I have been blessed with perfect vision. Not everyone is. I have a lot of friends and family who wear glasses or contacts. Even a few who have splurged and gotten laser eye surgery. I have some family that have struggled with more indepth eye problems. What do all these people I know have in common? An eye doctor or optometrist. We are the fortunate few. Access to any kind of eye care we need.
What happens when your country has minimal health care. When your average day's pay barely keeps the family fed, not mind you paying for any extras. What happens when you don't know that there is something that can be done for you?
A number of weeks ago, I was out for the day with friends and one of our translators who was showing us his farm and the local area. As we walked the long dirt road from the main road to his farm, we passed many, many people. Some children came running to us (since we happened to be handing out candy, but that's another story), some people watched from the sidelines, and all were greeted. So friendly, so many smiles... and along the way, one family with infant twins was pointed out to us. And right away, I noticed that one baby was different. It's gaze was wrong. He looked the wrong way, eyes half closed. As we continued on, we discussed the fact that the baby was likely blind. And as we talked and thought, we decided we needed to see the baby a little closer. So on our return, we stopped by the house and asked if we could see the baby. It took me just seconds to confirm, the small baby had bilateral cateracts. Through our friend who works as a translator in the hospital, we explained to the family that this is something Mercy Ships might be able to help with. We had our friend go back a few days later with details on eye screenings that the family could go to in hopes of getting the baby's eyes fixed.
The thing that struck me most, though, was the fact that this was something the family was ready to just accept and live with. They had no plans of seeing a doctor. I'm sure they saw the difference in their baby, but they had no money to do anything about it. Sadly, I don't know if they ever showed up to screening. I only know that we gave them a choice, an option they hadn't heard of before that. I pray they came!
When it is an elder that looses their sight, it's not just one person affected. A child, often around the age of 8-12, is assigned to lead the elder around. They don't go to school because they are needed to lead and care for the elder. A double tragedy. Restoring vision to one, means restoring opportunities to the other! It's amazing how often fixing one person's problem has a domino effect through a family or community.
Several times a month, eye screenings are held. Looking mainly for people with cataracts, but also pterygium, nevi on the eyes and other easily operable problems. We put out the word, and they come...
They come by the hundreds.
And they wait, however long it takes.
All ages, small children to ancient elders.
Some already have glasses. A luxury.
A quick check for cataracts.
Here's a baby with bilateral cataracts. Last month we had two weeks of children's eye surgeries. They got admitted overnight and were absolutely doted on by the nurses. We love our babies!!
And in the end, cataracts removed, we have them come back for checkups, and a big, big dance party!!! Celebration of sight!!!