AS tears streamed down her face, 17-year-old Moesha Merika Martin declared that she does not want to go blind, after being told by her doctor that she has a condition known as keratoconus.
And with four years ahead of her at the University of Technology where she is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting, Martin’s greatest fear is that she may not see her education through to the end as a result of blindness.
Keratoconus occurs when the cornea — the clear, dome-shaped front surface of the eye — thins and gradually bulges outward into a cone shape. A cone-shaped cornea causes blurred vision and may cause sensitivity to light and glare. Keratoconus usually affects both eyes and generally occurs in people ages 10 to 25. The condition may progress slowly for 10 years or longer.
Advanced keratoconus, as in Martin’s case, may require corrective surgery.
“I really don’t want to go blind,” she told the Jamaica Observer as the tears continued to flow. “My eyes were giving problems from before. I wore glasses, but the lens wanted to change so I went to my original optician and he ran a few tests and recommended me to Dr Lloyd Reynolds in Santa Cruz”.
“A month ago he did three tests which cost $23,000. Then when the results came it was confirmed that I had an eye condition called keratoconus, and they say it can cause blindness if it is not corrected soon.”
She explained that the condition affects both of her eyes but one is more severe than the other.
“The right eye is worse than the left so the right has to be corrected before the left eye,” she stated.
Dr Reynolds, who runs the Ultimate Eye Centre in Santa Cruz, St Elizabeth, confirmed Martin’s condition and said that the cost of doing each eye is $200,000 and if the condition is not corrected it could in fact lead to blindness.
“Worst-case scenario is that if she doesn’t get it done the cornea goes into a cone and vision gets progressively worse and it can actually lead to blindness. I have seen it many times,” Dr Reynolds said. “It’s cross-linking and we do one eye at a time. Both eyes can get done in the space of weeks, and each eye will cost $200,000. When they are so young you want to try and treat it early.”
Dr Reynolds said that the only treatment for that particular condition is corneal collagen cross-linking.
“I am the only doctor in Jamaica who can do that particular procedure. It is being done in Europe from about 2003 and in Canada from 2008. You have certain centres in the United States where it can be done, but they are still waiting on the FDA’s (Food and Drug Administration) approval in the United States. But it is being done right over the world in countries which include India, Australia, etc,” Dr Reynolds said.
But Martin, who lives in Riverton Meadows in Kingston with her mother and siblings, said that she has no way of coming up with the money despite the best efforts of her mom.
“It’s $400,000, but my mommy is not financially stable and my daddy died eight years ago. So it’s my mommy alone as a single parent with five kids. I am a student at UTech. I haven’t finished paying off my tuition as yet for the first semester and then this other burden come down on my mommy,” she added.
Martin, who attended Holy Childhood High from first to fifth form, completed her secondary education at Meadowbrook High School, before leaving in lower sixth form for UTech, after she gained nine subjects at CSEC level, four ones (distinctions), four twos (credits) and one at grade three. She also has four subjects – Accounting, Management of Business, Economics and Communication Studies – in CAPE.
She wants to become a chartered accountant before moving up to an auditor. She said that her mother hustles to make a living and does all she can to care for them without a father, and having to find $400,000 is stressful on her.
“My mother is a hustler basically, she does what she can do,” Martin explained. “She sells clothes or sheet sets and so.”
Martin’s mother, 44-year-old Evelyn Nelson said that her daughter has had an eye problem since she was a child and has been taken to the doctor many times and fitted with glasses, but now the situation has got worse.
“Her eyes and her head started to hurt her recently so she went to a doctor in Half-Way-Tree and she call me crying say the doctor say him cannot do anything more for her eyes because this case was bigger than him,” Nelson recalled. “So he gave her the address of a specialist in Santa Cruz because they say is the only doctor in Jamaica who do that type of surgery.”
But Nelson said it is hard for her to sit by and watch her child go blind because she is unable to find the money.
“For all her years living in the garrison, and for a child to reach 17 and not get mixed up, and with 13 subjects, mi nuh need mi child to go blind because I know Moesha will be the woman of tomorrow because she has potential,” Nelson said as she, too, burst into tears.
“So I am asking Jamaica and everyone who can support – I need the support and the help. Right now is me and my children alone because her father died eight years now,” the mother added.
Of her five children, Nelson said that her eldest daughter got pregnant during high school; the second graduated from St Andrew Technical School with four subjects and is currently unemployed; her third, a son, also has an eye problem and was slow in learning as a result. He is now attending the HEART Institute in Seaview Gardens. Her youngest child is in fifth form at Ardenne High school.
“The first two father was killed 14 years ago. Police said gun went off at Bay Farm Villa and killed him,” Nelson explained. “Come back again, Moesha them father was killed. As a mother I fight. I don’t know what I don’t do to help my children them. I buy things and sell. If sand come down in the gully I used to go down there draw sand and sell. The guys by the dump would dust some paint powder bags, drain them and they would come and sell us and we would use it make paint and sell, because we born come see paint a build here. Without me they cannot manage, is just me and God,” she said.
Those wishing to assist Martin can contact her mother, Evelyn Nelson, at 363-3591.