30 regain sight after transplants

GASABO - After successfully operating on 32 patients with optical problems, Maj. Dr. John Nkurikiye, an ophthalmologist at King Faisal Hospital yesterday confirmed that all the patients are recovering well. Nkurikiye, together with Prof. Geoffrey Tabin of the University of Utah in the US, conducted the first session of the Cornea transplants in July last year during the Army Week when 22 acquired new corneas. The other 10 underwent the surgical treatment last week in a two-day exercise and have equally shown impressive healing progress after medical examination.
Prof. Geoffrey Taban conducts a follow-up examination on Joseph Rugemandinzi yesterday. The eye patient underwent a Conea transplant in July last year. (Photo/ J. Mbanda)
Prof. Geoffrey Taban conducts a follow-up examination on Joseph Rugemandinzi yesterday. The eye patient underwent a Conea transplant in July last year. (Photo/ J. Mbanda)

GASABO - After successfully operating on 32 patients with optical problems, Maj. Dr. John Nkurikiye, an ophthalmologist at King Faisal Hospital yesterday confirmed that all the patients are recovering well.

Nkurikiye, together with Prof. Geoffrey Tabin of the University of Utah in the US, conducted the first session of the Cornea transplants in July last year during the Army Week when 22 acquired new corneas.

The other 10 underwent the surgical treatment last week in a two-day exercise and have equally shown impressive healing progress after medical examination.

According to the experts, a cornea is the transparent tissue that covers the front part of the eye.

“Carrying out operations to transplant corneas is not a very complicated task; however the critical phase is the follow up. Based on the results we see here today, all those who underwent surgery have had their eyesight restored.

“We do close follow up on these patients because worse eye defects could occur or one could even lose the cornea if the eye drops are not applied as prescribed,” the ophthalmologist said.

Nkurikiye added that optical experts have carried out cornea transplants in other African countries however Rwanda is among those that have shown great success as regards eyesight restoration through this exercise.

Prof. Tabin noted that most of the patients were blind while others could only see with one eye before the operations were done adding that today, each beneficiary has a story to tell.

“Those who underwent the operations must continue the eye-drop treatment forever because it takes a lot for the body to adjust to the new cornea(s). If any of them stops to use the medication, the body may reject the cornea(s),” he warned.

Nineteen year-old Joseph Rugemandinzi from Gicumbi told this paper that his sight has completely returned.

“Before this operation I could not walk without assistance, neither could I recognize my relatives.

“This operation was done in July last year and today I can see perfectly,” an excited Rugemandinzi explained.

Francis Kiiza, a teacher at Sunrise School in Musanze, also noted that the optical problems were a major setback in his profession citing that with two new corneas his performance at work is already improving.

He attested that after the July operation, he participated in the marking exercise of national exams after which he was recognized among those with the highest level of accuracy.

Officials add that these operations which would have cost each patient close to Rwf3 million outside the country, were done at no cost courtesy of partners like Prof. Tabin.

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