by crossriverwatch admin
Elder Enebedum Ekedife is a native of Nobi in far away Anambra State, some three hundred kilometers from Calabar the Cross River State capital.
For the past three years, both of his eyes have been plagued with problems which have made him completely blind since mid 2012.
If he needed to eat someone had to be on hand to help him keep the food close to avoid spilling, even as frustrating as that could be, someone had to lead him by hand and remain close by each time the sixty three year old visits the toilet so he would not soil himself or the vicinity.
Even doing simple chores like putting on his clothes or undertake errands, his daughter, Jane, had to attend to him and run the errands for him causing the twenty one year old to abandon her studies at the Institute of Management and Technology, IMT, Enugu, in order to take care of him.
But that changed when he visited the Mission for Vision Center in Calabar, where he was operated on both eyes and has since recovered his vision.
“Many people who came to see me told me to come to Calabar and my daughter led me here by hand and last week I was operated upon and now I can see very well with both eyes”.
He said Jane, who is now ready to return back to her studies in IMT is ecstatic with her father’s significantly improved vision and is singing songs of praises not only thanking God but also the Cross River State Government and Tulsi Chanrai Foundation, operators of the free eye surgery program through which her father regained his lost sight.
As is with Elder Ekedife, so also for Madam Rose Ubani, 58, a retired school teacher from Abia State, who was flanked on both sides by her two children, Barbara and Chinedu who watched as tears of joy rolled down their mother’s cheeks while narrating her experience as she could not believe she would regain her sight after two years of living in darkness.
The fair complexioned woman said both of her eyes were covered by cataract for over two years and she thought that her enemies had prevailed over her and rendered her useless.
“I went to a traditional doctor who poured some painful substances into my eyes for over three months and nothing improved but rather my children saw a red patch develop in my left eye; It was while my problem was getting worse and I had to return home that one day my son’s friend who came to visit asked why we have not been to Calabar. That was how we came to know that I can be treated in Calabar free and today I can see clearly”.
The testaments of Mr. Ekunife and Madam Rose Ubani resonate with those of several thousands of others; young, old, men, women, the rich and the poor who have regained their lost or impaired vision through the free eye surgery provided by, Mission for Vision in partnership with the Cross River State Government and the Tulsi Charai Foundation which provides free eye surgery for eye patients.
Daily the precincts of the General Hospital Calabar, located along the Mary Slessor Avenue witnesses a deluge of patients various kinds of eye ailments from places farther afield as Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Rivers, Bayelsa, Edo, Abia Benue, Akwa Ibom and Kogi States seeking for free eye surgery effectively turning the place to a “pilgrimage” of sorts.
The Free surgery program has provided free eye surgery for over twenty six thousand patients since it started in 2003.
Surgeries that ordinarily would cost between 75, 000 and 120 Naira in private medical facilities and upward of 30,000 to 50,000 thousand Naira in teaching hospitals are done for free in addition to free medication, accommodation and bed accommodation for patients .
While the Cross River State government provides the necessary infrastructure such as surgical equipment, hospital wards, operating theater, clinic, residence for expatriate doctors and project vehicles, the Tulsi Chanrai Foundation on its part bears the cost of maintaining the expatriate doctors and managers, drugs and consumables, supportive staff, and the day-to-day maintenance of the center.
“For every patient who steps into this center, rich or poor, has the same quality of eye surgery and receives free drugs and free post operation checks” Dr Richard Sylvester, the Project Manager said.
And almost always, the fifty bed ward space flows with patients operated on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays by the team of expatriate ophthalmologists
“We dedicate Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays for surgeries and out-patient screening is on Mondays and Fridays while every Saturday, we do post operation check up for those operated within the week and the previous week”, Sylvester said.
He said it is necessary to make sure that everyone who needs the free eye services is fished out from the numerous villages especially those in Cross River State. The state government has provided a new bus that provides dedicated services ferreting patients from the eighteen local government areas of the state to the eye center in Calabar at no cost.
“There is a screening center in each of the eighteen local government areas in the state to identify and bring people who need surgery to Calabar to be attended to and from 2003 to February 2013, we have carried out 26,633 surgeries for people all over the South South and South East geopolitical region.” Dr. Sylvester said.
He added that the project which started as a mere trial camp in 2003 and attended to just 1,119, patients during its six months camping, has because of its initial success blossomed to a full- fledged eye surgical center which accounts for the high number of people from all over the South South and South East deluging the center daily.
“This is keeping with the Governor’s policy of reaching out to those who need government the most. The program was meant for people of the state but there is no discriminating where the person comes from as everyone is attended to the same way free”.
Mr. Christian Ita, Chief Press Secretary to Senator Imoke said to ensure sustainability of the program to keep providing the goodies flowing for a long time to come, the Tulsi Chanrai, Foundation has begun the training of six indigenous ophthalmologists both within and in India to increase and sustain the manpower base of the program.
This training is to infuse the right techniques and kind of eye surgeries done by the expatriates into the local ophthalmologists to meet the increasing number of patients that throng the place daily.
While the Cross River State Government through the program is demonstrating its care and commitment to the welfare of the people, the Tulsi Charai Foundation, a vision of the Tulsi Charai family, an Indian family which has been living in Nigeria for over one hundred years and doing textile business, the program is to sow back to the society from which it has been reaping from these past several decades.
“The Tulsi Charai family is an Indian family that has been living in Nigeria for the past one hundred years doing business and the free eye surgery for the people is their way of giving back to the society for which they have become part of over time”, said Dr. Sylvester.
He said plans are afoot to expand the program in the next few months by increasing the bed space from the present fifty to eighty while a phaco-emulsification machine, the latest on cataract surgery has been acquired to ensure speedy cataract operation so that even the rich who often travel outside the country for same surgery need can conveniently visit the center for surgery while the equipment would be used in correcting childhood blindness, congenital cataract.
“We already have ninety six children who were born blind registered with us and soon those ones would start seeing because pediatric cataract eye defect is curable. Outside cataract, eye defects such as glaucoma, and other would make use of the equipment. There is no terminal period for the program because it is for the people so we are making plans to increase its scope and standard to benefit more people”. Dr. Sylvester concluded.
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