The day after surgery at Boru Meda Hospital, hundreds of patients gather under a large white tent set in a rural pasture. With the chill winter winds blowing, they sit wrapped in fuzzy blankets and bold patterned scarves.
The white bandages covering their eyes stand in stark contrast to these bright colors, but with the energy in the tent you’d think you crashed a community campout – not a medical outreach.
Some patients sing to pass the time. Others beam proudly as their bandages are removed and they look their doctor in the eye for the first time. With their sight restored, elderly patients seem to shed 20 years while the younger ones exude a confidence they’ve never known.
This is just a glimpse of last December’s outreach, when the HCP team and our local partners completed 1,575 cataract surgeries at Boru Meda Hospital in the Amhara Region of Ethiopia.
We are so grateful for the opportunity to bear witness to this transformative experience because every outreach reminds us of the true impact that a simple, 15-minute surgery can have on a community.
To give you a taste of that transformation, two patients from this outreach share their stories.
Sixty-year-old farmer and father of four Mohamed lost his eyesight two years ago. He has only been able to move around by touch or with his children's assistance.
Mohamed could no longer work. He could no longer see the faces of the children that helped him day-to-day. And he feared he would never marry again because of the stigma against blindness in his country.
Then, one day, Mohamed's nephew brought him to Boru Meda Hospital for care. Mohamed was told that his condition was reversible: they could remove his cataracts and restore his sight. All he had to do was come back for a free surgery during the HCP Cureblindness outreach in December.
Mohamed anxiously awaited the day of his surgery, and when that day came, he made the trek to Boru Meda. Within 24 hours his bandages were off and he could see the world that had faded from his view years ago. He could see his children’s smiling faces. And he could envision finding love once again.
As he told us, "Vision is power, and I will marry again.”
Alto is a 50-year-old farmer and father of 10. He lost his vision in both eyes about a year ago.
For those of us gifted with good vision, it’s easy to overlook all the things lost – all the opportunities missed – when your sight is impaired. You miss out on life’s simple pleasures, like a beautiful sunset, as well as life’s most precious moments.
Alto’s daughter, Birri, was planning to marry. It broke his heart to think that he wouldn’t be able to witness this milestone in Birri’s life. He was also frustrated and embarrassed that he wouldn’t be able to see and welcome the wedding guests.
Then Alto heard about HCP’s upcoming outreach. So, in December of 2022, Alto came to Boru Meda Hospital. After a simple, 15-minute surgery he waited eagerly for the bandages to come off. When they did the next day, Alto was overjoyed to realize his sight was truly restored.
Today, he looks forward to looking his daughter’s wedding guests in the eye, shaking their hands, and watching as his Birri smiles and dances the night away. "I am happy now to welcome the guests," he explained with a smile on his face.