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Subspecialties Comprehensive, Cornea / Ocular Surface, Health Economics and Policy, Imaging & Diagnostics

Healing Together

All doctors will know that there are certain cases that stay with you forever. For me, one such case was a young boy, Paul, from my own home village, where my parents still live. Something fell into the child’s eye, and he developed an infection – microbial keratitis. When his parents realized, they took him to a village clinic, where the young patient was given medication. The parents only brought the child to our specialized eye hospital when they became aware that the medicine wasn’t working. I knew immediately it was too late to save the eye – the infected cornea had practically melted away. I had to deliver the bad news to the parents, all the while knowing that the outcome would have been very different if they had come to me earlier. We had to remove the child’s eye, which is a difficult procedure in itself, all the time thinking of the impact this disfiguration would have on his education, future career, and other prospects.

Simon Arunga prepares the patient for a detailed examination of the corneal surface at the slit lamp. All images courtesy of Terry Cooper.
A traditional healer from Bugamba near Mbarara shows a leaf from an aloe vera plant.
Ophthalmologist Simon Arunga visits a traditional healer with Mr Arinda who is co-ordinator of the local chapter of the traditional healers' trade association. This healer was taught by her mother how to make traditional medicine using plant materials gathered in the area she lives. She prepares and administers traditional medicine in her home, mostly to her extended family and their friends.
Leaves of certain plants are wrapped in a banana leaf and then put on a fire to release their sap which is then turned into a cream, to make traditional medications.

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About the Author

Simon Arunga

Simon Arunga is a Clinical Lecturer in Ophthalmology at Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Uganda, and PhD Student at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK.

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