Blindness to sight

It only took half an hour for Toffa’s world to finally be turned right-side up.

Toffa is unsure of how old she is, but her best guess is 80. In those years she’s planted crops, cleaned, cooked, and raised generations of children. She’s always been strong and busy — until a year ago when she lost her sight to cataracts. Now, she spends her days longing to get back in the fields to work.

‘When I was seeing, I planted rice. I could plant a lot of things,’ Toffa said. ‘I could plant peanuts and corn. I could plant peppers. These are things I use to do.’

Losing her sight dramatically changed Toffa’s life. She’s always been very independent, but now, she is no longer able to do anything by herself — including using the bathroom. For the past year, Toffa has become totally dependent on her grandson, Jean, making her feel like a burden.

‘It hurts me a lot that she can’t see,’ Jean said about the woman who raised him. ‘She’s my father, she’s my mother, and she’s all my life.’

Toffa’s family was in search of a way to heal her eyes when they heard about Mercy Ships. Jean brought his grandmother to the Africa Mercy for the eye surgery screening day. After a series of tests to confirm Toffa could receive surgery, she was scheduled for an operation to remove the cataract from her right eye.

‘The cataract is quite a thick lens, these patients really can’t see anything,’ Dr Ralph Crew, a volunteer surgeon onboard the Africa Mercy said. ‘By removing it and replacing it with a new clear plastic lens that will stay in their eye for the rest of their life, we can change people’s lives very quickly.’

Before her surgery, Toffa and the other patients waiting for their operations were entertained with songs and dancing, but Toffa refused to join in — insisting on waiting until she can see again.

After the 30-minute procedure and a day of rest, the big moment finally arrives. Slowly Toffa’s bandages are removed, and she opens her eyes. Her first glimpse is filled by her beloved Jean. Shortly after she begins to dance in celebration!

‘I can see everyone, I can see everything,’ Toffa said. ‘If you opened my heart and went inside, you’d see it’s full of joy. I can say, Come with me, come with me, let’s go to the field! Now I can tie my grandchild on my back and off we go.’