Of the 20 million people living in Ghana, 800,000 are either visually impaired or completely blind. 10 percent of this rapidly growing population consists of young children, whose blindness often stems from malnutrition and neglect. These children become withdrawn and quiet, and are shut out from the rest of the world due to lack of vision and from the possibilities of life.
Elaine Brown, a humanitarian missionary from the United States, has been serving as one of the primary caregivers at Beacon House, an orphanage in the capitol city of Accra, Ghana. She is especially close to Stevie, a young blind child named after Stevie Wonder because of the way he clapped in-time to the music played on the piano. His mother was traveling on a bus and asked a young man to watch Stevie as she got off to use the restroom with Stevie’s twin brother. Stevie’s mother never returned. Stevie, now two years old, was diagnosed with congenital cataracts in both eyes. Elaine considers herself Stevie’s “mom” and has gone out of her way to care for him. Elaine heard that the John A. Moran Eye Center International Team, including Dr. Robert Hoffman, Department Chair of Pediatric Ophthalmology, and Dr. Alan Crandall, Vice-Chairman, Department of Ophthalmology, who specializes in both glaucoma and cataract surgeries were coming to Kumasi and knew after much prayer that this was her answer. Elaine and Stevie flew to Kumasi the first day the Moran team arrived and was screened by Dr. Hoffman. Stevie subsequently underwent bilateral cataract surgery by Dr. Crandall. Elaine has been in touch with Julie Crandall, one of the eye team staff members, this is an excerpt of her recent email:
“Stevie is doing great! It took him a few days to adjust, but he is again behaving like a two-year-old, exploring the world each day. His walk is really improving, not touching the walls and is now moving quite fast. I am not quite sure if the two are related but he has also begun to talk and sing.”
In a little over a week the Moran Eye Team completed nearly 80 surgeries. Part of the outreach experience was being able to train and educate the staff at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH). All of the surgeries involved both a Moran Physician working in tandem with a local physician. This hands-on training greatly benefits the local physicians and staff as they continue treatment and care. long after the visiting team from Utah departs. It is this transfer and update of skills that makes this program so successful.
Participating Physicians and Support Staff:
Dr. Alan Crandall
Dr. Roger Furlong
Dr. Robert Hoffman
Dr. Kandon Kamae (Fellow)
Dr. Snow Slade (Fellow)
Julie Crandall (Ophthalmic Assistant)
Britney Zacherson (Clinical Nurse)
Dr. Slade, a Glaucoma Fellow on the Moran Eye team, participated in this outreach expedition. He shares the following story.
“Traveling a great distance, a father brought his two year old son, who was blind with congenital cataracts to the KATH hospital. The Moran and KATH doctors were worried there were more patients than the center could accommodate and they would have to turn some away. The father patiently waited with his child for their turn. After three days in grueling 100 percent humidity and sweltering temperatures the little boy was finally able to receive sight restoring surgery. It was so rewarding to see the smile on their faces the next day in post-operation visits. This is why the Moran Eye team completes over a dozen medical missions a year, and will continue to expand its reach throughout the developing world. This is what makes these humanitarian missions all worthwhile, the opportunity to help a young father give his child a second chance at life.”
Dr. Kamae, another Glaucoma Fellow who participated in the Ghana outreach this year with the Moran Eye Team, recounted the following.
“A 92 year old man with cataracts in both eyes waited patiently to be treated early on the first day of surgery. The older gentlemen stopped me and asked if they were going to be able to help him today. I assured the gentleman we would do our best to get his cataract surgery done. Due to unexpected technical problems with the equipment the first day, clinic was forced to send some patients home. Hoping that this older gentleman wasn’t one of those turned away, I checked the waiting room and there, still sitting patiently, was this older man. He was the last patient the eye team operated on, with the surgery going late into the night. The next day, overcome with emotion and grinning from ear-to-ear, the gentleman thanked the team for blessing him with the gift of sight.”
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