Monica is a 31-year-old single mum. She has two boys, Moses Kiiru, 8, and Brian Kamau, 3. Monica also has diabetes. Earlier this year, Monica found out something else: she had bilateral cataract.
“All of a sudden I became short sighted and could not see things clearly,” Monica said. “Life was unbearable during that time but I had to be strong in order to provide for my children and raise them well.”
Adding to Monica’s woes was her husband who left her instead of caring for her. “When Monica got sick, her husband stopped caring for her – he never bought drugs for her and not even once did he offer financial support to her,” Monica’s sister Jane said.
It’s a challenge no mother should face. But she didn’t face it alone.
Two amazing women
As Monica’s situation developed, her sister Jane took her in, becoming the primary carer for Monica and Monica’s children. “I took Monica’s burden as my own and also took her children as my own,” Jane, said.
But poverty has also taken its inevitable toll on Monica who needs a special diet to control her diabetes, and Jane who sells firewood to make ends meet.
“I did all that with the little money I made out of selling firewood because I knew Monica was unable to do that,” Jane said
Kenya has a very high level of poverty, especially in rural communities. For subsistence farmers like Monica who can no longer farm maize, beans and potatoes, this put an enormous burden on Jane who now had three extra mouths to feed. But the lack of money created other problems – for the children.
“My sister is the one who has been taking care of them. She is the one who pays their school fees though sometimes it becomes difficult and they are sent home from school,” Monica said, indicating the obvious poverty cycle.
Accessing surgery at Sabatia Eye Hospital
With her sister Jane supporting the family financially and as a carer, Monica wasn’t able to afford the eye surgery she needed. Thankfully, The Fred Hollows Foundation was able to provide her with that surgery.
Monica was able to access cataract surgery from Dr Jean-Claude Niyonzima at Sabatia eye Hospital. She was optimistic, and already thinking about her kids. “I feel so happy because I know I will be able to see my children again,” she said.
Dr Jean-Claude was concerned about complications due to diabetes. “The problem is more than just cataract. The more the diabetes is not controlled, the higher the risk of having other similar manifestations of diabetes such as bleeding in the eye.”
Despite this, the surgery was a success. Monica’s sight was restored, and her reaction was that of joy. “I could not believe that I was able to see again. When the doctors took the bandages off, I was able to see the nurse who was there!”
The children were thrilled to see their mum healthy. “They were so happy I saw tears coming out of their eyes.” Monica said. “I danced so much even my sons joined me!”
Monica had a special message for donors to The Fred Hollows Foundation. “I would like to thank them so much. I am so happy that they’ve made a choice to help people like me for surgeries. May God bless them abundantly.”
Learn more about our work to help women and girls who are needlessly blind.