Iviwe Tshabalala was just 10 months old when he first met with the ORBIS supported team in Durban, South Africa. Now 3 years old, he lives with his mother in Verulum, 30km north of Durban KwaZulu-Natal. KwaZulu-Natal is one of the most populous, poorest, and rural regions in South Africa, housing 28% of the country’s blind children. Baby Iviwe was diagnosed with unilateral retinoblastoma at 10 months old, after his mother noticed he grew very sick and his left eye was swollen. Retinoblastoma is a cancerous tumour of the eye. If the disease is not treated promptly and effectively, it results in death in nearly every case.
Iviwe was referred to the ORBIS Paediatric Eye Care Centre at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital (IALCH) in Durban which handles complex child eye care conditions. There, his mother was informed that Iviwe’s eye had to be removed in order to stop the cancer from spreading to his right eye and even Iviwe's brain. She was initially opposed to the treatment, but after more counselling with Dr. Parbhoo she realised that this was the only way to not only save her son’s sight, but ultimately his life.
Iviwe’s right eye was successfully removed in December 2010 by Dr. Parhboo and he was declared cancer free. At the time, because his socket was very small, there was no affordable prosthetic eye size available for him. The ORBIS supported team at IALCH continued to care for him and follow up on his progress. When he was three and his eye cavity had grown, they contacted Dr. Peter Furber, an ophthalmologist in private practice specialising in prosthesis, to ask if he would take on Iwine’s case. Dr. Furber immediately agreed to step in and fitted Iviwe for an artificial eye.
Now that Iviwe has received the prosthesis, he will continue to be cared for with future treatment. According to Dr. Furber, the prosthesis for children like Iviwe should either be enlarged or replaced every 12 months, on average, in order to stimulate the growth of the orbit. Prosthesis for children should feel very comfortable, unless something is wrong with the eye socket or the prosthesis. Therefore, the child should not know the prosthesis is there after the initial fitting. Iviwe will get fitted for a new prosthetic eye every year until about the age of seven. After that, he will receive a new eye every 18 months until the age of 12, every two years until around the age of 18, and then every 5 years.
A challenge associated with Iviwe’s artificial eye is of course the lack of vision on his left side, but his depth of field is not compromised too much and Dr. Furber says he should be fully capable of continuing with a normal life: attending school, playing sports etc.
The ORBIS Paediatric Eye Care Center, is a partnership with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health to develop comprehensive eye health services for children in the province so that children like Iviwe can receive high quality, sight saving eye care. Now, with close follow-up care, Iviwe can continue to be the sweet and lively boy he has always been without his condition worsening or limiting his future.