Caring doctors reverse blindness

Florencio Nhabinde was at risk of going blind until he received a cataract operation at the weekend.

Nhabinde is among 67 people who were operated on by three surgeons at Leratong Hospital, in Krugersdorp, over a period of two days.

Cataract is a condition which results in the clouding of one or both eye leading to visual impairment.

More than 35,000 people in Gauteng alone are suffering from cataract-related blindness while there are 170,000 people who are waiting to get surgery across SA.

Yesterday, Nhabinde said he was relieved after struggling with eye problems for years.

"I struggled to see things from a distance. It became worse in April. It felt like I had something sharp piercing through my eye," he said.

Nhabinde said he consulted with a doctor who then wrote him a referral letter to the hospital so that he can get surgery.

The father of four who works as a part-time contractor said his eye problems were also making it difficult for him to do his job while threatening his livelihood.

"Having to work under the sun was extremely uncomfortable," he said.

"I'm still in pain after the operation but I have hope that I will start seeing a difference once I'm fully recovered."

Adelaide Magazi, 81, who was also among those to received surgery said she was grateful that her sight has been preserved.

"My eyes were fine until old age set in. I couldn't see properly and things looked blurry from a distance," she said.

Magazi said she looked forward to recovering and enjoying clearer vision.

According to the Gauteng health department, a majority of people who depend on the public health system would have to spend between R18,000 and R32,000 at private facilities for treatment.

About 6,297 people have been helped since the project started in 2005 through a partnership between the department and the Islamic Medical Association SA.

Project head Dr Shabbir Hussain said it was started to help people from underprivileged communities to get the surgery.

"In Gauteng province 35,000 people are blind because of cataract. We started this project and decided to use our weekends to offer vision to people who are living in the dark," Hussain said.

He said the surgery helped many people to avoid the devastation of going blind while improving their overall quality of life.

Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku said it was inspiring to see professionals give back to the community.

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