The Blind

Tuesday, December 13

Today was the beginning of a big week for the clinic. AIM Air landed with a group of medical folks from The Moran Eye Center – http://uuhsc.utah.edu/MoranEyeCenter/outreach/international.html – and elsewhere: doctors, nurses, and others involved with the upcoming cataract surgeries that will be performed beginning Thursday. Several more eye surgeons arrive Thursday. Some of the docs brought small camping tents which now dot the clinic compound; others were moved into the clinic staff tents, and these staff moved into the almost-finished block housing nearby. Because the rainy season road conditions have made getting materials here impossible until just recently, ASAH loaned mattresses and other needed items from our storage for the guests. Since my last visit, the clinic has been using two of our tables and a stool as well. I don’t know what they’ll do when we take them back in January, but the clinic has been a gracious host to me over the many weeks I’ve spent here in the past year, and I’m glad ASAH can give back.

It’s lively here in the compound and the complexion has changed with the number of kuwajas (literally—foreigners, but used to designate us white folks) now present. Many of the clinic staff now spend their off hours at the new housing or on the outskirts of the gathering area, so I miss them at meal times and in the evenings, though the conversation, dotted with snippets of medical stories, reports on the day’s screenings, and joke telling, is interesting.

Blind people have walked here from as far away as Bor—a four day walk—to be screened for cataract surgery. In most cases, the blind person uses a cane and holds onto a long stick as a sighted person leads them slowly along rutted, dusty, stony paths and roadways, and through the grasslands. One six-year-old girl led her blind grandmother on a two-day walk from their village.

By Wednesday about 170 candidates were scheduled for cataract surgeries, and at least one trachoma patient has already had an operation. The doctors are working in makeshift operating suites. The Lost Boys Clinic is a basic care facility, not a hospital, but this team will make it work. Unfortunately, some patients are turned away because there is no sight to be restored. There are also at least ten children under 14 with cataracts. More patients will arrive over the next few days.

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