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A Bright Future for Abenet

By Meseret Wodaje

Seven-year-old Abenet lives with his parents in the Agarfa District of Ethiopia. In September 2014 Abenet started first grade along with his friends in one of the schools in their village. Before the excitement could even begin however, he started experiencing low vision as white dots in his eyes started to expand.

Abenet’s parents spotted the white dot a year before, but they thought it would eventually disappear by itself. They have never realised that their son’s vision condition would go from normal to him becoming nearly blind. Abenet was forced to drop out of school after just few months in class as his vision continued to deteriorate to mere light perception.

After leaving his school, Abenet became increasingly dependent on his siblings and parents in his daily routine. He needed assistance to eat, change cloths, and bath. He stayed at home every whole day, envying his friends who were still in school and playing outside as they pleased.

Abenet’s father realised that their son’s vision wasn’t improving and decided to seek medical help. Mr. Hailu took his son to Bale Robe Hospital within their district. After his screening, Mr. Hailu was told to take his son to the Hawassa Referral Hospital for further examination and medical procedures where an Orbis supported peadiatric eye care service is available.

On the 9th of June 2015, Mr. Hailu and Abenet made their way to Hawassa University Referral Hospital which is 178 kilometers away. Abenet underwent a thorough examination and was diagnosed with bilateral developmental cataract. He was scheduled for surgery a month later.

Cataract is a painless clouding of the lens that blocks the passage of light to the retina, the nerve layer at the back of the eye, preventing the patient to see clearly. Cataract can have many causes including injury, age and even being born with it.

Abenet and his father returned to Hawassa Referral Hospital on the appointment date. After receiving counselling, Abenet underwent surgery on his right eye. Another surgery on Abenet’s left eye was carried out on the soon after. These two quick surgeries truly changed Abenet’s future for good. During his post-operative examination his vision was found to be near perfect.

Abenet wore his first ever smile since losing his vision when he saw his father for the first time in months. His father could not hold his excitement and told the Doctor who performed the procedure how grateful he is for witnessing the miracle he had been longing for. “Now I can sleep at night without any nightmares about my son going blind. Now I know he is going to be more than fine”, he gratefully explained.

Cataract is a number one cause of blindness and low vision in Ethiopia accounting for 600,000 blind individuals and over 1.1 million with low vision according to the 2005/6 National Survey on Blindness, Low Vision and Trachoma. Out of this, one tenth of children are suffering from blindness caused by cataract which can be easily prevented with 15 to 20 minutes of surgery on secondary and/or tertiary eye care unit levels.

Your donation toward Orbis Africa’s work helps to turn this preventable tide from impacting thousands of children’s childhood memories.

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