Have you ever considered what it takes to set up a brand-new hospital? What about restarting an ophthalmology programme in a post-Covid world? How about doing both on a ship?
By Ella Hawthorne, published with permission from NZ Optics
I arrived in Senegal, West Africa, ahead of the ship’s arrival, to work with the patient-selection team. Working alongside translators, we screened more than 1,100 patients over five days in health centres around the capital f Dakar. A bit of high-school French and a few basic greetings in Wolof (a Senegalese dialect) helped me quickly build rapport, resulting in huge smiles and laughter,
The challenges that come with working in the field, like exhausting work over very long days, were heightened by sub-standard lighting for vision testing and ocular health assessments. We saw some incredibly dense cataracts, with vision of only hand motion or light perception being more common than not. Unfortunately, not everyone is a good surgical candidate, which meant difficult compassionate conversations, saying no to people who were hoping for a miracle. Sadly, we cannot help everyone.
Though it was a hard first week, each person who stood in front of me was a reminder of our work’s potentially life-changing effects.
Read the whole article from NZOptics here
She spent her childhood on board a Mercy Ship, which inspired Dr Sandra Lako to spend decades of her medical career serving the people of Sierra Leone.
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