Thursday, February 28, 2008

Uganda performs Africa's first ear implant

A team of American and Ugandan doctors have carried out the first surgery in Africa to implant a device and restore the hearing of a patient at Mulago Hospital, Kampala.

David Nuwagaba, 23, from Kiruhura district, suffered a chronic infection that left him deaf almost two years ago. But thanks to Cochlear, a US-based company that manufactures implantable hearing devices, his dream of going to university might come true. On Tuesday, a team of American specialists and nurses, assisted by Ugandans, carried out an operation to restore his hearing free of charge.

The surgical procedure took two hours. An incision was made in the skin behind the ear where a special ‘cochlear’ device was implanted. The device enables somebody to decipher sounds ranging from speech, telephone calls, running water and the chirping of birds, explained Thomas Roeland, an Associate Professor at the New York University School of Medicine, who headed the team. The cochlear forms the inner ear, which transmits sound waves through cells that pick the vibrations which are transmitted to the brains.

The implanted cochlear device replaces the part of the damaged inner ear. It receives sound signals and sends them to the nerves, skipping the non-working parts in the ear. The American experts were assisted by Dr. Michael Awubwa, the acting head of the Ear, Nose and Throat department at Mulago Hospital.

Meanwhile, at least 9 million Ugandans, out of a population of 29 million, suffer from some form of mental disorder, and are not fully productive, it has been revealed. The disorders include; post traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, epilepsy and schizophrenia.

The ailments disrupt peoples' thinking and emotions, relations with people, daily functioning -and this often results in an inability to cope with the ordinary demands of life. This was revealed yesterday by Dr Fred Kigozi, the director of Butabika Mental Hospital. He was speaking at a symposium to mark the World Mental Health Day in Kampala. "The number of citizens in Uganda who are moving from normal to abnormal status is increasing. Several studies have shown that 20-30 per cent of the Ugandan population suffer from common mental disorders," he said. He added that mental illnesses are mainly caused by stress due to poverty, lack of employment, alcohol and other pressures on people's lives.

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