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Mother’s agony over baby’s eye condition

Every pregnant woman’s expectation is to give birth to a healthy baby and live happily ever after.

For Linda Muthoni Muchangi, her pregnancy was a smooth sail, as she did not experience any complications and she had hoped to cuddle a healthy baby after the nine-month journey.

“I had a great nine months and was happy for most of it. When the time came for me to deliver my baby, I went to hospital.  I never thought my baby would be born with complications,” she says.

Three days after her birthday, Linda and her husband welcomed Kyla Chepkoech into their family. “I had caesarean section because she was too big,” Muchangi, a businesswoman, explains.

Kyla opened her eyes on the second day, but Muchangi did not read too much into this as she thought babies do so at their own time.

“I could see that her eyes didn’t seem normal. I had questions and raised them with the ophthalmologist who asked us to see him the Monday that followed,” Muchangi says.

Dutifully, she went to see the eye specialist with her daughter. It was then that he broke the news. “I had been accompanied by my husband’s relatives and it was not easy receiving that kind of news. He explained that Kyla’s eyes had been scarred,” she recalls. At the time, the weight of the news had not hit her and they thought that treatment would come easy.  “She had been crying a lot and when we went to the hospital, she was diagnosed with jaundice,” she says.

After being admitted for a week, they went back home.  The family received tonnes of advice from friends and family. “There is almost no hospital we haven’t been to. We visited Coast General Hospital in Mombasa, came back to Nairobi and went to Kenyatta National Hospital in November that year and still we did not find the answer we needed. We even went to Kikuyu to have her eyes checked. Every mother would do anything in her power just so her child can lead a normal life and that was exactly what my husband and I did,” the 25-year-old mother says.

If it weren’t for their families’ support, Muchangi would have given up a long time ago. “Here I was, in a young marriage and now we had a sick child. The way the families came together to support and encourage us moved me, especially my husband’s. It is what has kept us going,” she  says.   In August last year the family got a ray of hope that their baby would finally get a cure for the condition. “We were referred to Lighthouse Hospital in Kwale, the doctor understood what was wrong with Kyla. She needed a cornea transplant and this could happen locally,” says Muchangi. 

Kyla was diagnosed with sclerocornea, a rare condition where the white part of the eye crosses over to the rest of the eye. “The eyes have clear separated parts like the pupil, cornea and conjunctiva and when not well developed, the boundaries are crossed and that causes the grey colour and in some cases glaucoma,” Dr Ibrahim Matende, a paediatric ophthalmologist explains. 

“Most of the cases are cosmetic as in some cases, the blindness is not complete and the child can see partially,” he says.  The family is looking for money to take the baby to India for treatment. The family needs to raise Sh500,000 for the surgery. “We do not have the required funds. This has prevented us from getting help. We hope to raise the funds to take her to India so that our angel can see,” Muchangi says. 

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