Kanombe Hospital conducts maiden cornea transplant

Yvonne Uwamungu, earned a living as a teacher in Kayonza. She developed an eye disease and lost both her sight and job. Yesterday, at Kanombe Military Hospital, Uwamungu underwent a cornea transplant operation, beginning her long journey to recovery.
 Dr. John Nkurikiye performs a cornea transplant operation . The New Times /John Mbanda
Dr. John Nkurikiye performs a cornea transplant operation . The New Times /John Mbanda

Yvonne Uwamungu, earned a living as a teacher in Kayonza. She developed an eye disease and lost both her sight and job.

Yesterday, at Kanombe Military Hospital, Uwamungu underwent a cornea transplant operation, beginning her long journey to recovery.

 “I underwent my first operation in 2009. I travelled to South Africa but the operation wasn’t successful,” she said.

“I was told there was a Rwandan Doctor who carries out this surgery and that is how I ended up here, After this operation, I want to get my teaching job back” Uwamungu added just before the operation.

Uwamungu was among the four patients who, yesterday, underwent cornea transplant surgery at Kanombe Military Hospital - the first such undertaking in the hospital.

The cornea tissue, which catered for the four patients, was a donation from Eyesight International, a US based NGO dedicated to eliminating blindness and bringing self-sustaining eye-care to rural communities in the developing world.

The surgery was performed by Lt. Col. Dr John Nkurikiye, an ophthalmologist at both King Faisal and Kanombe Military Hospital.

Nkurikiye explained that the surgery is meant for people whose cornea is opaque thus leading to poor sight.

“When one’s cornea is transparent and the eyes lose sight, then they have to undergo cornea transplantation in order for them to regain their sight.”

He added that the new cornea tissue is obtained from dead people, extracted less than six hours after the person’s death.

Dr Nkurikiye added that there are plans to begin operations to extract the cornea tissue in Rwanda, to limit importing, which he said, is costly.

He pointed out that there were still more patients on the waiting list, but the available cornea tissue was insufficient.

The surgery costs approximately Rwf 1 million and so far, 43 Rwandans have benefitted.

Lt. Col Jean Paul Bitega, the Clinical Officer at the hospital, stated that they intend to start performing the surgery on a weekly basis if they get more cornea donations.

Ends

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