Glaucoma robbed me, dad, two siblings of sight –First-class graduate
Those with family history of glaucoma are four to nine times more likely to develop the eye condition, as attested to by Maxwell Opara who also became blind after his father and two siblings had been blinded by glaucoma. TESSY IGOMU reports
Twenty-six-year-old Maxwell Opara partially lost his sight to glaucoma at the age of 18.
He says, most times, he is thrown into pitch darkness and left in a world of just hearing sound; while in some rare moments, he experiences blurry vision.
Being visually impaired also robbed him of the zeal to live at a point, he confesses.He, however, rose from despair to emerge the best graduating student in the Faculty of Education, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, with a grade point aggregate of 4.64.
The graduate of Social Studies Education is about to conclude his National Youth Service programme in Enugu State, but he is unsure of what the future holds, especially in a society, which, he says, doesn’t hold much promise for the visually impaired.
Glaucoma left me visually impaired
Maxwell says what culminated into his vision loss started from childhood.He recalled always squinting to see, and that his mother usually took him to the hospital for check-ups.
“I had a very poor sight at that stage of my life and it was difficult to see things from afar.
“During my senior secondary days, my mother took me to several eye specialists, but I always ended up with just eye drops and glasses.Nobody told me it was glaucoma,” he said.
Maxwell recalled that it was during a routine medical check in 2012, which was part of the requirements for admission into the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Imo State, that he discovered that he had the condition.
The condition of his sight made him drop out of the institution after two years.
He had also gained admission into the University of Benin, but he couldn’t attend because of his eye problem.
“During the medical clearance, I couldn’t read sentences written on a board. I was only able to capture two or three alphabets. It saddened me because I had my glasses on and still couldn’t see.I was referred to the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, for treatment,” he said.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, glaucoma is a disease that damages the eyes’ optic nerve.
It usually happens when fluid builds up in the front part of the eye, and the extra fluid increases pressure in the eye, damaging the optic nerve.
Specialists say the most common type is the primary open-angle glaucoma angle-closure glaucoma.
Glaucoma cost me my dream course
Maxwell was among the top five students admitted into FUTO on merit to study Microbiology, and was told he had prospects of graduating with a first class.Despite working hard to make the honours list, his dream was cut short by the ‘silent eye thief.’
“My JAMB score was 251 and post-UME, 336. I had very bright prospects, but along the line, the inevitable happened.
“My sight deteriorated so fast in 200 level that I couldn’t continue with my university education.Whenever I went into the examination hall and it became cloudy, I found it difficult to read.
“I ended up writing haphazardly and this affected my grades. I failed two courses, Term 201 and 204. At a point, I confided in my HOD, who advised me to get a low visual aid.
“The only option was to get a telescope, which cost about N300,000, but the doctor said I was too young to use the equipment to visualise.” He was later advised to drop out of school and go for vocational course.
“That was how I forfeited the dream of becoming a microbiologist,” he added.
The visually impaired young man, however, said the next appointment he had with an optometrist changed his life forever.“The doctor said my eyes had degenerated badly and were no longer responding to treatment. His verdict made me register in a vocational centre for rehabilitation.
“I went through a series of lessons, wrote another WASSCE and UTME, and gained admission into UNN to study Social Studies Education.
“My grades were so good that I was elected the course representative and occupied the position till I graduated.”
Siblings and father plagued by glaucoma
Maxwell’s condition is genetic, it turns out, as the condition runs in his family.
His father was blinded by glaucoma, while his two siblings are also at the verge of completely losing their sight.
The burden of taking care of the whole family, he said, rests on his mother, Mrs. Celestine Opara, who is a trader in Lagos.