HER CHILDREN CALL her “Mama”. She was 90 in December 2010 and her children had a modest celebration for her. All six of them were at hand to rejoice with her and give glory to God. Mama sat down radiant and even though she uttered very few words, her face displayed deep appreciation and gratitude in her heart. She had passed through many ups and downs but no one could ever know because she always had nothing but a smile and a good story to tell anyone who came near her.

I recall the days of our youth when one of her children had stumbled on a pamphlet written by Mama’s meticulous father who had a keen eye for history. Even though alive and well, he had documented the events in Mama’s early childhood and given a copy to her. This she had buried in her wardrobe for years until her inquisitive younger son dug it out while scavenging through her wardrobe. Mama had never shared this unpleasant secret with any of her children or friends.

Abouta week or two after Mama’s birth, her mother had died from birth related complications. The task of nurturing Mama fell on her auntie (the wife of her father’s older brother), who was known to all, including her children, as “Mama Agba” - Grandma. Grandma did such a beautiful job and doted on Mama so much that no one, not even her children, would ever have known this story were it not for her younger son who had broadcast his discovery to his siblings. Grandma gave Mama life and she in return gave life to her six children and numerous adopted children.

On exactly the day Mama was celebrating her 90thbirthday, a 4year old blind girl, an orphan, was brought to the Eleta Eye Institute by her weary grandmother. With no money in their pocket, they had travelled the long distance on foot,in the heat of the sun, to get to the hospital. “I could see hunger on their faces. The little girl was at the brink of kwashiorkor,” said Dr. Balwant, the consultant ophthalmologist who attended to them. “The child needs surgery to be able to see. How can we help?” he had asked me.

I scratched my head whilst putting the facts together in my mind. A blind, malnourished child, being looked after by an indigent old grandmother is as good as dead in our country where there are no free social services! Cataract surgery in children is more difficult and needs special handling.Often there are other associated medical problems that must not be overlooked and children have to be put to sleep before cataract operations can be performed. All these combine to make surgery a lot more delicate and expensive.

“Give me a few days to think and pray about it,” I told Dr. Balwant. We have so many patients who need help but help is not coming fast enough. The statistics are frightening! Every 5 seconds someone in the world becomes blind but it takes about 5months to get help for one. Every minute a child becomes blind but it takes about one year to get help for one. One blind child is equal to about ten blind adults! A blind child is almost sure to die within a year or two if sight is not restored. Yet cataract surgery is one of the most rewarding operations in the world! Instant cure and instant freedom is assured if there are no complications. 

As I sat down in a conference with my colleagues discussing what to do with this child, an idea came to me. There are a number of generous men and women who have come to our rescue in the past. “Why don’t you try one of them?” an inner voice asked.”They have been over burdened with requests for assistance from various sources,” I replied. Then in deference to the inner voice, I obeyed and put a call through to one of them. Mr. Fawole listened patiently to my explanation, then said,”I will send you a cheque for the child’s surgery on Monday.” We were all elated! If you were at the conference with us, you would think we had won a billion dollars!

“Thank you Mr. Fawole for giving me my sight; for giving me life!” I say on behalf of the hapless 4year old orphan. And, if like Mama, she lives to be 90, you can imagine the true implications of Mr. Fawole’s remarkable gesture!

Our Social Media