Foundation provides cataract surgery for 29 people in Keffi

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Recently, a non-profit organisation, AMA Foundation, provided 29 people in Keffi Local Government Area, Nasarawa State, with free cataract surgery. The foundation, which is based in Abuja, conducted the exercise as part of its health outreach, which it carried out every month in various communities across the country. Gracia Obi tells us about it.

The two-day health outreach involved a pre-operative assessment of the health of the patients, the cataract surgery (which lasts no longer than 10 to 15 minutes), and a post-operative assessment, whereby the patients are re-evaluated by the doctors and given eye drops that would last up to two months.

Cataract is the clouding of the lens of the eye which affects clear vision. Cataract develops as a result of the lens of the eye becoming opaque (cloudy) such that light cannot easily pass through it. The opacity of the eye makes it difficult for patients who suffer from cataract to have clear vision.

Furthermore, it is the leading cause of blindness worldwide and also the leading cause of blindness in Nigeria, as there are more than 486,000 adults living with cataracts around the country. Cataract is treatable through surgery. The opaque lens is surgically removed and replaced with an artificial lens. Adult patients can regain full optimal vision after a successful cataract surgery. Although cataract can easily be treated through surgery, not everyone can afford it. Surgery can cost between N30,000 to N200,000, depending on the procedure being done. Unfortunately, there are not enough ophthalmologists (eye doctors) in Nigeria, particularly in Northern Nigeria.

AMA Foundation conducted a health outreach in January 2013 to provide malaria medication, mosquito nets, and other medical services. They also carried out eye screening and registered people who were in need of cataract surgery. 43 people were shortlisted and registered for cataract surgery. The second trip to Keffi was dedicated to performing surgery and providing follow up medication and treatment to those identified as needing cataract surgery.

The AMA team was made up of eleven personnel, including medical doctors, nurses, volunteers and others in management/logistics. The AMA team had to prepare the patients for surgery by first conducting a pre-operative assessment of their health. Each patient had their urine and blood pressure tested before the commencement of the surgery, in order to verify which patients were diabetic or those whose blood pressure was above normal. The patients were escorted to the hospital by their close relatives, who assisted them before and after surgery, as most of the patients were elderly and ranged between 60 to 70 years old.

The patients that arrived for the pre-operative assessment varied in age, gender and severity of visual impairment. For example, Hassan Maikasuwa, a 74 year-old man has been suffering from the disease since 1957. He has completely lost sight in one of his eyes. He said that he has traveled far and wide to find suitable medication for his ailment. He has traveled to hospitals in Kano, Kaduna, Abuja and Saudi Arabia, in order to receive treatment for cataract. Hassan used to work as a farmer but developing cataract in one of his eyes has prevented him from farming. Hassan is head of a large family consisting of four wives, twenty-four children and forty grandchildren.

Aishatu Musa, a 60 year-old woman, had been suffering from cataract for close to a year. She said she fell ill one morning, as she tried to perform ablution, in order to do Islamic morning prayers, when she discovered that she had lost vision in one of her eyes. Aishatu’s brothers and sisters have passed away, leaving her as the matriarch of her family. Her niece and daughter escorted her for the pre-operative assessment that morning.

After the pre-operative assessment, the patients were taken in for surgery. Most of the patients had their surgery done on the first day of the health outreach and were given beds in the hospital where they could recuperate from their surgeries. On the second day, the doctors conducted a post-operation assessment on all the patients and certified that each patient had a successful surgery without any complications. The doctors then discharged the patients. Each patient was given eye drops that would last for two months with instructions to apply them three times a day. The doctors reiterated these instructions to the relatives of the patients, so as to ensure they assist them in taking their medication.

Aisha Yusuf Mamman, the Program Director for the foundation, expressed her satisfaction with the success of the cataract surgeries and expressed the foundation’s commitment to giving back to those in need. Regarding the second Keffi health outreach, Aisha said, “AMA Foundation’s main aim is to do cataract screening and surgery for people suffering from cataracts. We were able to register about 40 people during the screening exercise, although we budgeted for 50 people for the surgery.

“We were able to successfully do surgery for 29 patients. Some had high blood pressure and failed to return after we prescribed medication to them. Three people did not return, so instead of having 32 patients we had 29 patients. And for our youngest cataract patient, 3-year-old Salisu Ibrahim, he will be going to Kaduna to meet with Dr. Amina, the lead ophthalmologist for his operation, which will be funded by the foundation.

“I think it was great that we were able to restore people’s vision, especially people that have bilateral cataract, that is those who cannot see at all. So, by tomorrow, when they open their eyes, they will be able to see. It is a really simple operation, so it’s a good thing we can reach out to assist people regain their sight. Helping people and giving back is fundamental to the foundation.”

Dr. Murtala Mohammed Umar, who collaborated with the foundation on the Keffi health outreach, commended the work of the AMA Foundation and acknowledged that it is an organisation that stands out, in terms of its standards and it dedication to leaving a lasting impact on the lives of people.

He said, “I think AMA Foundation is doing a great job. I must say that I have worked with several philanthropic organisations and NGOs; AMA is one of the best. In most of the outreaches I go to, announcements are done and people come, they are screened, surgery is done and there is no proper follow up. AMA is different; there was a medical outreach here two or three months ago and these patients were recruited, their phone numbers collected; they all had tests done so that those who had diabetes and needed extra care because they are more susceptible to infections were noted; blood pressures were also measured. Most of the time, in outreaches in Nigeria, people do not do these things when these are supposed to be standard procedures.”

Dr. Amina Hassan, the lead ophthalmologist, said she enjoyed working with the AMA Foundation and looked forward to other health outreaches they will perform together, in other parts of the country. She stated, “I have been doing cataract surgery for a few years now, and I trained in doing it for children, so it is my passion because there is nothing like restoring vision to someone that is blind. It makes me happy, and so when the AMA Foundation approached me, I was willing to give them my assistance. So, this is the first surgery that we have collaborated on and I am happy to be a part of it.

“We are going to continue; this is not going to be the last place we’ll conduct free surgery. We need NGOs like this to help people because if not, they will all end up blind or going to traditional healers, who end up causing further complications to their eyes.”

The foundation shall conduct follow up visits to Keffi, to provide the patients with eye medication that would last up to six months.

Recently, a non-profit organisation, AMA Foundation, provided 29 people in Keffi Local Government Area, Nasarawa State, with free cataract surgery. The foundation, which is based in Abuja, conducted the exercise as part of its health outreach, which it carried out every month in various communities across the country. Gracia Obi tells us about it.

The two-day health outreach involved a pre-operative assessment of the health of the patients, the cataract surgery (which lasts no longer than 10 to 15 minutes), and a post-operative assessment, whereby the patients are re-evaluated by the doctors and given eye drops that would last up to two months.

Cataract is the clouding of the lens of the eye which affects clear vision. Cataract develops as a result of the lens of the eye becoming opaque (cloudy) such that light cannot easily pass through it. The opacity of the eye makes it difficult for patients who suffer from cataract to have clear vision.

Furthermore, it is the leading cause of blindness worldwide and also the leading cause of blindness in Nigeria, as there are more than 486,000 adults living with cataracts around the country. Cataract is treatable through surgery. The opaque lens is surgically removed and replaced with an artificial lens. Adult patients can regain full optimal vision after a successful cataract surgery. Although cataract can easily be treated through surgery, not everyone can afford it. Surgery can cost between N30,000 to N200,000, depending on the procedure being done. Unfortunately, there are not enough ophthalmologists (eye doctors) in Nigeria, particularly in Northern Nigeria.

AMA Foundation conducted a health outreach in January 2013 to provide malaria medication, mosquito nets, and other medical services. They also carried out eye screening and registered people who were in need of cataract surgery. 43 people were shortlisted and registered for cataract surgery. The second trip to Keffi was dedicated to performing surgery and providing follow up medication and treatment to those identified as needing cataract surgery.

The AMA team was made up of eleven personnel, including medical doctors, nurses, volunteers and others in management/logistics. The AMA team had to prepare the patients for surgery by first conducting a pre-operative assessment of their health. Each patient had their urine and blood pressure tested before the commencement of the surgery, in order to verify which patients were diabetic or those whose blood pressure was above normal. The patients were escorted to the hospital by their close relatives, who assisted them before and after surgery, as most of the patients were elderly and ranged between 60 to 70 years old.

The patients that arrived for the pre-operative assessment varied in age, gender and severity of visual impairment. For example, Hassan Maikasuwa, a 74 year-old man has been suffering from the disease since 1957. He has completely lost sight in one of his eyes. He said that he has traveled far and wide to find suitable medication for his ailment. He has traveled to hospitals in Kano, Kaduna, Abuja and Saudi Arabia, in order to receive treatment for cataract. Hassan used to work as a farmer but developing cataract in one of his eyes has prevented him from farming. Hassan is head of a large family consisting of four wives, twenty-four children and forty grandchildren.

Aishatu Musa, a 60 year-old woman, had been suffering from cataract for close to a year. She said she fell ill one morning, as she tried to perform ablution, in order to do Islamic morning prayers, when she discovered that she had lost vision in one of her eyes. Aishatu’s brothers and sisters have passed away, leaving her as the matriarch of her family. Her niece and daughter escorted her for the pre-operative assessment that morning.

After the pre-operative assessment, the patients were taken in for surgery. Most of the patients had their surgery done on the first day of the health outreach and were given beds in the hospital where they could recuperate from their surgeries. On the second day, the doctors conducted a post-operation assessment on all the patients and certified that each patient had a successful surgery without any complications. The doctors then discharged the patients. Each patient was given eye drops that would last for two months with instructions to apply them three times a day. The doctors reiterated these instructions to the relatives of the patients, so as to ensure they assist them in taking their medication.

Aisha Yusuf Mamman, the Program Director for the foundation, expressed her satisfaction with the success of the cataract surgeries and expressed the foundation’s commitment to giving back to those in need. Regarding the second Keffi health outreach, Aisha said, “AMA Foundation’s main aim is to do cataract screening and surgery for people suffering from cataracts. We were able to register about 40 people during the screening exercise, although we budgeted for 50 people for the surgery.

“We were able to successfully do surgery for 29 patients. Some had high blood pressure and failed to return after we prescribed medication to them. Three people did not return, so instead of having 32 patients we had 29 patients. And for our youngest cataract patient, 3-year-old Salisu Ibrahim, he will be going to Kaduna to meet with Dr. Amina, the lead ophthalmologist for his operation, which will be funded by the foundation.

“I think it was great that we were able to restore people’s vision, especially people that have bilateral cataract, that is those who cannot see at all. So, by tomorrow, when they open their eyes, they will be able to see. It is a really simple operation, so it’s a good thing we can reach out to assist people regain their sight. Helping people and giving back is fundamental to the foundation.”

Dr. Murtala Mohammed Umar, who collaborated with the foundation on the Keffi health outreach, commended the work of the AMA Foundation and acknowledged that it is an organisation that stands out, in terms of its standards and it dedication to leaving a lasting impact on the lives of people.

He said, “I think AMA Foundation is doing a great job. I must say that I have worked with several philanthropic organisations and NGOs; AMA is one of the best. In most of the outreaches I go to, announcements are done and people come, they are screened, surgery is done and there is no proper follow up. AMA is different; there was a medical outreach here two or three months ago and these patients were recruited, their phone numbers collected; they all had tests done so that those who had diabetes and needed extra care because they are more susceptible to infections were noted; blood pressures were also measured. Most of the time, in outreaches in Nigeria, people do not do these things when these are supposed to be standard procedures.”

Dr. Amina Hassan, the lead ophthalmologist, said she enjoyed working with the AMA Foundation and looked forward to other health outreaches they will perform together, in other parts of the country. She stated, “I have been doing cataract surgery for a few years now, and I trained in doing it for children, so it is my passion because there is nothing like restoring vision to someone that is blind. It makes me happy, and so when the AMA Foundation approached me, I was willing to give them my assistance. So, this is the first surgery that we have collaborated on and I am happy to be a part of it.  

“We are going to continue; this is not going to be the last place we’ll conduct free surgery. We need NGOs like this to help people because if not, they will all end up blind or going to traditional healers, who end up causing further complications to their eyes.”

The foundation shall conduct follow up visits to Keffi, to provide the patients with eye medication that would last up to six months.

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