Fifteen year old Eskedar Haji from Arwacha in Oromia State, Ethiopia, faced insults, bullying and discrimination after he became blind 6 years ago.
When we talked to Eskedar the day he regained eyesight he recalled: “I couldn’t go to school since there are no schools for blind children like me in the vicinity. I was not able to walk alone and also not happy that I had to depend on my brothers and sisters to move from place to place when I needed. I felt useless, nothing but a burden to everyone.”
Eskedar was one of 40 children who underwent surgery during a cataract campaign in Harar. Working with local partners from Harar, Jimma and Addis Ababa, Dr. Matt Oliva and the team provided over 1,300 sight-restoring cataract surgeries in six days.
Eskedar was accompanied by his father. “It took me for a while to believe that I can see. I thought I was dreaming. I am so very happy,” said Eskedar, while his father, overwhelmed by happiness, was shouting from a distance saying, “This is a special day in my life, I will consider it his new birthday.”
With many other patients ululating, laughing and singing in the background, Eskedar realized his life would be different from now on. ”I can’t wait to join other children at school now. I want to walk among them with pride. I will study hard and become an eye doctor.”
Himalayan Cataract Project board member Dr. Oliva, who oversees the Ethiopia program, must have left a strong impression on the boy because Eskedar joyfully said, “I can’t thank enough the “ferenji” (foreigner) doctor who operated on me and all the hospital team. I will always be grateful to him and the others for restoring my sight and giving me my life back.”
In one of his recent updates to the team, Dr. Oliva mentioned the increased interest of Ethiopian medical students wishing to pursue ophthalmology. Perhaps Eskedar will be one of them in a few years.
Please watch for our next blog: the incredible story of 13-year-old Henok Lema who had his sight in his right eye restored by Dr. Oliva.