I am on a mission to save eyesight

70 year old, John Waithaka born in Ng’arua village

Had it not been for several eye surgeries, I would be blind today or relying on limited vision.

My name is John Waithaka and I was born 70 years ago in Ng’arua village in Laikipia District.

I taught in 18 primary schools in a career spanning more than 35 years and was later appointed District Inspector of Schools where I worked until my retirement. It was while in retirement, concentrating on farming and real estate sector that I began experiencing eye problems.

This thing comes with aging and at first I dismissed it. However, my vision became clouded and I could not see far away. I checked with a hospital and was diagnosed with cataracts of the eyes. Being diabetic largely contributed to the problem.

I was first operated at St Mary Mission Hospital in Gilgil but the condition deteriorated instead of improving. I moved to several hospitals having being referred from one to the other yet instead of getting better, my condition would worsen after a short stint following surgery.

It was in the process of seeking specialised eye treatment that I came across a group of missionaries from Europe. They assessed my condition and did surgery on both eyes. The vision in my right eye improved to a certain degree but the left can be said to be partially blind presently. I will be undergoing more surgery to try to correct its vision soon. This will make it the sixth surgery in a space of two years so far.

My experience so far has been an eye opener. I discovered a majority of residents in my community battling eye problems are financially handicapped and, therefore, cannot access affordable treatment. A single surgery can cost up to Sh200,000 and often one has to hold a fundraiser.

I was moved to action after a friend completely lost sight in one eye and another resident became clinically blind both as a result of diabetic complications. I pleaded with the missionaries to help the community by conducting free eye clinics from my home. This has become an annual event and is now entering its third year later this month.

Many members of the community have benefited from free glasses, medication and surgery. Critical cases are referred to St Mary Mission Hospital where these missionaries lease facilities. Over 20 surgeries have so far been carried out at no cost to the beneficiaries.