FRANCISTOWN: At 56 years, Dikgang Mogokgwane – an Immigration and Citizenship department principal immigration officer – would ordinarily be left with four years to retire from the public service.
But, as fate would have it, Mogokgwane who on a casual look appears as fit as a fiddle, has unfortunately been battling against glaucoma that is threatening to cut his career short and possibly render him completely blind. Amongst many other things, he can no longer drive his car.
For the past nine years, Mogokgwane has been fighting glaucoma with everything at his disposal, but to date, it seems the winner is glaucoma. Worse, the Mogokgwane family has been seriously at war with glaucoma as both his parents (now deceased) were victims of the eye disease. Four out of seven of his siblings inherited the disease that causes blindness from their parents. Now it’s Dikgang, a father of two, who is also married.
Journals show that glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, the health of which is vital for good vision.
The damage in the eye is often caused by abnormally high pressure in the eye. Glaucoma is listed as one of the leading causes of blindness for people over the age of 60.
“I don’t do any paperwork at the workplace and I also read with a lot of difficulties, as I only have one eye that is already strained with infection,” Mogokgwane explained to Mmegi this week.
At the workplace, because of his failing vision, he has literally not been doing anything. He planned to serve in the public service until he reached the retirement age of 60, but his failing vision has been a stumbling block.
Mogokgwane’s job as a principal immigration officer is to sieve through reams and reams of application forms and other chores.
“I can barely read some of the words which makes life so difficult for me at the workplace. I can walk on my own, but sometimes I simply stumble, fall and walk again,” Mogokwane told his touching story. He also has a walking stick to aid him when his eyes can’t see.
It’s so hard for Mogokgwane to do a lot of social activities in the community like attending funerals, weddings and others that helped him interact with the people.
In light of his failing vision, he ended up transferred to his home village of Serowe for his family to support him after serving in many areas across the country.
He bemoans that ever since he experienced problems with his sight, he lost a lot of friends, something that he says has been worrying him a lot.
It all started in 2012 when Mogokgwane realised that his right eye was failing to see properly and he was worried about the ever-contracting muscles in the eye.
He started off subjecting his eye to a layman’s test by closing and opening it trying to determine if it could see, but the results pointed to fading vision.
His journey for the fight of the eye’s vision started with a visit to an optician in the private practice who referred him to a government facility in Serowe, Sekgoma Memorial Referral Hospital, where it was confirmed his condition was indeed glaucoma.
He would then seek another opinion from an eye specialist in Gaborone, who bluntly informed him that given the advancement of his glaucoma, he could not be operated on to save the eye but rather that he could apply some eye medication.
“The eye was described as very dry and when I took the medication, it improved for a while but then went back to square one,” reminisces the Serowe-born Mogokgwane.
He adds that one of the medical doctors who he visited at a later stage told him the frustrating truth that, “there was nothing that could be done with my condition”. “I was now worried about the possibility of losing my eyesight.”
In 2019, he was referred to an eye clinic in neighbouring South Africa where he would undergo an eye operation. He was promised that three days after the operation he would be okay. He was blessed with an artificial lens and an express valve to improve the flow of fluid in the eye as the optic nerve was reported damaged.
“After a month of the operation, I was informed that the optic nerve was damaged and in the long run, it would deteriorate to the lowest levels,” remembers Mogokgwane.
In the same year, he was advised to retire from the public service because his vision would never improve to allow him to serve. He decided not to take the medical advice at the time, although he found himself confused at a later stage.
He had challenges of incessant sick days off work and ended up writing to be released from work based on his failing health.
“Whilst I was still grappling with the notion of quitting my job, which I joined in 1988, I went to the Sekgoma Hospital where I was booked to meet a glaucoma specialist in South Africa, but the whole process was frustrated by the coronavirus pandemic,” he says indicating that he was still waiting for the call-up. Unfortunately, he has lately been gripped by fear as his vision continues to deteriorate whilst waiting for his appointment to be effected.
When it becomes cloudy, windy or just sunny, Mogokgwane struggles to see completely. For the last six months, he accedes that his vision has been at its worst.
He is, however, hopeful that one medical procedure known as silicone will help his eye to lubricate, and rescue his other eye from joining the other in going blind. That is if he can finally undergo the procedure.