By Adeola Adenuga
There is something about blindness that signals defeat. It must be something to do with being led by the hand, blind, relying on other people.
That was how many of them looked, blind men and women, wearing defeat like a robe, as they were led by the hand, by wives and husbands, sons and daughters and even neighbours, into the Okpe Hall, Sapele. They had come in response to the initiative by SEPLAT Petroleum Development Company, which was returning for the second time with its very well received corporate social investment drive, the Eye Can See programme.
The programme was launched last year and the first edition saw over 300 men and women regaining their sight. This year, the lucky ones were referred to the Sapele Central Hospital where Dr. Isaiah and his team performed corrective surgery to remove cataract.
Speaking on why SEPLAT is concerned with visual health, Austin Avuru, the MD/CEO, said: “The project is part of the company’s yearly CSI programmes and its objective is to make visual health accessible to people in Delta and Edo States, particularly those in our host communities”.
According to him, good eye health and eye care are crucial to preserving excellent vision and protecting overall health because eyes are the “gateway to your soul, and can influence or reveal common or serious health problems — such as diabetes and hypertension amongst other commonly associated health problems”.
During the programme, medical experts, including opticians/ophthalmologists and consultants, conducted free eye screening, correction and restoration surgeries (cataract) and counselling. They also distributed free reading glasses and treatment of eye related diseases like diabetes and hypertension in carefully selected centers across many communities in the two states.
Additionally, the patients were educated on how to detect cataract and glaucoma and provided post-surgery intervention and drugs. The medical consultants were supported by the Delta State branch of the Medical Women Association of Nigeria (MWAN) made up of medical doctors, laboratory attendants, nurses and pharmacists.
The turnout was impressive on the first day with almost 1,000 people. They were tested for hypertension and diabetes and those requiring visual aid received prescription glasses while over 30 were attended to for corrective and restorative surgery.
Those in need of surgery were taken to the Central Hospital Sapele where they were operated. The surgery, which lasts between 10 and 15 minutes, helps restore sight to completely blind people. Two of the lucky 30 selected on the first day were present at the inaugural programme in 2012. They had arrived completely blind in both eyes but left seeing in one eye.
One of them was Mrs Margaret Esunem, who lived at Yoruba Road, right opposite Union Bank. Blind for six years, she had been unable to get help for four years because, as she put it, she couldn’t afford it.
Others include Gladys Onomo, 69, who lived at 39, Green Egbedi Street, Sapele and Carol Egbiaduma of 41, Ogodo Street, Sapele.
The next morning, there was palpable joy as the bandaged eyes were removed and hitherto blind eyes blinked open to see the sun after years of darkness. The beneficiaries were full of praises for Seplat for restoring their sight.
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