Lost vision, birthed hope
After his vision began to deteriorate in early September 2012, Fanuel Hashiyana was torn between cancelling his private doctor passport and ending the contract, or getting treated as a public citizen by a Dr Helena Ndume.
Sticking to what was familiar, Hashiyana opted for his private doctor’s expertise and quickly began to set up appointments for an eye examination. Unfortunately, the doctor was fully booked for months following their first appointment and had an opening only on 26 October, 2012.
“I wish someone had made it clear exactly how serious my condition was. The receptionist probably thought it was just a normal check up or something, perhaps then could I have been squeezed in earlier,” narrates Hashiyana who now needs the aid of a walking stick to find his way.
He was affected by diabetic retinopathy, a condition prone to those who have suffered diabetes for more than 10 years. It eventually leads to blindness.
After being diagnosed with diabetes in 1993 while in Grade 10, life continued as normal for a good 19 years, without him having any setbacks.
But after another seemingly normal day in May 2012, Hashiyana went to bed and slept soundly, only to wake up the following morning seeing red. With the little vision he had, he rushed to the Eros Medical Centre where his optometrist, Dr Brandt, informed him the veins in his eyes had burst. Dr Brandt gave him eye drops that cleared his vision and everything was back to normal again.
The accountant returned to work at John Penny Group but soon, his vision worsened, so much so that he started to have blackout episodes in which he would see nothing, for several minutes.
When he finally went for his appointment on 26 October, 2012, Dr Brandt was rather shocked to see how much Hashiyana’s conditioned had deteriorated.
“He said had he seen me earlier, he might have saved my vision but that was too little too late”.
Dr Brandt referred him to a certain Dr Patrick’s practice where his eye pressure recorded 61 on the tonometer, the highest the doctor claimed to have ever recorded. The doctor advised him to get reading glasses, to help him read fine print texts, as there was nothing they could do to stop what was coming.
On 28 June, 2013, Hashiyana woke up to complete darkness. He had suffered a stroke in the eye while asleep, which was the final blow.
Today, with the help of his former employers, Hashiyana is a student at the Namibian Federation for the Visually Impaired, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) set up to aid the blind. There, he is learning to live with his blindness as normal as possible. He learns mobility, orientation, Braille and how to use a cell phone and a computer with software to cater for the blind.
“It has been very difficult to cope. I was used to being independent but now people have to help me all the time. I feel like a burden to my relatives”.
Hashiyana listens to radio and TV to keep himself from entertaining suicidal thoughts, he reveals. This has kept him abreast with current issues, such as the gender-based violence, which has been wrecking the nation of late.
“As a society, we are currently in an ICU. I have lived through three decades to see the moral fibre of our society deteriorate. Before, a child would be raised by a community, which would teach it everything about being a good man or woman. Nowadays, you cannot discipline someone else’s child.”
Hashiyana has also been stunned by the fact that the only organisation that actively offers aid for the matured blind is an NGO.
“There are over 60 000 people with some form of visual impairment in the country, yet Government does nothing. I did not feel the need before but now that I am in the same predicament, I do. Eluwa helps those who were born blind from a young age but what about those like me who become blind in adulthood and must adjust to the condition?”
Dr Patrick told Hashiyana that if within 13 months he still had not recovered his eyesight, he would remain permanently blind.
Currently in his ninth month of blindness, Hashiyana has lost hope but has accepted his plight and plans to make the most of it. Once he completes his course, he plans to return to work in an advisory capacity.