20/06/2012. Pretoria ophthalmologist Dr Kgao Legodi examines Theo Machoga's eye, after performing a cornea transplant o it last week. Picture: Masi Losi

The gift of sight for Atteridgeville teenager Theo Machoga has changed his life for ever, after surgeons at Mediclinic Medforum conducted a corneal procedure on his left eye which brought him back from the brink of blindness.

The Grade 9 pupil has had problems with his eyes since he was four years old. “They would get red and irritable. Doctors said he had allergies and would give medication,” his sister Portia Machoga said.

But as he grew older the problem intensified and his sight became blurry in the left eye, she said.

He continued being a normal young boy and went out to play with his friends: “But it became uncomfortable and worrying when the eye became white. This invited questions and comments from other children,” she said.

It affected him negatively and he became self-conscious.

“He had corneal problems from allergies when he first came here in 2007,” ophthalmologist Dr Kgao Legodi said.

“We knew that he needed a transplant, but corneas are hard to come by,” Legodi added.

Legodi referred the boy to a public health hospital with the hope that he would get a cornea faster.

But he did not. And when he recently came back the problem was so severe that the loss of sight was imminent, the doctor said.

The cornea is the window to the eye, Legodi explained.

In Machoga’s case, his allergy had become so bad that the cornea had become cloudy and white and vision was becoming blocked.

The doctor, who is also the vice-president of the Ophthalmological Society of South Africa (Ossa), then actively canvassed for a cornea to be transplanted.

He eventually managed to get one from an overseas donor.

The corneal graft transplant was done on Wednesday last week and involved the replacement of some of the damaged cornea to allow for sight.

Said the doctor: “We cut out a portion of his cornea and replaced it with the donated cornea.”

Yesterday the boy had gone in for a check-up on the operated eye.

It was healing nicely and to the satisfaction of the doctor.

Theo’s sister told the Pretoria News: “His attitude and mood have changed drastically in the week since the operation because he can now see clearer.”

He was much happier and the family was very relieved, she said.

The waiting lists for cornea donations were very long. People waited for anything up to 10 years before they got one, Legodi said.

“It is so bad that people can go blind waiting,” he said.

Although some South Africans donated their corneas there was still a dependence on foreign donations.

Eye conditions required priority, he said, and urged parents to take children with eye problems to a doctor as soon as they could.

“Once a child has a problem they must be seen, referred to a specialist and given proper treatment.”

Self medication often exacerbated the problem, with parents buying over-the-counter medication which caused eye infections, he said.

A lot of people, including children, had similar problems to that of Machoga, he said. All they needed was the right treatment to stop it from becoming severe. - Pretoria News