Eyes Wide Open In Tanzania

Eyes Wide Open In Tanzania
Megan Leyda
Sep 18, 2021

My husband Ethan and I were asked by our friends, Dr. Loni and Wade Rittenhouse, to go to Nyahururu, Kenya with Medical Missions Outreach (MMO) in June 2021. I graduated with Dr. Loni in 2015 from The Ohio State University College of Optometry. She has been on several other trips with MMO and always comes back with amazing stories and incredible numbers of patients accepting Christ! For the past several years, Ethan and I have been traveling to Jamaica to serve with Mission of Sight/Professional Eye Care of Jamaica with FCO OSU, and we had an opportunity to go with FCO SCO in May 2019. Unfortunately, those trips were cancelled this year due to COVID-19. Through prayer and conversation, Ethan and I decided to commit to the Kenya trip with the Rittenhouses and began fundraising through letter writing.

We were humbled to see how our trip was blessed—from the cancellation of the Kenya trip due to circumstances besides COVID, to our new location of Morogoro, Tanzania with Faith Baptist Church, to our trip being heavily supported by family and friends, and Eyes of Faith supporting us with glasses. We were humbled each time we received an email about how another donation was being made to help serve Tanzania!

Our trip was long, but safe. We were COVID tested 72 hours before getting into the country, rapid tested upon landing in Morogoro and then tested to enter back into the United States. We wore masks throughout our travel in airports, on planes and during patient care. Patients were not required to wear masks but were screened with a questionnaire and had their temperatures taken. Our exams were also in an open air shelter. There is a way to do medical/vision missions during a pandemic!

Over the 3.5 clinic days we had in Tanzania, we were able to help 903 patients with just the vision clinic alone! Among these patients, we saw children as young as six months old and some patients into their nineties. All patients under 20 years old, those with pressures higher than 22 mmHg and those with medical complaints were dilated (these were our own criteria). We took intraocular pressures on all patients 10 years of age or older and were able to start several patients on sight saving glaucoma drops. Some of the more special cases we treated required foreign body removals and meibomian gland expression.

I saw a 6-month-old baby with bacterial conjunctivitis (pink eye). I was able to start the baby on erythromycin ointment. While Ethan saw most of the medical complaint patients and Loni and I saw the children, my youngest patient with glaucoma was a 22-year-old woman.

Three of my favorite patients were Nelson, Victoria and a child under the age of two (I cannot remember his sweet name, but I have a picture of him below).

Nelson came to my station with an autorefractor reading of ‘unable to read’ because it exceeded the +/-10.00D limit. He was +10.00D in both eyes. We did not have any +10.00D glasses with us, but we did have +8.50D with a bifocal. Both Nelson and his mother were very grateful!

 Victoria came to our clinic with severe left eyelid ptosis. She had a corneal ulcer for more than one week, we think, and we started her on a pulse dose of Vigamox (antibiotic drop). She was resistant at first, while waiting for two hours as I came back periodically to instill her drops. Although she spoke Swahili, we became closer during those two hours. I asked her to return on our second to last day to look at her ulcer, but she didn’t return. We were able to find her phone number and asked her to come back on our last day. Her ulcer was re-epithelialized (closure of the wound), and we were able to start her on prednisolone acetate 1% (steroid eye drop) along with her antibiotic. 

The child under the age of two had an accommodative esotropia (eye turned in toward the nose) due to high hyperopia (high plus prescription) and some astigmatism. We had a pair of children’s glasses that fit him perfectly and the prescription was the closest we had. You should have seen him look around at his new world whenever we first put them on, and he did not try to remove them!

Within our 150 pounds of glasses, Eyes of Faith, the only Christian eyewear company (founded by Jim and Amy Schneider), donated a total of 1,300 readers, myopic single vision glasses and sunglasses for our trip. Sunglasses were a hit, especially the kids' sunglasses because patients under 20 were all dilated. Patients loved receiving a new pair of glasses and were very grateful. Since Swahili was the main language patients spoke, the one reaction that didn't have to be translated was the big smile that patients had on their faces whenever they could see better with their new glasses.

The best part of the trip were the salvations! Out of all 1,744 patients seen on both the vision and medical side, 693 patients received Christ after talking with church members following their exam. Faith Baptist Church is led by an amazing family, the Wyatts, and has many willing servants to help with the whole clinic process. May all the glory and honor be to God!