“It was hell” is how Thomas Chakalela describes his life after losing his vision to cataracts.
It was bad enough when complications from diabetes resulted in the amputation of his left leg. But things got worse for the Zambian farmer when, shortly after the amputation, he gradually lost his vision. He was forced to retire from the farm he’d worked for ten years and unable to perform even the simplest of daily activities.
To Thomas, his future seemed blank. His wife could not do anything other than help care for him, and his blindness affected his work, his business and his family. He thought he would never see again.
Because of Operation Eyesight’s generous donors, that did not prove to be the case! When attending Chongwe District Hospital for physiotherapy, a nurse there diagnosed his cataracts and referred him to the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) eye clinic, located in Zambia’s capital Lusaka, about 64 kilometres away from Thomas’ home. The hospital has been a valued Operation Eyesight partner since 2004.
Now Thomas has had both his cataracts removed, and his life no longer seems so bleak. “I feel like I was born today!” he told our staff. Now Thomas has his independence back, is again running his farm, and also helps pay for local orphans to attend school.
For the staff at UTH, Thomas has high praise. “They did a tremendous job. The doctor is marvelous.” And to the Canadians and other donors who made his surgery possible? “I am grateful,” he says. “Please keep supporting people like me. May the good Lord add more years to your life so that you may live longer to see the many people you are helping!”
Although many people without diabetes get cataracts, it’s estimated that people with diabetes are 60 percent more likely to develop them. People with diabetes are also most likely to get cataracts at a younger age, and have them progress faster. The cause for this isn’t yet known, but regular eye exams are the best way to diagnose cataracts and other problems. Be sure to get your eyes tested regularly!