It took just 15 minutes, and Rabi Ali already lay in bed at Tulsi Chanrai Foundation Hospital, Abuja, recovering after a surgery to remove cataracts that had disturbed her for years.
She journeyed from Sabon Wuse in Niger state to have the surgery, free.
“I have been having this eye problem for two years now and my neighbour told me that when next the Tulsi Chanrai Foundation come for outreach in our community, she will let me know,” she says through an interpreter.
The neighbour had also undergone surgery months ago
When the outreach visited her community, she and 29 others were booked for surgery.
A bus transported them from Sabon Wuse to Abuja.
“Now, the surgery has been done successfully to remove the cataract and I am recovering,” she explained.
Yusuf Idakwo, from Kogi state also lives in Sabon Wuse, and was among patients booked for free cataract removal.
His cataract developed over years as dust from work on his farm repeatedly got into his eyes.
He was due for surgery a day after Rabi.
“When I started having the problem, I went to a hospital in Enugu, and they treated one eye, that was over 20 years ago,” he said.
The surgery he awaited is to remove cataract from his second eye.
The free cataract removals were staged to mark TCF’s one-year anniversary since opening up services at Kukwaba area, near Games village in Abuja.
The foundation has performed 2,504 free cataract surgeries for indigent patients since then under its Mission for Vision project.
A total 34,000 people have gone through the hospital in its one year of existence.
“About 60% to 70% of the services are provided free of any charge to marginalised communities, while for the rest tariff is at highly subsidized rate,” said Kannan Narayanan, TCF group advisor.
With the exception of the 2,504 free surgeries, the remaining 720 were paid for.
A total 77 outreaches to communities have been held to fish out patients like Rabi and Yusuf.
The Mission for Vision project also operates two programmes—one in Birnin Kebbi and another in Calabar since 2000.
Since then, the foundation has performed a total 124,000 free surgeries for the poor, said Narayanan.
The operations are in technical collaboration with Aravind Eye Care System, with professional trained for eight months at AECS facilities in India.
A consultant ophthalmologist at the hospital, Dr Deepak Kumar, said 90% of the surgeries were for cataract and glaucoma.
“These are leading causes of blindness, but with a 15-minute surgery for cataract and an hour-long surgery for glaucoma the blindness can be prevented,” he said.