Nine-year-old girl receives gift of sight after cornea transplant

Lefa Rapanyane with her parents after her second cornea transplant (Photo: Supplied)
Lefa Rapanyane with her parents after her second cornea transplant (Photo: Supplied)

When Lefa Rapanyane’s eyesight started to deteriorate in grade two, her distressed parents thought she’d never be able to see again.

But after a life-changing double cornea transplant, she has been given a chance to live her childhood to the fullest.

Lefa from Mamelodi, Pretoria, who was quite the bright spark in the classroom, raised concerns when she could no longer clearly see what was written on the classroom chalkboard.

What started off as a white dot in the centre of her one cornea soon developed in her other cornea too, leaving both eyes covered in what appeared to be a white layer, her father, John Madisa, told YOU.

“One of her teachers came to me and said that Lefa was battling in class. She couldn’t see what was written on the chalkboard,” John said.

Distressed and anxious about his nine-year-old’s slowly degenerating eyesight, the desperate dad sought medical assistance. Lefa was then diagnosed as legally blind.

“I was so stressed and worried about my daughter because she couldn’t do a small thing such as see what we were having for supper.

“Watching my own child go through that was really painful,” he said.

Despite financial constraints, Lefa’s family didn’t lose hope – through the tireless efforts of concerned teachers and with the support of the Netcare team, they were put in connection with ophthalmologist Dr Ebrahim Mia.

 “The first time I assessed Lefa, she was legally blind due to keratitis in both eyes,” explained Dr Mia.

He further explained that her corneas were opaque or appeared to be hazy which impaired her vision.

Determined to restore Lefa’s eyesight, Dr Mia recommended that she undergo a cornea transplant, which would cost roughly in excess of R30 000 an eye.

“The family appealed to the Netcare Foundation for assistance to cover their medical costs,” said the eye specialist.

Once their case was approved, Lefa underwent a successful transplant of her left cornea in 2018.

“A couple of months after the procedure the patient’s left eye healed well.

“I wanted her to have her full eyesight recovered, even though she could see well with her left eye,” said Dr Mia, who’s been in the medical industry for more than 15 years.

He further revealed that he feared Lefa’s right eye would develop into a lazy eye if left untreated.

“I wanted to prevent Lefa from getting what is known as amblyopia in her adulthood, which is a result of one eye not being put to as much use as the other.” 

With the assistance of the Netcare Foundation, the Legora Primary school pupil underwent her second successful cornea transplant on her right eye on 11 June.

Lefa, her parents and healthcare professionals aft

“The words ‘thank you’ can never be enough to show how grateful I am, to everyone who assisted in Lefa’s newfound gift of sight,” said a joyous John.

“I recently saw Lefa for a check-up and she’s healing quite well. Her stitches are coming along well and she’s excited about getting back into the groove of being a child again,” Dr Mia stated.

He said the patient might’ve lost her vision because of a childhood infection left untreated or trauma to the eyes that went unnoticed and advises parents to always be wary.

“Something as simple as a pink eye and watery eye, for example, should be checked out in case it develops into possible scarring.”

Image credit: Supplied