John 9:1-7 says: 1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”3“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
6After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7“Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
As many of you know, God has given me a “vision” to try to help the older people of Uganda with their untreated cataracts. We have been laying some ground work for “Mud in Your Eyes” ministries over the past 2 years. Our last 2 clinics of this trip will include eye care, as we seek to set an efficient format for finding patients with cataracts and then organizing/financing their care. It has been my thought that we could set up a small operating suite in Wentz Medical Center, our home base. Then go out to rural areas to host eye clinics. As we find appropriate cataract patients, we would arrange their transport on a specific week each month. For that week, we would try to schedule a visiting Ophthalmologist from the USA to come and do cataract surgeries all week. This may still become a reality.
This week, however, we worked with Dr. Viola, a local Ugandan doctor, while hosting our clinic in Ishaka. We invited her to dinner with us on Friday night. As we visited with her, we found out that her husband, Dr. Simon, is an Ophthalmologist in Mbarrara. He works at a private eye hospital and is also an attending (teaching) physician at a local eye residency program. This prompted me to push for a meeting with Dr. Simon while we are still in Mbarrara. That meeting happened on Saturday, while relaxing around the pool at our hotel. That’s right, our hotel has no AC, sometimes no power, and this morning no water, but it has a swimming pool!
In this relaxed setting, I was able to ask him many questions about the procedure of removing cataracts. I also learned much about the equipment and the aftercare. Dr. Simon has already been a great resource but the story does not stop there.
With some pointed questions to Dr. Simon, I think that we have narrowed the locations that perform cataract surgeries to 5 hospitals:
1.) Mulago in Kampala (capital city and national referral hospital)
2.) Mengo Hospital in Kampala – This is primarily an eye hospital, yet they only do about 30 cataract surgeries per week, in a country of 30 million.
3.) Private hospital in Eastern Uganda, right on the Kenyan border.
4.) Mbarrara University & Referral Eye Center (MURHEC), a teaching hospital in Mbarrara
5.) Ruharo, a private hospital in Mbarrara.
The whole western, southwestern and southern portions of Uganda, come to Mbarrara for their eye care. But despite being the regional medical hub for these 3 regions, they do very few cataract surgeries. Dr. Simon also made me aware of something that I had not thought of. He says that when someone has cataracts and the resulting visual loss, it not only effects the patient, but there is another component. Many times, a child is taken out of school to stay home and care for the disabled grandparent. This causes a trickle down social/educational problem as well. Another thing that he mentioned, is that our threshold for taking out cataracts in the USA is when vision gets as bad as 20/40. In Uganda, the cataracts are usually to the point of no light perception or perhaps being able to tell if a hand is waving in front of their eyes.
The teaching hospital in Mbarrara sees very few cataract patients. It is a new hospital and a new program. They perform the surgery for just the cost of the implanted lens ($20). Despite this, very few people get into the system enough to know that this treatment is available. I actually saw a 74 year old man last week that had been paralyzed for 50+ years and had never been to the doctor to figure out why!
I have begun to talk to Simon about a partnership. If we could set up our Mud in Your Eyes network for SW Uganda, we could bring all of those patients to Dr. Simon in Mbarrara. This would be much easier than trying to bring them an additional 5 hours back to Kampala. For an initial investment of $6,000 to buy 4 additional instrument sets (each will last about 1,000 uses) we can bring as many cataract patients as we can find to have their sight restored for about $20 each. If we can get some lenses donated by a drug company in the USA, the treatment would be free! In addition to this arrangement, it is likely that when we go out to host an eye clinic, to identify appropriate cataract patients, the residency could send a resident doctor with us to help screen the patients. This will insure that the people that we transport to the hospital have the correct diagnosis. If God allows this to come together, we will likely need an office space in Mbarrara, another vehicle and at least one full time staff member in Mbarrara. It was such a divine introduction to Dr. Simon.
Sunday evening, we were able to go with Simon and Viola to tour MURHEC and Ruharo. Both were nice, but MURHEC was really nice.
New facilities and easily as well built and kept facilities as we have seen in Uganda. MURHEC does intake on Mondays, surgery on Tuesdays, and then discharges patients over the next couple of days. There were no patients in the inpatient wards on this Sunday.
Following our tours, Dr. Simon and Dr. Viola took us to Igongo.
It is a place 12km out of Mbarrara. It has a nice restaurant, a cultural center/museum, and a new hotel. We learned more about the history of SW Uganda and the tribes from this area. We had a good meal and we were able to talk more about what God might have in store for this project.
Please join me in these specific prayers:
1.) That God would show us if this is the best way to get “Mud in Your Eyes” off the ground.
2.) That if this works, He will allow us to parlay this partnership and successes into partnerships in Eastern Uganda and perhaps our own surgery suite in Kampala.
3.) That He will show us the right staff member and facilities in the Mbarrara area.
4.) That He will provide the needed resources for initial start-up ($32,000 estimated total for medical tools, additional vehicle, and office start up).
Can you imagine the demonstration of God’s love when people who have been blind, can now see again? Can you imagine their witness to their family, friends, and village? We have been very clear with Dr. Simon that Jesus and the gospel will be intertwined in this project and he is very much ok with that.
Preparing for "Due Season".