Baraka’s story – A miracle journey
Meet Baraka (pictured), the endearing two-year-old who is adored by all in his village. Baraka loves nothing more than a good cuddle, and people love giving them to him! Although he can navigate short distances, Baraka is unable to see the faces of the people who respond so delightedly to his hug demands, including his own Mother. Why? Little Baraka has cataracts.
Baraka’s Mother, Zena Salum Ally, noticed a problem with her son’s sight a year ago “Baraka plays less than other children; he does walk around but most of the time he keeps himself [near] the walls and sometimes he falls and hurts himself.”
Cataract is often something we associate with older people not children, but it can affect those of any age. And developing cataracts as a child can leave your sight at risk of never properly developing. In all cases surgery needs to happen as soon as possible and if a child is still affected by the age of seven, the chances of vision being improved following surgery decreases dramatically.
Zena could see that Baraka’s sight was deteriorating, “he’s never had a serious accident, but one time when he was walking around and there was a tree just in front of him, because he can’t see he just walked straight and he cut his eye.”
Worried for her son, Zena desperately tried to get medical help. Eventually Baraka was diagnosed with bilateral cataract (cataracts in both his eyes), he was referred to the regional hospital but unfortunately they didn’t have the facilities there to perform child cataract surgery. So despite knowing what the problem was, she had no choice but to take Baraka home without treatment.
Why a child cataract operation costs £50/ €56/ $77:
– Operating on such a small patient requires general anaesthetic to stop movement and pain;
– it takes longer for little ones to recover, so they often have to stay overnight;
– add this to specialist surgical supplies, equipment and staff training – the costs soon mount up.
His mother felt defeated, “I came home and I was very sad, I felt there was no hope for his future.”
Zena is unable to earn for her family. Instead she stays at home and looks after little Baraka all day. At such a young age and with his impaired vision, he is in constant danger of hurting himself.
Update 21st October 2016
Luckily for Baraka, soon after he was diagnosed his mother, Zena heard an announcement about a screening from a car passing through her village. She said “I took [Baraka] for screening, they looked at him and said they would take him to Muhimbili for the surgery. I felt so good about this.”
Although they had a long journey ahead – the journey to Muhimbili Hospital is over 100 miles by car – Zena was in high spirits, “I am happy and excited about the surgery and I know that it will be fine… With the surgery Baraka will be able to do a lot more things, like playing around with others.”
Baraka, being so young, wasn’t so keen on the trip. Zena managed to distract him well, tickling and giggling playfully with him in the back of the Sightsavers ambulance. However, as the hospital neared it was hard for even her to hide her nerves.
On arrival, the crammed clinic was visibly overwhelming for Baraka. He clung to his mother and grizzled into her neck, clearly uncomfortable in the unfamiliar surroundings. He soon quietened down though, as the two prepared to get some sleep ready for the operation the next day.
The following morning the nurses came to take Baraka to surgery. The stress of the new surroundings and being separated from his mother was tough for little Baraka and he started to cry. But it wasn’t long until the anaesthetic kicked in so the surgeon, Dr Nyaluke, got straight to work. Dr Nyaluke carefully removed a cloudy lens from each of Baraka’s eyes and replaced them with new ones – ones that would last him a lifetime.
The day was emotional for Zena too. Sitting in the waiting room she was visibly anxious awaiting the return of her son. But by the time the sun rose the following day all worries were forgotten. It was time for Baraka’s bandages to be removed.
As soon as the doctor carefully removed the bandages, Baraka began looking around. He was a little fearful at first but he finally confirmed, “I’m seeing you” to his delighted mother.
The next step for Baraka was a couple of days stay at the regional hospital where he could recover fully before returning home. But before the ambulance reached the hospital, it stopped off at Baraka and Zena’s home, and for the very first time Baraka saw the faces of his adoring family.
He was initially cautious but he instinctively followed the voices of his aunties and grandad who lived with him, and one by one gave them a big hug. It was a moment of discovery and revelation for Baraka, and one of pure joy for his family!
Zena expressed her gratitude, saying “I am thankful [to the people who donate to Sightsavers] and I ask that people keep doing the good work as there are many people who cannot afford these surgeries but with their help many more people can be helped.”
Baraka’s journey was truly one from darkness to light, from hope to happiness. And it’s one that you can help another family make.
Will you donate today and help others like Baraka to see the faces of their loved ones?