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  • Wa & Nandom, Ghana | Outreach Report

    Wa, Ghana Nandom, Ghana May 1-5, 2023 706 surgeries Dense vegetation surrounding Wa and Nandom provided a lush backdrop where farmers, traders, teachers, and many others came – often long distances – to receive cataract surgery. 706 surgeries were performed in just five days, restoring sight to those in greatest need. Volunteers, medical teams, and sponsors came together to make this possible. Special thanks to LiveView Technologies (LVT) for sponsoring these surgeries and for sending a stellar group to volunteer with us. Also, big thanks to @caring.churchofjesuschrist for their generous support of surgical equipment and training of local medical personnel. We could not do this work without such integral support from so many. On Monday, hospital staff and volunteers began welcoming patients from the surrounding region. Registration forms were filled out, patients received ID wristbands, and vision screenings were performed. Patients moved through a series of stations such as dilation, biometry, and blocking as they prepared for surgery. In addition to the surgical team, two Ghanaian residents were mentored all week by senior surgeons and were given many opportunities to refine their surgical skills. Following surgery on one or both eyes, patients stayed the night to recover. Most patients were accompanied by a family member, often their main caregiver, who assisted them. All hoped for successful outcomes when patches were removed the next morning. Each morning following surgery, patients gathered on chairs under tents, with patches over the operative eye(s). Surgeons removed each patch one at a time. Many patients who had been blind – sometimes for several years – could now see! Even those who only had one cataract were so excited to see clearly. Patients rejoiced by praying, clapping, cheering, and sometimes dancing to celebrate the gift of restored sight. They expressed immense gratitude for the surgeons and all who made this possible. Patch removal mornings are often described as “pure joy.” Elizabeth, a 26-year-old mother of two, was blinded by debilitating cataracts that developed rapidly over a year ago. Emaciated due to diabetes – which is very difficult to treat in rural Ghana – and now blind, she was unable to care for her children or provide for her family. Her mother quit her job to care for Elizabeth and all were suffering. Elizabeth and her daughter often had to beg for food in the street. After receiving bilateral cataract surgery, Elizabeth regained her full sight. She was so excited and everyone cheered with her. Many others had life-changing results, including a 9-year-old boy and 12-year-old girl. While some patients had only minimal improvement due to underlying comorbidities, most received their best outcome. Their vision would continue to improve as the eye(s) healed from surgery. Follow-up exams and visual acuity testing were performed on each patient. Medicated drops were administered and sent home with each patient, with specific follow-up instructions given in the local language. On Wednesday, we were invited to meet with local leaders, including the Wa Naa, Naa Fuseini Seidu Pelpuo IV. We explained our work helping his people, and he was very supportive. His assembly recorded a message in the local language, encouraging local people to have the surgery done if they get the opportunity. On Thursday, hospital staff and volunteers did something a little unorthodox: they went out during the outreach to nearby villages to find patients to bring in. At a small clinic in a main marketplace, people lined up to be screened. In another village, they went door to door, rounding up anyone they could find to be screened. By that afternoon, so many patients had come in that surgeons worked long into the night to finish, returning to their hotel around 3:30a.m. Also on Thursday night, a huge storm ripped through, bringing torrential rains, wind, thunder, and lightning. Patients fortunately slept indoors, but many others scrambled to take cover. Tents were completely uprooted and destroyed. This complicated patch removals on Friday morning, but despite being shaken up by the storm, everyone still celebrated renewed sight together. Friday evening, upon finishing surgery on the final patient, a celebration was held for hospital staff and volunteers. Local dignitaries came and expressed complementary thanks for the service performed. Elizabeth was invited to be our guest of honor, and all clapped for her when her story was shared. She and her family danced and celebrated alongside everyone else, filled with renewed strength to face her difficulties ahead. Magnify Elizabeth’s story by hundreds of individuals, and we start to see the wide-reaching impact that this work will have for years to come. Though we didn’t hit our target of 1,000 surgeries, the impact of our work in Wa and Nandom is immeasurable. Like Elizabeth, those who regained their sight will prompt a ripple effect through their families and communities, as patients and caretakers are able to return to work and household duties. Children will return to school. It takes an incredible amount of teamwork, bringing together people from various countries, regions of Ghana, and backgrounds, and all work side by side for a common cause: to bring sight-restoring cataract surgery to those in greatest need.

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