Eight-year-old rape victim receives donated prosthetic eye

2012-07-20 10:07
Sphumelele Mngoma
A horrible situation has been made a little better for an eight-year-old Gingindlovu rape victim who has received a custom-made prosthetic eye, thanks to the Durban University of Technology (DUT).

The little girl lost one eye after a 15-year-old schoolmate and neighbour tried to gouge both her eyes out during a violent rape in April this year. The incident happened in sugar?cane fields just 20 metres from her home.

According to Peter Furber, a lecturer at the university’s department of dental technology, the idea of giving her the prosthetic eye was initiated by a local optometrist about a month ago, who said he wanted to fund the procedure.

However, he did not get the person’s details since he was driving.

The university then decided to do the procedure, which usually costs between R14 000 to R15 000, for free.

The little girl now has 85% mobility with her new eye, which is much better than in most cases.

This is determined by the severity of the damaged muscles around the eye.

An ocular prosthesis does not provide vision – it is a cosmetic measure.

Addressing members of the press, Furber said the procedure usually takes three days. However, the last fitting could only be done on the fourth day since the little girl had difficulty at first in trusting him.

The university’s dental clinic was able to do this since the impression material and procedure involved in making a prosthetic eye is the same as that used to make artificial teeth.

In order to get an exact eye replica, Furber first had to take an impression of the socket by squirting dental impression material into the empty eye socket.

Since this first step is invasive, it took a whole day before his little patient trusted him enough to allow him to conduct the procedure.

Then he had to build an artificial eye from wax.

The iris is painted separately since the iris colour of the artificial eye needs to correspond with the colour of the other eye.

This then had to be tested on the little patient to check on lines of sight and the size of the eye. Furber then made a mould of wax.

This was then transferred to acrylic. This process normally takes three hours to allow it to cool.
The white part of the eye and veins are then applied and a clear layer of acrylic is painted over the front of the prosthesis.

This acts as varnish. It helps to seal in all effects and give the prosthesis the look of a real eye, with depth.

After another three hours, the prosthetic eye is polished and cleaned with detergent before being delivered to the patient.

Journalists could not interact with the child. However, her guardian said the new eye has given her renewed confidence.

“She really hated the sympathy and stares she got from people. Hopefully this will stop that because it really got her upset.”

The girl’s rapist is still a patient at Fort Napier Hospital. He will be in court again tomorrow at the Mthunzini Magistrates' Court.