When the blind see again

When the blind see again

MAPOTENG – AT MALUTI Seventh Day Adventist Hospital, the blind see again.
Mention the name Mapoteng, a semi-urban town on the foothills of a range of Maluti Mountains in Berea district where the hospital is situated, and those around you are likely to say Lingakeng.
The hospital has given Mapoteng its surname Lingakeng (where doctors are) because of the meticulous way its doctors and nurses take care of patients.

The hospital is well known countrywide and beyond for its first class eye treatment and surgery.
While many Basotho go to South Africa for treatment for conditions such as cancer, many South Africans come to Lesotho for eye surgery at the Maluti Hospital.

“We are proud and at the same time grateful to God that many patients come to us totally blind but within a day or two they go back to their homes seeing,” Moroesi Kokome, the hospital’s Human Resource Manager, says.
“It is touches our hearts to see an elderly woman coming to the hospital totally blind and when her vision is restored she leaps like a little child with joy,” Kokome says.

“You too will shed tears of joy when you see the elderly looking at different directions and joyfully exclaiming that she didn’t know that the dress she is wearing is beautiful,” she says.
A student doctor at the hospital’s eye treatment department, Lereko Thokoa, who is also an ophthalmic nurse, says some of the patients are in their 90s and their vision is restored.

“What makes me happy is to see them seeing again,” Thokoa says.
When someone is old, especially over 80 years, their blindness is often described as part of ageing and they are not taken to a doctor for eye treatment.

Aware of this practice throughout Lesotho’s villages, the hospital has trained a man to identify different kinds of blindness so that he can advise patients to go for a specific kind of treatment.
The man goes around the country and especially targets hard to reach areas where he assesses people’s blindness and help them book appointments with the hospital.

At least three to four times a year the hospital engages specialists from abroad to conduct intricate eye operations for patients who have booked appointments. This week the hospital has invited specialists from Mexico.
When thepost visited the hospital on Tuesday, tens of eye patients were arriving from all over the country for further examinations and treatment.
Sitting on benches in the passage leading to Thokoa’s examination office, young and old patients waited patiently for their names to be called.

An elderly woman who was aided by her granddaughter to Thokoa’s office could not believe that she would see again after five years of blindness.
“I don’t even know how my house looks like nowadays,” she says to the granddaughter, leaning on her shoulder as they walk through the crowd of the blind going to Thokoa’s office.

“You will see it tomorrow and you will see how I have grown up,” the granddaughter reassures her.
Although the blind people came in great numbers for the appointments, Kokome says the expected Mexican doctors’ coming had been delayed by a day “because of some logistical problems”.

Maluti Hospital is not only well known for its exceptional eye treatment programme but has gone an extra mile in helping the communities solve other health problems as well. A 62-year-old Boose Manyebusa cannot stop marvelling at how the hospital has extended its helping hand to students and teachers at Basotho’s traditional initiation schools.

The hospital, which is owned by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, is opposed to some traditions practiced at initiation schools but it made sure that the church’s dogma does not cloud the need to help the initiates.
Manyebusa, from a nearby Kubetu Ha-Ntsoso, says the hospital recruited an initiated man so that he can go to various initiation schools in the area to supply antiretroviral tablets to students and teachers living with HIV.

“I have never heard anything like it before,” Manyebusa says.
It is common knowledge in Lesotho that medical doctors and traditional ones do not see eye to eye and they rarely work together.
“It is a fine example set by this hospital to send the man to initiation schools so that the students do not die of HIV-related illnesses,” Manyebusa says.
“I wish all hospitals throughout the country can follow this example.”

The hospital has gone an extra mile in another way to help the community around it.
It is training the local community on best practices of farming and cooking so that they do not have malnutrition-related illnesses.
Situated atop the Mapoteng Plateau, the hospital is surrounded by villages grappling with severe soil erosion in which large parts of agricultural land has been washed away revealing white patch of sandstone.

Aware of the impending poverty if the situation is not reversed, the hospital started a project through which it teaches villagers how to conserve soil and use land profitably by growing food.
It started in mid-2000 when many people were dying due to AIDS-related diseases and leaving orphans and the elderly to plough the fields.
The hospital worked shoulder to shoulder with the church to establish agricultural projects at village level.
Experts from the government and friends of the church from abroad helped immensely in seeing the success of the projects.
’Mankotso Mokaoli, a local chief’s sister, says the help from the hospital “is one that you cannot finish describing because it is so big that everyone around here is benefitting”.

“We have greenhouses in which we plant vegetables for year-round consumption because of this hospital,” Mokaoli says.
But to a 87-year-old ’Mamoorosi Mokaoli, the chief’s mother, “the hospital is a precious gift from God Almighty”.
“Before the hospital was established we used to go to TY on foot to see a doctor,” she says, adding: “There was nobody with a car in this village and nearby ones.”

“Now when I am sick I just call for an ambulance and I will be taken to the hospital, very close to my home,” she says.
TY is some 35 kilometres away from Mapoteng.
Indeed the hospital has proved to be a unique gift, as many villagers say.

One of the patients, Lefa, who had travelled 20 kilometres from Maputsoe to the hospital, says he spent over a month at the hospital.
“The nurses were good to me, something you rarely see in Lesotho’s hospitals,” Lefa says.
He was hospitalised from October 2 to November 8.

Kokome says the hospital staff is taken to refresher courses every year “so that they don’t forget the importance of treating patients with love and show them pity”. The hospital was established in 1951 by the Lesotho Seventh Day Adventist Church with the help of its missionaries from different countries.

Kokome says over the years it depended on help from missionaries who have contacts all over the world.
The hospital spends about M40 million annually for its upkeep.
Kokome says 70 percent of the budget comes from the government after the Ministry of Health signed an agreement with Christian Health Association of Lesotho (CHAL) to source services from church-owned hospitals and clinics.

It has 150 beds, 40 midwives and over 100 other professional workers with the exclusion of doctors.
It has six health centres in Kolo, Maseru, Mapheleng, Fobane, Maputsoe and Levi’s Nek.

Caswell Tlali

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