Successful Cataract Outreach in Woldiya, Ethiopia

High-volume cataract outreach at Woldiya Hospital results in 953 sight restoring surgeries

In just five days time, a team comprised of HCP Affiliated Ophthalmologists, in-country personnel, HCP staff and volunteers performed and assisted in a total of 953 sight restoring cataract surgeries. In attendance was HCP Board Member, Dr. Matt Oliva; Wake Forest University Associate Professor and Ophthalmologist, Dr. Matthew Giegengack; Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology’s Head of Glaucoma Clinic & Research Department, Dr. Suman Thapa; and Emory Eye Center’s Global Ophthalmology Fellow, Fran Wu, all of whom traveled to Woldiya, Ethiopia to work with Woldiya Hospital Cataract Surgeon, Dr. Abraham Aregay, for the outreach campaign from October 9-15.

The following are a few patient stories captured at this outreach:

Desale, 15 year old boy:

This young man said he had been blind in his right eye as long as he can remember. He was unable to stay in school, was ridiculed for his blindness by bullies and has not attended class for years. He lives in Woldiya with his family and generally stays at home with his mother as she cooks and cleans. He is a quiet and sweet boy, who was brave and fearless as he entered the operating room and then quietly waited for his turn on the operating table.

When his patch was taken off the next day, he quietly scanned the room with a look of astonishment on his face. After awhile he began to smile and started chatting, the most we had seen him do in the two days spent together at the outreach. He said he is most excited to go back to school and stated that he wants to be a teacher. When he becomes a teacher, he hopes to help kids who were like him and protect them from bullies.

40 year old farmer:

This man was brought by his brother in-law, who had a cataract in his right eye removed at our June outreach in Arba Minch. He had not had vision in his left eye and was only able to see partially out of his right before arriving from Wichale, about 61 km away. He lives there with his wife and 8 children and farms wheat, corn and beans. After his patches were removed he said he is most happy that his four children, who have been helping on the farm, can now go back to school. They did not go to school because they had to help make a living for their family. After speaking with us he called his family and you could hear cries of joy and excitement from the receiver.

Mother with baby:

This mother of eight came to the outreach with her youngest child and husband. As she waited patiently to have her patches removed, Dr. Matt Oliva noticed an eye infection in her almost 2-year-old daughter. With a quick call for eye drops to clear up a case of conjunctivitis, the baby’s eye was cleared up by the afternoon. This mother said she is eager to get back to her children and work her cattle once again.

Whelai, 12 year old boy:

This young boy came with his father and had a cataract in his left eye. He never looked up the entire time he was at the hospital and was very shy. He had his cataract for 2 years and was unable to go to school because of it. His father is a cattle farmer and his days were mostly spent sitting in a field waiting for his father to finish herding. He said he is most looking forward to going back to school and making friends, and he now wants to be a doctor when he grows up.

67 year old woman, Martha:

Martha came with her son and had been blind from cataracts for about 2 years. She said the hardest part of being blind was having to rely on someone for everything. She said, “When I was blind I just ate food people put in my hands without even knowing what it was. Now I can eat my favorite foods and choose them myself. You {HCP} took me out of the darkness and now I am alright! I can go back to church all by myself and thank God for giving me sight back.”

Meregeta, 60 year old Priest:

Meregeta had been bilaterally blind for 7 years and was so happy to receive sight back he immediately began singing hymns and saying prayers aloud.

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