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From darkness to light on a hospital ship

After Zackaria was born, Binta his mother, began to see signs that her son was suffering from cataracts – a condition her oldest child had experienced.  

A story that repeats itself

“I knew about Zackaria’s eyes when he was still very young, because I had the same experience with my older son,” Binta said. “Elimane had surgery, but his procedure was not successful. I cried when I saw that my new baby was looking and moving the same way.” 

Although Binta was aware that she was not responsible for her children’s poor eyesight, the fact that both of her boys were born with cataracts created immense  stress  for her. Over time, this stress turned into illness. Binta was overwhelmed with grief, so her mother offered to take the boys into her home.  

Growing up, Zackaria was aware that he could not see like other children. But he still wanted to live life to the fullest, including playing with other children and even being ambitious enough to try kicking a soccer ball. His teacher encouraged his cheerful, strong-willed personality so he wouldn’t wallow in his disability. The young boy sometimes came home with scratches and bruises from his adventures, but nothing could get in the way of his curious nature and zest for life.

Story of Zackaria
Zackaria was born with a cataract in each eye and saw the world only in shadows and shapes.

A piece of news changes the course of the story

One day, while Binta was visiting her children, the family heard on a local television station about the imminent arrival of the Africa Mercy. Elimane asked his mother if he and Zackaria could go on the hospital ship in hope of being healed.  

“There are people who can go for free eye operations,” he said.

Binta quickly took her boys to where the patients were being screened and introduced them to the volunteers. Unfortunately, after a thorough examination, Elimane could not be operated on. He had been blind for too long and the chances of a successful second operation were very slim.  

Young Zackaria, on the other hand, was more promising! He was given a date to be admitted to the hospital. Binta was thrilled.  

Story of Zackaria
Binta, his mother, hoped and prayed patiently for years that one day Zackaria would be able to see.

“The family prayed that the ship would be blessed, and that the operation would succeed,” she said. 

Zackaria was excited to have the “things in his eyes” removed, as he puts it. He was very eager to see and began counting down the days until his surgery.  

When they were admitted from the hospital ship, the Africa Mercy, Binta realized that her son’s dream of surgery was coming true. She gained confidence despite her fear saying “It was difficult, but I put the situation in God’s hands.”

A bright story

In the blink of an eye, his  surgery was over. Zackaria was released from the hospital the next day and returned a week later for an eye exam. Six weeks after the eye procedure, Zackaria had a final checkup and participated in the “Celebration of Sight” on the pier, a ceremony in which he received glasses to help focus his eyes.

Story of Zackaria
Dr. Glenn Strauss, a volunteer surgeon for Mercy Ships since 1997, examined Zackaria's eyes a week after his surgery. For young children who have been blind for most of their lives, the brain must learn to interpret new electrical signals from the eyes.

“Now Zackaria can see better, he hardly stays still and moves constantly,” said Binta. “I am so happy. I never thought Zackaria would be so lucky to have the surgery. Even I was suffering from something that Mercy Ships cured!”

Binta hopes that one day her son will decide to become a surgeon, commenting, “He could help people like people helped him.”  

As for Zackaria, his main ambition after surgery was to play outside and  build things. With a newfound ability to go to school, it was time to start another chapter in his life – one that was more joyful than ever!

Story of Zackaria
After so many years of not being able to see, Zackaria's main concern after surgery was to play until the sun went down!

To enable other patients like Zackaria to have access to life-changing surgeries onboard a hospital ship, you can donate here or to discover other patient stories.

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