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Keratoconus has robbed Martha, 17, of her sight

By Vision Reporter

Added 25th April 2006 03:00 AM

Martha Mulongo, 17, has had an eye problem since she was two years old. It all started as itchy eyes during the day and by evening, the eyes would be red.

Martha Mulongo, 17, has had an eye problem since she was two years old. It all started as itchy eyes during the day and by evening, the eyes would be red.

By Christine Kintu
Martha Mulongo, 17, has had an eye problem since she was two years old. It all started as itchy eyes during the day and by evening, the eyes would be red.
An eye specialist, Dr Maria, said Martha had trachoma and that it would clear after six years but her condition did not improve.
Martha’s mother, Loy Mulongo, says they tried several doctors in vain and as time went on, Martha’s cornea in the right eye expanded and protruded.
Loy says her daughter laboured to study with this condition until she could read any more.
“I have lived on painkillers all my life. In school, I would read for 10-15 minutes, then rest. But I tried my best,” says Martha, who scored aggregate 24 in the Uganda Certificate of Education.
After Senior Four, Martha’s condition worsened. Both eyes got affected and the right one became partially blind. She dropped out of school while in Senior Five at St. John’s S.S in Mukono.
Martha says she cannot cook in smoke, walk in dusty places and cannot stand a lot of light.
“When it’s too bright, I cannot see clearly. I prefer being in the dark where my eyes do not strain and pain. Sometimes I feel so much pain that I cannot open my eyes unless in darkness.”
Martha’s mother says at Mengo and Mulago eye clinics, they were told that Martha had an inborn sickness. She says they have not tried local herbs because the eye is a very delicate organ.
Loy, a mother of four, says she feels cheated now that her daughter has lost her sight.
“I was doing my best as a single parent to educate my children, but Martha has gone blind.”
Loy earns her living through cultivation of maize, potatoes and beans in Iganga district. Apart from relatives in Kampala, she has no other help.
According to Dr. C.R. Tumwesigye, a consultant at Mulago Hospital, Martha has a condition where the corneas in her eyes become conical, leading to very high short-sightedness and astigmatism (blurred vision) as a result of unequal curvature of the cornea, preventing light rays from focusing clearly on the retina. The condition is known as bilateral keratoconus.
Tumwesigye says Martha’s vision cannot be improved with glasses but needs an urgent operation to save her sight.
Mulago Hospital has referred Martha to India for corneal grafting. The operation costs $6,860 (sh12m).
According to Dr Joji Prasad of Prasad Eye Institute in India, Martha needs a cornea transplant to save her sight.
“This involves a transplant from a donor and the patient has to use immunosuppressor drugs for the rest of her life to avoid organ rejection,” he wrote.
Loy came to The New Vision to appeal for help. Any assistance can be deposited on account number 012/021253901, Stanbic Bank, Entebbe main branch or brought to The New Vision head office.
Ends

Keratoconus has robbed Martha, 17, of her sight

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