Retinoblastoma, the eye cancer

On our November 2016 visit to the three hospitals of the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Service, Prof Peter Hesseling and I were accompanied by Prof Mariana Kruger, the present head of paediatrics and child health at Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital, Cape Town.

Mariana is an expert on the eye cancer, retinoblastoma and is responsible for the protocol with which we have treated treated this cancer since 2013. At Mutengene Baptist Hospital, S.W.Cameroon we met a boy called Remond aged 18 months who was receiving chemotherapy for retinoblastoma.  Remond and his mother are pygmies from the Baka people of S.E.Cameroon. They are genetically one of the most ancient people groups in Africa, second only to the bushmen of the Kalahari. Remond was found by 2 Catholic sisters who had heard that treatment for this cancer was freely available at Mbingo Baptist Hospital, N.W.Cameroon. They arrived at Mbingo only to find that the ophthalmic surgeon was away and so came all the way south to Mutengene. Remond and his parents have little money even for food and are being supported by the congregation of a local Baptist church. The ophthalmic surgeon, Dr Emmanuel Tambe makes no charge for surgical treatment and our charity (BTMAT) freely provides chemotherapy drugs and pays in-patient treatment costs. I find this a remarkable story of Christian compassion at work – and of advocacy for our programme.  How did the Catholic sisters know about our work?

Prof Hesseling, Remond and his mother, Prof Kruger

Prof Hesseling, Remond and his mother, Prof Kruger

Paul Wharin, December 2016

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