CureBlindness | How 15 minutes changed 12-year old Felicia's life
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How 15 minutes changed 12-year old Felicia's life

news | Ghana | Feb 27, 2023

Felicia Mensah took her first steps at only nine months old. By age 10, her world was blurry around the edges. Nevertheless, Felicia dreamed of becoming a nurse, and then a seamstress – so she could “make nice clothes for [her] mother, grandparents, and siblings.”

As Felicia’s vision deteriorated, her mother Georgina feared that her little girl’s dream may never come true.

Felicia was facing early-onset cataracts.

Most people think of cataracts as an elderly person’s disease. What many people don’t realize is that they can develop at any age, even in infancy.

Felicia being examined

In Ghana, where Felicia lives, it is estimated that childhood blindness accounts for 5 to 10% of the national burden of blindness. As is customary, Georgina tried treating her daughter’s cataracts with homemade remedies. Once Felicia turned twelve with no sign of improvement, Georgina decided to take Felicia to the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital.

An unemployed and widowed mother of 4, Georgina would have to save up to make the long trek to visit the regional hospital with her daughter. But as Felicia’s sight worsened and she began to struggle in school, Georgina knew that their time was running out.

That’s when one of Felicia’s teachers mentioned HCP’s free cataract surgery outreach in February. The outreach was at the very hospital Georgina had intended to visit, so she borrowed some money from friends to travel there in time.

Georgina and her daughter arrived at Cape Coast at 8pm on Monday and shortly after, Felicia bravely underwent the 15-minute procedure that would change her life.

Early Tuesday morning, the nurses removed Felicia's eye patch. From the moment the bandage came off, Felicia’s world came back into focus. Today, Felicia can see clearly to make her dream of becoming a seamstress, a reality.

“I worried about my daughter's sight because I want her to be independent and self-sufficient in the future,” Georgina said. “Without her vision, she would have to depend on others for her basic needs, and I do not want that for her.”

Felicia was just one of 1,279 patients who received eye surgeries in our latest outreach at Cape Coast Teaching Hospital (CCTH).

Prior to the outreach, the CCTH ophthalmic team screened patients throughout the region, then bussed eligible patients to the hospital on the day of their surgery. Thanks to the efforts of local community members and volunteers, we were able to provide cost-effective surgery to hundreds of patients who would otherwise face needless blindness.

A warm thanks as well to the ophthalmic teams from:

  • Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi
  • Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) in Accra
  • Watborg Eye Center
  • The Cape Coast Teaching Hospital (CCTH)
  • And Kumasi South

Operating ophthalmologists included:

  • Father-son team Drs. Bo and Geoffrey Wiafe
  • Drs. Angela Ampong and Amos Aikins from KATH
  • Drs. Benedicta Appiah-Thompson and Sarpong Abrebrese from CCTH
  • Dr. Amoah from Kumasi South
  • Dr. Vera Beyou from KBTH
  • And HCP Co-founder Dr. Geoff Tabin

We were also joined by several guests, including a team from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) and technical advisors from Aravind Eye Hospitals in India.

LDS has provided critical support to HCP’s Ghana program over the past decade including a significant amount of specialized ophthalmic equipment and training support for allied health staff. The technical advisors from Aravind – Dr. R Venkatesh and Ms. Sasipriya Karumanchi Munirathnam – were on site to review the construction of the eye unit at the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital, which is slated for completion in late 2023.

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