receiving news that a well-wisher has paid for his sight-restoring surgery through cornea grafting.
Tears of delight and disbelief are what engulfed the small family living in a one-roomed house near Dandora’s dumpsite.
“We are very happy, we are grateful to them and to God. I thought it would never be possible. I had given up, and I thought Omondi will stay blind, just tell them thank you… I don’t know them, but God will bless them,” Omondi’s mother explained as she uncontrollably let tears run down her cheeks.
But the prolonged cry left misgivings that all was not well.
Omondi’s father died just a day after the family heard the news of the donation.
“He is gone, but he left knowing that his son will have his eyesight back, I see the hand of God working in all this. It is a very sad moment for us, but joy that my son will see again gives me hope of living,” she said.
For Omondi who is sitting the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination this year, it was a tragedy that he had lost his father, but joy that he will not have to struggle to read again.
“I am sad that my dad is no more, but I thank those people for helping my mother to pay for me to get an eye surgery. Tell them that I will do all my best in my KCPE even though I cannot read properly, one eye cannot see anything, the other one can see something when I look at the paper more closely,” Omondi promised as he struggled to put himself together not to cry.
Despite the loss of his father only two weeks before sitting his KCPE, Omondi expressed confidence that he will pass the exam.
Their source of joy after the loss of their bread winner is the Miller Foundation.
The foundation associated with renowned city lawyer Cecil Miller donated Sh120,000 to Omondi to have cornea grafting for his right eye.
Miller Foundation’s Pauline Kamunya said they got to know about Omondi after Capital news reported that he could not raise money to have the surgery to restore his partial blindness. (http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/2011/08/14-year-old-boy-in-dire-need-of-cornea/)
“We thank Capital News for bringing Omondi’s story out, it was quite a touching story considering that he is a bright boy who is about to sit for his standard eight exam, he has got a life ahead of him but his eyesight is holding him,” she told Capital News.
Omondi’s right eye is completely blind, his left eye is also affected and according to Lions Eye Hospital Eye bank Technician/Counsellor Gerald Muriithi, he may require a second cornea grafting as the eye is also partially blind and is likely to get worse.
Kamunya pledged that Miller Foundation will not only support Omondi to get his eyesight back but will also support him financially in his secondary education once he completes his primary school this year.
“We do not want to support Omondi restore his blindness and just leave him there, we want to walk with him, we want to help him in his education, he comes from a poor family, his mother has not job, we will see how we will support him, and his family,” she pledged.
Omondi is now off the list of 1,500 people on the waiting list for cornea grafting at Lions Sight first Eye Hospital after the donation from Miller Foundation.
While she noted Omondi’s destitute background which could have otherwise led him to permanent blindness at such a youthful age, she urged corporates to join in the fight against reversible blindness.
“Omondi is today a beneficiary, he is not on the waiting list. Corporates and every individual should join in and play their part. No matter how small it is, it makes a difference,” she pleaded.
Kamunya said the Miller Foundation will embark on a long term programme to create awareness for cornea donation in Kenya and she called for support from likeminded people.
When receiving the cheque, Lions Sight first Eye Hospital General Manager Shamsherali Datoo appreciated the help from Miller Foundation saying it came in handy due to the high expenses involved in getting corneas from the US and South Asian countries.
He said Omondi will have the surgery after completing his KCPE on 10th November this year as he will be required to stay indoors for one month for the healing process.
“With what you are donating, the eye bank committee will ensure Omondi will get quality treatment, even the follow up treatment,” he said.
“We are happy with your generosity. There are many Kenyans who are still unable to afford a cornea graft, it is only donors like you, philanthropic people that we Lions get the encouragement that we can continue with the good of combating reversible blindness,” he appreciated.
Datoo explained that the hospital was already meeting the purchasing and transport cost of the corneas since most of the times they are not locally available. Like for Omondi, he said the hospital will meet source for the cornea and transport it to Kenya.
He expressed displeasure that very few Kenyans apart from few of the Asian origin were willing to donate their corneas.
“The waiting list is very long, we have to import corneas and this makes it very expensive and as a result some people give up because they cannot afford,” he explained.
“If we managed Kenya for Kenyans, why not have corneas for Kenyans?” he questioned.
Muriithi explained a cornea is the transparent front part of the eye that covers the iris, pupil, and anterior chamber.
He said even after removal of the cornea upon the death of a donor, the eye is left in shape and it is not noticeable if the cornea was removed or not.