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Surgery restored my sight

Arthur Nderitu never imagined that he would undergo surgery in his lifetime .

The 30-year-old was born with normal eyesight but started having problems when he joined class eight.

“At first we thought it was an allergy but after seeking medical attention, I started wearing prescription glasses which did not help much,” said Nderitu.

When he joined high school in 2001, he was advised to use contact lenses.

“Using the lenses in a boarding school was not easy. I had to maintain high standards of hygiene to avoid getting infections,” he said.

“ At times, the lenses would pop out during class or while eating. I also had to avoid vigorous activities,” added Arthur who was born in Kericho but raised in Buruburu. 

Get worse

The situation got worse and he had to undergo a corneal transplant. The operation involves removing the damaged cornea and replacing it with a donated cornea tissue called a graft. 

The graft is usually obtained from a recently deceased person who had no known diseases or other factors that may affect viability of the donated tissue or the health of the recipient. 

Since the cornea does not have blood vessels, race, colour, blood type and near or far sightedness are not considered in selecting a donor as they do not affect the outcome of the surgery. 

In Arthur’s case, the corneas had to be imported and after the long wait, he was finally booked for surgery at Kikuyu Eye Hospital in 2005. 

“One cornea cost Sh100,000, while surgery and follow-up were Sh200,000. I was fortunate because my parents had medical cover,” said the first born in a family of four.

Surgery

The surgery was conducted by Dr Millicent Kariuki and was done in two phases, one in 2005 and the other in 2006. 

To recuperate, corneal grafts are covered with eye shields for a few weeks or even months. Arthur took two and three months respectively for each of his eyes. 

After surgery, he was put on medication to prevent graft rejection. 

He also had to wear sunglasses to shield his eyes from sunlight and to prevent injuries.

While results of corneal grafts are successful, the procedure has its own complications. 

Some of these include unusual redness of the eye, irritating sensitivity to light, negative vision changes and constant pain or dull aching of the eye.

Broken sutures

Some patients may experience wound separation where a small gap may occur in the graft area, loose or broken sutures that cause a gritty foreign body sensation especially when blinking, and astigmatism, which occurs when the grafted cornea has an oblong shape rather than a round one. 

Patients of corneal transplant are advised to avoid situations that might harm the eye and strictly follow medication regiments for successful surgery results. 

Arthur is among the lucky few whose vision was restored faster than expected as in some cases it can take up to 10 months to years for full recovery.

“I have a perfect vision now. I have come a long way from my days of short sightedness. I’m very happy,” said the laboratory technician.