Category Archives: Malawi
I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing! It was such a great moment for Sambani, and he was so honest.
I met Sambani two days before, indeed depressed and sad. Dr Ute Wiehler has operated his first eye, and I did his second cataract operation two days later. All went well, even better than anticipated! I now saw him playing skittles with Coke bottle tops in the eye hospital courtyard with another boy who was staying in the hospital with his mother.
Sambani is from Kalonga Village in Lilongwe District. He lives with his parents and four siblings. He had been blind for two years, and had stopped going to school last year.
He had been doing well at school, and told me “I was an intelligent boy!” He was in standard 4 but his low vision “made me to be a useless boy” he said. I couldn’t believe what he was saying.
Sambani told me and nurse Rose, that he is now going to continue his education because he is “still young”. He wants to be a driver or a teacher.
It will be great to take Sambani back home today, so he can be with his whole family again, and then start school again next week when school opens for the new year. We will try and meet him again in a few months to see how he is doing.
Pieter, the South African missionary living near Monkey Bay phoned me yesterday. There are many people he has met in the villages who would like to, or need to, come to Nkhoma for their eyes. Lumbani will be heading down on Sunday with the ambulance to help collect them.
We will try and meet with Mary who lives nearby, and see how she is doing, 4 months after her surgery!
So an awesome week, an historic week, and a lot of fun with a few very happy patients!
Nkhoma now has a modern ‘phaco’ cataract surgery service! The first permanent such unit in Malawi. Fantastic.
Although the technique we use for cataract surgery for thousands of operations each year is very very good, and we can perform an operation to treat blindness in 7-8 minutes; the availability of ‘phaco’ allows for a much smaller incision in the eye, and a faster visual recovery. Also less astigmatism (and need for glasses) and glare after surgery. Some of the really good artificial lenses we can use, have a built in UV filter to protect the retina from the sun! Which is nice.
This country is beautiful, and surprises me every day.
Just 45 minutes drive south is Dedza, the next market town along the road to Blantyre. If you turn off the main road and drive on the gravel road a few miles towards the Mozambique border, through villages and around a few hills, you come across an old church where the road ends.
Dr Erik and Dr Naomi De Jong-Vink and baby Fenna Chimwemwe left Nkhoma after 4 years of fantastic work. Naomi was an excellent obstetrician. Erik set up the IT system, and it is thanks to him and his team that we have internet here in rural Malawi! He also worked on the Safe Motherhood programme, and spraying of the villages and hospital for mosquitos which has drastically reduces the incidence of malaria in the area.
On the morning that they went to the airport, Erik wanted to climb Nkhoma mountain one last time. So up at 4:30, four of us made it to the top just after sunrise.
We have done our first few cataract operations. I also saw a 12 year old boy who had a penetrating pen injury to his eye. Managed to sort it out in theatre.
Steve and Kambewa are driving 200 miles to Mangotchi and Machinga, near the lakeshore, tomorrow to meet the district health officer for his permission to work for patients in his area. It’s actually a very under-served area of Malawi, so a perfect place to start our outreach activities this year.
I was happy to arrive back in Nkhoma during the rains. They shouls have started in ernest 2 months ago, but have been somewhat scanty over the past weeks. The crops are surviving in the central region and over the past week we have had a number of huge down pours to soak the fields and keep fears in the villages about drought, failing crops and possible famine at bay. The country is completely different now… a green garden of Eden!
Some awesome electrical storms pass over Nkhoma. I was in the house during one two nights ago, and the thunder and lightning happened simultaneously as bright flashes surrounded the house. Poor Ellie ran for cover under the bed. I found out the next day that two cows were struck by lightning in neighbouring Dzuwa village. The owner of the cows fainted at the time, but is absolutely fine now. She still has six more cows, and villagers have been coming around to buy beef.
After less than two months of rain
I feel, as I’m sure many of us do just before the end of the year, a bit tired and exhausted! I am looking forward to spending time with my fiance, Jenn and our families. After a few days of rest and relaxation with those dearest to me, I can begin to join in the global festive cheer and goodwill. I am incredibly thankful for what we have, and what we can do.
I knew this year was going to be filled with milestones! Getting engaged, Nkhoma Eye Hospital passing the 25,000 cataract surgeries mark (since the year 2000), and completing the full second year of my time in Malawi. It has been a great year of teamwork with over 5,000 operations performed in rural Nkhoma Eye Hospital! The staff there are now taking a well deserved break with their families for the next few weeks!
I had just driven back from dusty Dedza Friday morning, and arriving at Nkhoma the heavens opened for the whole afternoon and most of the evening. The first rains of the season. It’s still 3-4 weeks earlier than usual. Fantastic to see an entire storm system from my house across the valley, slowly move closer, then engulf the house and village in rain and thunder and lightning; to then move on and leave crystal blue skies and finally quench the parched earth. Very sunny now on Saturday morning as I walk into hospital to see a few patients. Lucky really as it’s busy market day in the village and the sun guarantees good trade.