Thursday, November 8, 2007

Our amazing eye team

A large tent is permanently stationed on the dock next to the Africa Mercy. It serves a our dockside eye unit.
Preventable blindness is a major problem in the developing world. The World Health Organization states that in "Sub-Saharan Africa, the major causes of blindness in English-speaking African countries are cataracts, trachoma, glaucoma, onchocerciasis (river blindness) and childhood blinding disorders. These countries are the home to an estimated 3-4 million blind and 10-12 million visually disabled people...up to 80% of this blindness and visual disability was preventable and treatable."

There a less than five opthamologist in Liberia, which translates to little or no access to eye care.
Each week our eye team performs between 40 t o50 life changing eye surgeries as well as perform follow up care that is essential to the operations long term success.

On Friday I was able to spend some time in the vision tent observing what the eye team does (I want to write a story about their work). This Friday was what is called a "Celebration of Sight." Patients who have already had corrective surgery come back to the tent to receive a free follow
up laser treatment that prevents the reformation of cataracts. The eye team has performed as many as 100 of these laser treatment's in a day. Dr. Russ told me in one day he performed almost 500,000 dollars of free treatment.
After receiving the laser treatment the patients vision is rechecked and documented. They are then given a bag of cookies and a cup of juice and sent home. I was on juice duty.

I sat at the door of the tent and handed out juice to patients as they left. It was amazing to here their stories. Many of the patients were completely functionally blind due to untreated cataracts and could now see for the first time in 2 to 4 years. All from a quick operation

It is amazing to think that the blind are literally receiving their sight. And it is sad to think that so many people are going blind simply because they do not have access to medical care.

Check out the link on the right to see more pictures.

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