‘We wish he could see the sunrise and sunset’

Shaqeelah Carollisen, Riyaaz's mother.

Fifteen-year-old Riyaaz Carollisen of Hanover Park needs R75 000 for a corneal transplant on his left eye which only has 10 percent vision due to his severe condition of keratoconus.

Keratoconus refers to the condition when the cornea on the eye is deformed, resulting in a cone-shaped cornea instead of the normal round shape.

Light rays therefore enter the eye at different angles, and do not focus on one point in the retina, but on many different points causing a blurred, distorted image.

Riyaaz’s mother, Shaqeelah Carollisen, said when he was five years old, she noticed there was something wrong with his eyes when he couldn’t look out of the window because his eyes were sensitive to the sunlight.

She said his eyes had always been itchy and red and he had always walked around rubbing his eyes, which prompted her to take him for an eye test.

The optometrist did a few eye tests and decided that Riyaaz suffered from allergies. But the medication that he received did not help, and in 2006, he received a referral letter to Red Cross Children’s Hospital.

The results came back also saying he had an allergy to dust and sand.

Riyaaz stayed indoors to prevent the wind from blowing the sand and dust into his eyes.

He went for check-ups every three months, and in December that year he saw a specialist at Red Cross Hospital, Dr Hilton Eksteen, who took Riyaaz to his private practice in Claremont where he conducted further tests and diagnosed keratoconus.

“Dr Eksteen reported to Red Cross and explained Riyaaz’s condition to the doctors. He said that both his corneas were deformed and will continue to deteriorate, and that no type of specs could help his eyesight.

“He was given hard contact lenses but he could not adapt to them. He was only 12,” said Ms Carollisen.

The following year, in 2007, Riyaaz was transferred to Groote Schuur Hospital where Red Cross patients’ care continued once they’ve reached a certain age.

Riyaaz was put on the operation waiting list for the corneal cross-linking treatment for both his eyes.

Cross-linking is a technique which uses UV light and a photosensitiser to strengthen chemical bonds in the cornea. The goal of the treatment is to halt progressive and irregular changes in corneal shape.

However, in 2008 the keratoconus had caused his right cornea to deteriorate further.

He now needed a corneal transplant, and was put on the waiting list at Groote Schuur Hospital.

“Last year, my boss, Helet Merkling, told me about her eye doctor, Mike Atenborough, who is an eye and cornea specialist. She was very supportive and always asked how my son was doing. She made an appointment to see him and said we should just see what he says,” Ms Carollisen said.

Ms Merkling said her wish for Riyaaz was that he could see the sunrise and sunset.

“Our family support to Riyaaz and Shaqeelah is motivated by the wish that he could see the sunrise and sunset, the colours of a hummingbird, play soccer, learn at school and prepare for life fully sighted.

“No one in our country should be precluded from having their sight restored by expert medical care simply because South African medical aids don’t offer any cover, or recognise this genetic eye condition, or because waiting for many years for a corneal transplant at a public hospital may rob Riyaaz of his sight and of life opportunities.

“Riyaaz is a joyful and hard-working young man and we look forward to witnessing the transformation and restoration of his eyesight,” said Ms Merkling.

In March this year, a doctor did tests on Riyaaz’s eyes and said he needed a corneal transplant on his left eye and the cross-link operation on his right eye.

On Monday May 9, Riyaaz finally underwent the cross-link operation on his right eye at the Eye Clinic in Claremont.

Riyaaz now needs R75 000 to import a cornea from America, and cover his medical care, and doctor’s fees.

Local musician Jonathan Rubain saw an article in another community newspaper and contacted Ms Carollisen about raising funds for Riyaaz.

He put the story on his Facebook page and asked the public to donate money towards the operation.

So far the amount raised stands at R7 410.

“My mom and Riyaaz both loved his concerts. They always attended them. He contacted me and asked for my permission to raise funds for Riyaaz, and started off with a R100 pledge,” Ms Carollisen said.

“I just want Riyaaz to reach his full potential.

“He is a bright child and achieves everything he wants to do,” she said.

If you can help Riyaaz, call Shaqeelah Carollisen at 073 051 1519.