In my youth, one of my favourite songs was, “No more sorrow, no more pain.” I can’t remember the other lines of the song now. Wait a minute! I think the next line is, “We are together in this world.” Bible scholars will immediately recognise the possible origin of the title, “No more sorrow, no more pain.” But to be honest, at the time, it never occurred to me that the words were taken from the scriptures. As a child, I hated pain.
Yet, unknowingly, courted it at every turn by my actions. If I wasn’t knocking over boiling pots of water on shaky stone tripods, while opening them out of curiosity to see what was inside, I would be climbing mango trees, plucking mangoes or involved in other rough plays.
I even tried climbing palm trees to have a taste of the undiluted palm wine in the gourd! Thus, I had a fair share of self-inflicted pain and sorrow that came in its wake and have numerous blisters and scars to show for it!
But what is ‘pain’ and what is ‘sorrow’? These are twin words which are inevitable companions. Pain is an unpleasant experience occurring in varying degrees of severity and may be physical or emotional. It is nearly always accompanied by sorrow. ‘Sorrow’, on the other hand, is an uneasiness or pain of the mind – a feeling or an expression of distress caused by loss, affliction, disappointment, grief, sadness, or regret happening to one or to someone else.
Sorrow is emotional and even more difficult to quantify than pain. It is very difficult for me to separate it from emotional pain. As described above, I had a good deal of physical pain as a child and surely my parents must have felt some degree of sorrow to see me in pain. But now that I am a ‘little’ older, it is the emotional pain or sorrow that is devastating.
Watching others suffer or doing something that will inevitably result in pain is perhaps one of the most distressing things that can happen to anyone.
In the last few years, Nigeria has witnessed so much suffering and pain. Every day, we receive news of kidnapping and sad news of avoidable accidents and deaths on our roads. At one time we were scared of Ebola.
Now it is Lassa fever. Then there is the seemingly unending problem of Boko Haram slaughtering and bombing innocent people. Added to these, is the pain of terror unleashed on innocent men, women and even children by the cattle herdsmen.
Many have been killed or maimed with vast populations of displaced people. Can you imagine the pain and sorrow felt by the survivors, relatives and friends and all those who care?
There is, however, a particular type of pain suffered, on a daily basis by every eye medical specialist as one patient after another comes in with avoidable blindness? It is not physical pain. It is a mental anguish. If you find it difficult to get the message, please take a look at the following statistics and if you don’t experience any pain or distress, you must be superhuman.
More than one out of every 170 Nigerians are either blind or visually impaired from cataract. Cataract blindness is reversible by a simple surgical operation yet only about one in 10 cataracts are operated by the eye doctors. An equal number of cataract patients are operated by quacks and charlatans with disastrous consequences. The remaining eight patients are buried with their cataracts. Why? Simply lack of access to eye care. Poverty is a major factor.
Glaucoma is the second commonest cause of blindness in Nigeria. Glaucoma blindness is irreversible but avoidable. Unfortunately how can we help when two out of 10 patients are already blind in both eyes and six out of 10 are blind in one eye or severely visually impaired before they come to us?
In a disease that causes no physical pain or discomfort, complacency is rife especially for the poor! But here the rich also have a problem. They have the money to spend, but no time to spare for eye checks to find out if they have glaucoma. Have you visited an ophthalmologist in the last one year, do you know you might be in this group? Don’t wait for blindness to announce itself before you visit?
Do you know that over 140 million Nigerians have never heard about glaucoma; another 25 million have heard something, but are unsure of what it is all about while less than eight million Nigerians actually know something accurate about it?
Can you now appreciate my pains – our pains – and why we are making all this fuss? Let us all unite to encourage and support initiatives that will help promote awareness, mobilise human, material and financial resources from the government, big businesses, industry as well as local people to fight the scourge of blindness. Therefore, in line with my favourite song let us all sing the refrain, “No more sorrow, no more pain, let us work together to provide eye care for all.”