When love is blind

When love is blind

MASERU – IT was a case of sudden blindness that left Motsie Shao totally bewildered.
Without any scientific explanation for what had befallen him, some of Shao’s relatives and friends quickly concluded that he had been bewitched.
While the majority of Lesotho’s 1.8 million people profess to be Christians, belief in witchcraft and the supernatural still hold sway among large sections of the population. That is why the witchcraft narrative quickly proved a compelling argument for them.

The bizarre circumstances under which he became blind only added to the sense of mysticism surrounding his illness.
Shao says sometime in 2004, he was working as a security guard at a supermarket in Thaba-Tseka.
He says he heard some “voice” calling his name. He did not see anybody in the vicinity.

And when he turned around in that darkness to check where the voice had come from, he suddenly lost his sight.
Shao, now 39 years old, says he still does not understand the circumstances under which he became blind and why he became blind.
At first he believed he had been bewitched and consulted several traditional healers, many of whom told him one of his relatives was the cause of his sudden blindness.

He says the sangomas wanted him to pay them so that they could kill the relative using muti and his vision would be restored.
Shao says although he really wanted to get back his vision, he refused because “I did not want to kill anybody for any reason”.
“I believe in God,” he says.

Later he went to the then Queen Elizabeth II Hospital where the doctors confirmed that his blindness was incurable.
He sought a second opinion at the Maluti Seventh Day Adventist Hospital in Mapoteng and the doctors there confirmed too that he would never see again.

He believes both the clinical explanations of medical doctors as well as the spiritual description of sangomas on the cause of his blindness.
However, Shao says he is no longer worried about the cause but the fact that he suddenly became blind. “This minute I am seeing and the next minute I am blind,” he says. “This did not make sense at all.”

Shao says he would pray to God every night, for years, for him to restore his sight so that he could see again.
“Every morning my pillow would be wet with tears,” he says, adding that he used to ask God why he had allowed such a terrible thing to happen to him.

Sudden blindness, according to an online medical journal Medscape, can be caused by any “damage to your retina, such as a detached retina or artery occlusion”. “A detached retina can cause total loss of vision in the affected eye, or it may only result in partial vision loss, making it seem as if a curtain is blocking part of your vision,” the publication reads. Medscape also says sudden blindness can be caused by ischemia, which compromises cell metabolism by reducing delivery of oxygen and other important nutrients to tissues.

It says the resulting functional deficit may be temporary or permanent, depending on the degree of damage. A Maseru-based eye surgeon, Dr ’Musi Mokete, says it is possible for a person to suddenly become blind “if supply of blood to the eyes or to the brain is insufficient”.

“It could have happened when he twisted his neck trying to look behind him and he tampered with the system that transfers blood to the eyes,” Mokete says. “This is possible and it can happen to anyone.” Shao says he could not bring himself to terms with the proposals by traditional leaders that he should seek revenge and harm his relative through “spiritual warfare”.

He says he received a lot of counselling from health professionals and later accepted his medical condition. It was now time to move on with life. Shao says he quickly sensed that visual loss was not a death sentence after all. It appears as if his other senses had quickly adapted to his loss of vision. His sense of hearing, touch and memory improved dramatically. “I never treasured all the senses I had until I lost my sight,” he says.

He went for a two-month period of therapy and psychological counselling at Mohloli oa Bophelo. After that Shao enrolled for a course in switchboard operations in Maseru. He soon landed a job as a switchboard operator at the Ministry of Agriculture in Thaba-Tseka in 2006.
He got married in 2005.

“I wanted to marry a blind woman because I knew how deceiving eyes could be when it comes to matters of love,” he says. “People are attracted by the outward appearance of someone before loving his or her character.” “I know how judgemental those that can see can be. I know how a human being looks. As a blind man I took a decision to marry a blind woman because they too deserve to be loved, to be cared for and to belong.”

Shao says some people encouraged him to marry a woman who could see so that she could help him, however he reasons that “this one I have today does everything that a woman that can see does, she takes care of me in every way”. The two were blessed with a beautiful daughter in 2006. When his daughter was born people and some associations asked to take the child and help the couple bring her up but Shao and his wife rejected the request.

“It was never easy raising our child, we had to hire someone to take care of her until she was able to take simple instructions.”
“We wanted our child to know who her parents were and to grow up in a family knowing well that her parents are both blind but dearly love her,” he says. Shao is a switchboard operator at the Ministry of Agriculture in Thaba-Tseka. He is the chairperson of the Thaba-Tseka Association of Visually Impaired People.

Rose Moremoholo

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