A pain of a mother who looks after 15 blind members of her family
By Hope Mafaranga
I have been through a lot, looking after my blind husband, my blind children and blind in-laws is not a joke. I am just putting on a smile on my face to keep me going.
These are the words of Celina Tushemereire a mother of six a resident of Numba-Kajumero, in Nyakishenyi Sub County in Rukungiri district says.
Among her six children five are totally blind while one can only see during the night. She is married to blind man, her mother in-law is blind, her two brothers and one sister in laws are blind and also looks after four more children who are blind that are born by brothers in-law.
She is the only person that sees and is tasked to look after all the 15 blind family members on day to day lives.
Tushemereire tells a story of pain, agony, disappointments and the sacrifice she has made in ensuring that the family stands by her own.
Patience and Hope
She got married to Siliversita Musinguzi 19 years ago well knowing that he was blind. She also knew that her mother in- law Mary Federesi was blind too but was hopeful that she will give birth to normal children.
She however later learnt that other relatives of her husband had the same problem but decided to stick around with hope that she will have normal children.
“I knew my husband was blind and I never thought it was genetic because I thought that my mother in law’s blindness was due to old age. So there was no reason to why I could not marry Siliversita. I knew my children won’t be blind as their father and grandmother.
Oh my God I was so wrong. Our first child was born blind, the second born, third born too were blind and I was almost giving up. I thought about leaving the three blind children to a blind and father and I changed my mind and stayed,” she said.
Tushemereire says that she planned to not to conceive again but decided to have another chance thinking that maybe she will have a normal child.
“Our fourth child was born normal but lost her sight when she was seven months old. Her eyes become extra white and peel, I rushed her to the hospital when she was declared blind. This is the time I wanted to dump this family and I go elsewhere so that I can get normal children. I thought the family was cursed,” she adds.
To the hospital:
Tushemereire said that she has given up on her, husband, children and in laws health condition and she is now used to live with it.
She said that she took them to Kisizi hospital but the doctors told her that there was nothing wrong with her family.
“The doctors told me that there are nothing wrong with my family and in fact they advised me to take my children to schools where children with special needs are taught,” she told.
Dr Freddy Mbumba an ophthalmologist at Ruharo Eye hospital said 80 per cent of blindness can be treated if detected early. He said that the family could be suffering of a condition known as Glaucoma which he is a genetic issues and nothing can be done about it.“Glaucoma is a permanent condition can this cannot be treated,” he said.
However he was quick to add that the family need to have genetic tests to ascertain if this could be the problem. He said that in Uganda testing genetic issues that are eye related is expensive and few laboratories to carry out this kind of tests.
“One test could be at shs 300,000, we have we have few laboratories to carry out them our which makes it hard to access,” he said.
Silversita Musinguzi said that the when they had their first child was born blind he thought that she was going to desert him and his family.
“She has been a hero and blessing to our family. I however feel bad that I am not able to help in raising our children and proving for the as a man,” he said.
Blindness is not a crime
Andrew Akankwatsa one of the blind people in the family says that being blind has not stopped from excelling. Akankwatsa went to St Hellen’s Primary School and then went to Hornby High School in Kabale and was among the best students in last year senior six examination.
“Despite all the challenges that we face especially studying with normal students I managed to get 19 points and I want to be a lawyer,” he said.
Justus Arinaitwe is primary six, Justice Amutuhairwe is primary five while Martin Agaba has joined St. Peter SS Kashekuro. The trio were at St. Hellen’s primary with a small help from Compassion International but the mother had to contribute towards their education.
Sister Vassy Bakuze who teaches special needs children at St Hellens Primary School said that teaching such children is hard and expensive.
She said that Perkins braillers that is used to type the notes of children with special needs cost Shs 1.8m, braille tylius that they use to write is Shs 20,000, hand frame is Shs 40,000 while white canes are at Shs 40,000 which make it hard for children from needy family like Tushemereire’s.
Tushemereire says that she is often in debts from different SACCOS where she borrows money to pay fees.
“I spend a lot of money on things the children lose at schools and I have to borrow money every now and then to take care of them. It’s hard.” Tushemereirwe narrated with sorrow in her tone.