“I was blind, but now I see.” These words from the powerful Christian hymn Amazing Grace are the very same words used by Susannah. Susannah is a Liberian woman in Sineo County who underwent life-changing eye surgery.

Susannah’s blindness was the result of cataracts — the world’s leading cause of blindness. In western countries, it’s a condition that’s easily fixed. But in Liberia, there is a shortage of medical doctors and almost no specialists. Cataracts often mean blindness as it’s difficult to have a successful eye surgery in Liberia.

People in Liberia need eye care

For every success story like Susannah, there are many more like Esther. People in need who continue to battle their afflictions. Like Susannah, Esther suffered from bad cataracts.

Although she underwent eye surgery in Liberia to fix her condition, the procedure comes with a fair amount of risk. After her surgery, complications arose for Esther. Her eyesight ended up worse than before. Her goal was improved eyesight — now she is legally blind.

“I just want to see,” Esther said. “I thought the operation would work. It did for other people. Now I am in more pain and can see less than I did before.”

Esther, a woman who has cataracts, sits with her two friends in Liberia.
Esther, a woman who has cataracts, sits with her two friends in Liberia.

Unfortunately, even for patients who are able to have eye surgery in Liberia in this region, follow-up care is rare.

Complications arise and often go untreated. Susannah and Esther live far from the hospital. They don’t have a vehicle or public transportation. It’s difficult to have access to eye care. Cataract surgery is usually performed by an ophthalmic surgeon. In a country still recovering from civil wars and Ebola, post-op care is not an option.

A trained nurse performs eye surgery in Liberia

Things are getting better. Recently, a Liberian nurse was sent to nearby Ghana to train, perfect the surgery, and return to her country to perform it. Medical Teams International staff heard about Esther’s eye condition because of their routine visits to Liberia. They knew the newly trained eye nurse could help.

Medical Teams staff determined that Esther’s retinas had detached after the first eye surgery in Liberia. She needed a follow-up procedure and vital eye drops to correct the problem. Medical Teams staff recognized Esther’s challenge to find transportation to the eye clinic. They set up a day for the eye nurse to come to her community instead. Esther’s face lit up with a wide smile as she heard the news that help was on its way.

As Esther awaits the corrective eye surgery in Liberia, she is confident that once it’s over she too will be able to say, “I was blind, but now I see.”

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