Thursday, 1 December 2011

“Once she can see, other development will follow”: Little Ofure from Nigeria

Her head covered with tiny tight curls, little Ofure Shalom clings to her daddy’s neck, lost in a world of her own. She is thousands of miles away from her mother and sister and her home in Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria — coping with strange faces and unfamiliar food. Her thick glasses and a ear (cochlear) implant tug at your heartstrings. Her parents first brought her to LVPEI in 2009 as a baby, seeking treatment for her opaque corneas (congenital corneal opacity) and a hole in her heart. It was a hard time when the parents discovered that doctors in Nigeria would not perform a corneal transplant on a baby with a heart condition. A glimmer of hope came in the form of a Nigerian doctor who had trained at L V Prasad Eye Institute. She suggested they rush to Hyderabad — the baby was already 5 months old and time was of the essence…they had to move fast. But a trip to India was far beyond their means. Family, friends and the church helped, the couple also approached banks for loans. Just when things were falling in place, little Ofure suffered a congestive heart failure and was hospitalized for 2-3 weeks. Finally, armed with oxygen on the flight, they arrived in Hyderabad in September 2009.

Ofure would need cardiac surgery, but she was too small, recalls her father Martin Okhawere, a public health specialist in the University of Benin Teaching Hospital in Nigeria. They tried to feed the baby as much as possible and prayed and finally she gained a kilo! The doctors were amazed and Little Ofure underwent the life-saving surgery at a specialty hospital in Hyderabad. At L V Prasad Eye Institute, it was a challenge for surgeons to perform corneal transplants in the baby’s eyes. After a careful examination and review by the doctors, Ofure successfully underwent corneal transplants in both her eyes, opening her windows to the world. Back home in Nigeria after 4 months, she remained under the care of an ophthalmologist formerly trained at LVPEI.

In 2011, Martin returned to Hyderabad to have laser treatment for Ofure’s eyes and a cochlear implant at another hospital. She also underwent cognitive therapy at LVPEI’s Vision Rehabilitation Centres. Martin says, “The only way out was to give her an opportunity to see; once she can see everything, the rest of the development will happen.”

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