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Doctrines & Morals
 
 
Health Corner…

YOU AND EYE

“WHEN WILL THE SUN shine brightly again?” asked my friend Tonie. The question immediately threw me into a pensive mood. A quick run of the events in our country in the recent past rolled through my mind – the terror attacks, the incessant kidnappings, the general insecurity, the political and ethno-religious restlessness, the increasing number of jobless youth and the pervasive poverty in the society –  ominous signs of impending danger made me to shudder.  What a dark cloud indeed! Then I thought about the undisclosed billions of naira already spent on prosecuting the war on terror and all the stolen funds which could have mitigated the pains of the ordinary people, the cloud became darker in my mind’s eye.

My imagination went wild as I fantasized on what would have happened to our electricity supply, our dilapidated schools which, unfortunately, are a sad reflection of the chaos we are witnessing in the country; the real mass transit system we have never had and jobs begging to be created for the army of employed youth. I mused over how great our country would have been if these billions had been spent on these pressing and potentially explosive challenges.

I didn’t know when Tonie got up and entered his car. It was the cranking of the engine that woke me up from my trance. He drove away without saying goodbye, obviously unhappy at my lack of attention to what he was trying to say. I looked at the sky. It was really cloudy. The sun was nowhere in sight. Tonie was right. It had been a cheerless weather since a little over a fortnight. Occasionally heavy showers interspersed by some fine drizzles had been the pattern. How would life be without the sun? When will the sun shine brightly again? I asked with no one to share my lamentation. 

As I got up to enter my car, guess who was being led along the walkway? It was John, the blind bartender. I beckoned to his grandson to lead him towards me. “How are you John?” I asked. “I am good,” he replied. Then he added, “A few weeks ago, I could see faint figures of men walking but now it’s terrible. It’s almost as if the sun has disappeared completely from the sky. When will the sun shine brightly again?” he asked using Tonie’s exact words which I had also unintentionally re-echoed a few minutes before. “The dark clouds will soon pass away and the sun will shine brightly again. Didn’t the sage say, ‘after darkness comes the glorious morn’?” I replied.  ”Then doctor, when will my own glorious morning come? When will the sun shine brightly in my life again? When shall I see and be able to marvel at the wonders of creation?”

I paused for a minute to reflect on his questions. I became even more depressed not just by his comments but the realization that not only was I unable to help him, there was no one around me who could! John was born with normal eyes about 45years ago. He had no problems until he was about ten years old. Soon after his 11th birthday, he started experiencing increasing night blindness. He had difficulties with tasks at night or in dark places. At first his parents thought he was suffering from Vitamin A deficiency. After receiving several doses of costly vitamin injections his parents decided to take him to an eye hospital where the diagnosis was made. There was no treatment to halt the progression of the hereditary disease. By the time he was about 30years old he had developed tunnel vision and now blind.

I looked up and momentarily, I thought I saw a real silver lining in the cloudy sky. It was an illusion but then it jolted my memory. Why the gloom? For people like John better days are ahead with the latest advances in the management of Retinitis Pigmentosa. Why don’t you tell him these to brighten his day? I must have kept quiet a little too long! “Doctor you, haven’t said a word. Is my condition hopeless?” John had asked in a voice that cut my heart. “John I have good news for you,” I said cheerfully. His face relaxed and he was now bubbling with a childlike excitement. He couldn’t wait to have it all, asking several questions within a fraction of a second.

 I told him about the new Bionic Eye or Retinal Prosthesis which has been approved by the USA Food and Drug Administration. People who have lost their vision due to Retinitis Pigmentosa now have hope of regaining partial sight. Five patients in the U.S. have already undergone the procedure and have moved from darkness into light. Then I told him about the possibility of gene therapy to replace the defective protein in the sufferer’s gene. A gene-therapy company in London and New York City, has treated its first patient in a gene therapy clinical trial for people with X-linked retinitis pigmentosa. The X-linked RP is a leading cause of inherited, progressive retinal degeneration and vision loss. The condition usually affects males, but is also diagnosed occasionally in females.  The Phase I/II study in which 36 participants were enrolled, took place at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. We are awaiting the final result.

“Thank you doctor,” said John and took me by surprise with his next question, “When can you perform the surgery on my eyes? “Me? I have neither access to the technology nor the skills to perform such feats! You may have to go to Oxford Eye Hospital, UK.” I told him point blank. “I will, God willing. I have never lost hope even if I sounded despondent occasionally. I hold tenaciously to His promise in Matthew 7:7, “Ask and you shall receive; knock and the door will be opened unto you.” Didn’t Dr. Robert Schuller say, “Tough times never last, only tough people do?”

My mind travelled quickly back to the challenges we face in our country and I cannot but agree with John’s quote from Schuller. The dark clouds will soon lift; the sun will shine brightly again and we shall become a great nation.

 


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