Sitting on the long wooden benches, many children waited to be examined at a Mercy Ships eye screening in Togo, West Africa. Many of them suffered from congenital cataracts.
As Dr. Strauss and Dr. Wodome examined child after child, they reached a bench with five children sitting very close to one another. All five children were from the same family – four siblings and one cousin. The man standing protectively behind them was their uncle. All of the children, ranging in age from 6 to 15, had never been able to see. They lived on a farm on the outskirts of Lomé, Togo, with their extended family. Their blindness prohibited them from attending school. So, they worked on the farm, performing simple tasks that did not require them to move around much. The long tedious hours were hard on them.
Their uncle had expended great effort to bring them to the screening. Now, they sat silently with expressionless faces, waiting to hear the verdict.
All of the children were sick with malaria when they came to the Mercy Ships dock. The hospital staff onboard the Africa Mercy worked hard to get them healthy enough for surgery before the ship left port. It was a close call for some of them.
Finally, the surgeries started. The youngest child received the first surgery. As soon as he could see, he clung to his siblings and helped care for them. Next, two more of the children received surgeries. Again, the ones who could now see helped care for the others. “They have always had each other, even though they are all blind,” their mother explained. It was a great relief when all five children had their cataracts removed.
A week later, the children returned for a post-operative checkup. It was quite a different atmosphere this time – the tension was gone. When the oldest boy stood to have his vision checked, he read the smallest line on the eye chart. The crew erupted into cheers! Every child was tested successfully and received the same enthusiastic response.
The horrible darkness was gone! It was replaced by the sounds of children playing and the music of children’s laughter.
The mother looked at her children and said simply, “I am so happy for them and so thankful they can now see!”
|All of the children sit in a row, waiting for the results of their examinations.|
|Slowly, the crew start to remove a boy’s bandages.|
|Slowly, the shock starts to wear off, and Yawa starts looking for things he has never seen before.|
|Even though he has just regained his sight, he is already reaching out for his sister and playing with her.|
15 May 2012
Written by Nicole Pribbernow
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by Debra Bell