The existing rate of blindness in the country is likely to increase, if adequate and expeditious measures are not taken to arrest the after effects of the ebola virus disease treatments meted out to survivors, most of whom are currently complaining of eye-related illnesses.
Among many who are enduring these states of blindness in isolation countrywide, few have come out boldly to express their apprehension over the appalling situation, as they have said “it is deteriorating their condition on a daily basis, despite some self-supported eye treatments.”
Survivors from an ebola hotspot in east Freetown, particularly at 22 Mabel Brown Street, Rokupa community; where close to fifty inhabitants had contracted the virus with at least 32 succumbing to it, have explained that they cannot understand the problems with their eye sights, with some of them apparently partially blind; a condition they never had prior to their infection and treatment.
In a sombre mood, Hawa Kamara of 22 Mabel Brown Street explained: “I contracted the ebola virus from my mother who had earlier been infected by an ailing patient.
I reported early when I noticed an unusual headache and other symptoms symptomatic of ebola. But I was not treated for two days while I was admitted at the Lumley Treatment Center.
So I had to be transferred to the Police Training School Treatment Center, where I was cured.”
Sadly though, despite the fact that she survived, Hawa is currently not seeing with her left eye, with the right eye showing blurring vision. According to her, she has attempted several medications but has seen no improvement. “I lost my job since the day I became infected. I can’t afford the required medication. I am languishing in pain and trauma,” she cried.
Fatmata Sesay, another survivor who is also gradually losing her sight told Awoko that prior to her contracting the ebola virus; she had never experienced any eye problem. But ever since she was admitted for ebola treatment and after she recovered and was discharged, “I have not been seeing properly. My eye sight has blurred. I have applied several eye medications but I have not seen any improvement. My eye sight was good before I was infected, I was seeing far and near even when I was at the Treatment Center, but now, since I was discharged, my eye are getting dimmer and dimmer. I am too young to be blind and this is stressing me a lot,” Fatmata explained as tears run down her from her aching eyes.
She added that she has six children to look after as her husband had died many years ago, noting that it has been difficult raising the children alone even when her eye sight was normal and good, not to talk of if she should go completely blind. “If I go blind my children will suffer,” she lamented.
Augustine Sesay; a 21 year old man who is preparing for his WASSCE Exam, testified that following his discharge from an MSF Treatment center in Kailahun, he has been experiencing some irritations on his eyes, even though, according him, is not too severe but he is worried in case it starts becoming worse.
Narrating how he got infected, Augustine explains: “I contracted Ebola through my mother who in turn got infected from one of her church members. Later on, my mother died and my whole family (five of them) got infected and died. My mother got infected on the 14th October and died on the 18th October. She died at home because we went to the hospital and we were told that there was no bed to admit her”.
He went on: “Following her death, her swab was collected but we were never told she died from Ebola until everybody started feeling sick after sixteen days. Within that same week, my younger sister who was tending to my Mum got infected and died. My Dad too got infected. We took him to the hospital but we were told he had no Ebola. We brought him home and we started giving him self-medication. My father died in just three days following his discharge from the hospital. At this point, I considered myself a suspected case. Leaving my two siblings (seven years old sister and three years boy) behind, I voluntarily went to Connaught Hospital but I was denied admission on the basis that there was no bed” he muttered. Augustine furthered: “I then boarded a taxi and went to Hastings, where I was diagnosed of having the virus.” Following this revelation, he said, he was boarded on an ambulance and taken to Kailahun at the MSF Treatment Centre, where he survived the disease. Following his discharged, he went to Freetown and learnt that his two siblings he had left behind later became infected and taken to the Bandajuma Treatment Centre in Bo district. He rushed to the treatment centre in search of them, where he was told that his brother and sister had died.
While getting prepared to attempt a pending WASSCE Exam, Augustine is currently going through the trauma of losing all of his relatives in ceaseless stream, while faced with so many social issues among which is the absence of a financial guarantor to pursue his education.
By Poindexter Sama
Tuesday April 21, 2015