Murtaza is from Pakistan and has always been hard working. Before his sight started failing from cataracts, he spent most of his time in Saudi Arabia, where he went to find steady work. But his sight loss soon forced him to come home.
Watching other members of the family struggle to run their woodcutting business and being unable to help hit Murtaza hard. “I want to do everything for myself – I don’t like to depend on anyone else,” he said. “I feel bad that my brother is doing the work alone and I am sitting idle and can’t help him. It’s just his work that brings in money, so it’s very hard to make ends meet.”
Murtaza had an idea of what was causing the problem with his vision: his mother, father and older brother have all been treated for cataracts. Yet it didn’t stop him agonising over his future.
“I can’t see anything,” he said. “I’m upset I’ve lost my sight at such a young age. Naturally I am worried – I’m worried about my home, about work, about how I will raise children.”
His wife, Faiza, was concerned too. “I feel for him,” she said. “He doesn’t work any more. He used to work a lot, so I feel sorry for him.”
Of all the things Murtaza can’t see, his wife’s face is what he missed the most. “I saw my wife properly three years ago, but when I came back this time she is not visible properly. I can see her only when she comes close. It feels odd that I can’t see her properly and I think about what she might be feeling that I can’t see her.”
Fortunately he didn’t have long to wait before seeing her again: he had an appointment to see an eye specialist at the LRBT hospital, a partner of Sightsavers, where his brother had cataract surgery. Like so many other people in Pakistan, Murtaza wouldn’t have been able to fund the treatment himself, so the fact that the surgery is offered for free is a huge relief.
The diagnosis gave him some peace of mind. “I felt happy when they told me it could be cured and gave me a date for surgery,” he said. Although he was scared about whether the surgery will be painful, he tried to focus on the outcome, and said: “I am hopeful that my eyesight will come back if I’m treated.”
He isn’t disappointed. The next day as the doctors remove his bandage, clean his eye and step back to let him take in the moment he’s been waiting for, he looks relieved and delighted. “I am feeling very very well,” he says. “I am grateful to all the doctors and I’m very happy. I can see everything very fine in all directions. It’s great happiness to me that when I go home I’ll be able to see my mother, my father, my family members.”
His family are just as eager to see him – they’re waiting at the gate when he arrives, and crowd round to hug him, overjoyed to see for themselves that the operation was a success. They fuss over him, guide him over to lie down and start questioning him about the surgery, sharing their happiness and relief.