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 Health  Ghana Project #5195

Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana

by Himalayan Cataract Project, Inc.
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana

One of HCP’s newest partners in Ghana, Cape Coast Teaching Hospital (CCTH), forever changed the lives of nearly 200 people.

At the end of July, CCTH held a three day bus-in event where they provided 183 surgeries. The interdisciplinary team, led by Drs. Benedicta Appiah-Thomspon, Sylvia Brookman, and Sarpong Abrebrese, provided quality eye care, building on their experience over the past six months as well as their recent participation in specialized training - Expanding Access to High Quality Eye Care in West Africa: Clinical Skills and Outreach Management Training (for more information about this training, click here).

Already this year, CCTH has hosted two cataract campaigns and participated in another resulting in 940 surgeries. Applying new knowledge and enhanced skills gleaned from training events, CCTH is looking forward to celebrating World Sight Day in October by hosting their next high volume cataract surgery campaign, where they anticipate providing 500 surgeries. With HCP’s overall goal of supporting 10,000 surgeries at outreach events throughout Ghana this year, CCTH is well positioned to make a significant contribution to the alleviation of the curable blindness backlog in the country.

The role of training has always been central to the work of the HCP, particularly because we recognize that quality surgery must be the cornerstone of an effort to address cataract blindness and the vast majority of surgery must be performed by trained local personnel. This perspective underlies our every effort to train local providers at all levels – from sub-specialty ophthalmologists to nurses to equipment technicians. Dr. G. Fordjour from Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, Ghana is one such example.

From the central region of Ghana, Dr. Fordjour attended the University of Ghana Medical School and the Stanford Basic Ophthalmology course, she is a fellow of the West African College of Surgeons and Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons. She first heard about HCP from doctors at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital so she was familiar with the organization when we began a partnership with Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, where she was based.

Dr. Fordjour works with HCP at outreach events and supports HCP training in Ghana, most recently with the International Council of Ophthalmology exams. Additionally, as a Cornea Subspecialist, she has participated in several hands-on cornea workshops in Ghana with HCP Co-Founder, Dr. Geoff Tabin, former HCP International Fellow, Dr. Neda Nikpoor and most recently with outgoing HCP International Fellow, Dr. Allison Jarstad.

When asked how these training opportunities helped her or impacted her work, Dr. Fordjour explained:

“For these trainings, Drs. Neda and Allison brought donor corneas to my eye center. So corneal patients who could otherwise not afford surgeries received excellent transplant surgeries. Which also gave me experience doing transplant surgeries, which we cannot normally do because of a lack of donated corneas.

For the future of eye care in Ghana, I hope every patient will have access to care. To be able to have doctors with every surgical skill plus equipment and consumables available to them within the country.”

Dr. Fordjour notes the National Cataract Program as an example of progress in strengthening Ghana's eye care systems.

“The National Cataract Program supported by HCP is making cataract surgery and, to some extent, other eye care interventions accessible to remote parts of the country.”

But what drives Dr. Fordjour is the joy of sight-restoration and the effect it has on her patients’ lives.

“The satisfaction of seeing smiles on the faces of those who were blind a few hours before makes everything worthwhile. Packing and leaving the family can be difficult sometimes and operating in less than ideal conditions is hard, but the smiles and happiness - that satisfaction should be felt by all who donate to help cure blindness.”


Himalayan Cataract Project International Fellow, Dr. Allison Jarstad spent two weeks in Ghana this month conducting a cornea subspecialty training workshop with Cornea Specialist, Dr. Gladys Fordjour from Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, with tissue donated by HCP Partner, SightLife. HCP's approach to eliminating needless blindness has always focused on building capacity at the local level. Sub-specialty, hands-on skills transfer experiences such as this are highly valuable.

The most exciting part of the week (other than helping so many patients regain sight) was to work with Dr. Gladys, who is a phenomenal and talented surgeon. Because tissue donation has not yet been improved in the country, there are no eye banks in Ghana. Because of this, Gladys must wait until surgeons from other countries visit and bring donated [cornea] tissue with them in order to do transplants.

Despite not being able to perform cornea transplant surgery on a regular basis, Gladys has excellent surgical technique and am happy to report that all surgeries were a success! She started learning Descemet Stripping Automated Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSAEK) surgery just one year ago and her DSAEK case went perfectly.

I truly love teaching. It gives me so much excitement to watch someone else master a skill that I personally enjoy doing. What a rewarding experience that has been for both Dr. Gladys, her patients, and myself!

Here are some of those patient’s stories:

Korle Bu Patient Stories

Meet Leticia, a 17-year-old female high school student living in Koforidua, which is located in the eastern region of Ghana, about a four-hour drive from Accra. She is the 3rd of seven children in her family and was brought to the hospital by her mother. She had developed cataracts for unknown reasons (no report of trauma and did not seem to be congenital), and she had cataract surgery at a different hospital about five years ago. She had a complicated surgery in the right eye and an Anterior Chamber Intraocular Lens (ACIOL) was placed. Additionally, Leticia’s vision had never improved after her first cataract surgery so she developed pseudophakic bullous keratopathy. So we did an IOL exchange (removing the culprit lens and placing an iris-fixated lens) and a penetrating keratoplasty in the right eye. She said it has been difficult to do well in school because of her decreased vision. Leticia is very excited for her vision to improve after her cornea transplant and wants to continue to got to school and study to become a nurse.

Meet Princess, a 25-year-old nursery school teacher from Accra. She came in with a penetrating keratoplasty done about five years ago in India. This cornea failed and her vision began to become cloudy and blurry about two years ago, making it difficult for her to function at home and at work. She underwent a repeat cornea transplant and is doing very well. She is less than 1-week post-op and she can already see some of the small letters on the eye chart. She is so grateful for her new cornea and has a beaming smile. She is excited to go back to work.

Meet Samuel, a 19-year-old man who was born with a progressive disease of the cornea called, granular dystrophy. In this disease, small opacities develop within the cornea and over time, the opacities become very dense and affects the vision in both eyes. Samuel was blind in both eyes, he could see a hand waving in front of his face in one eye and could count fingers in front of his face in the other eye, but could not see anything on the eye chart. It was impossible for him to work. We did a cornea transplant where we removed the central part of his cornea (to remove the visually disabling opacities) and replaced it with a donor cornea. He is so happy and can see much better even just 1 week after surgery. We expect his vision to continue to improve as he heals from surgery.

Meet Francis, a 36-year-old man from Jirapa, a small town in the far northwest of Ghana. He was referred here for inability to see with both eyes and pain. He was found to have bilateral cataracts and corneal opacities. He traveled for 12 hours to come to Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. Francis is a tutor to medical nursing students and is excited to go back to work to help his students. He says God bless us and thank you so much for giving me my new eyes and asked immediately when the second eye could be done. When he was a university student he was interested in nursing and enjoyed reading and knowing more about disease conditions. Then he became interested in teaching others about it.

Successful cataract campaign provides 481 sight-restoring surgeries.

Working with partners from the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi and the Tamale Teaching Hospital in Tamale, the Himalayan Cataract Project (HCP) completed our largest cataract outreach in Ghana, to-date. A record 481 sight-restoring surgeries were provided during a high-volume cataract outreach event in Bolgatanga, Ghana from November 12-18.

Dr. John Welling, who serves as HCP’s Medical Coordinator for Ghana, oversaw the talented surgical team including Dr. Mercy Dawson, Dr. Akwasi Ahmed, Dr. Abigail Nyarko and Dr. Judith Simon along with HCP Affiliated Ophthalmologists Dr. Sam Farmer and Dr. Scott McClintic. HCP Country Representative Dr. Oscar Debrah and the Head of Ghana Eye Care Services, Dr. James Addy managed all of the planning and logistics, and without whom the event could not have taken place.

Finally, HCP was also lucky to have a great group of volunteers from Alder Security, based in Orem, Utah, who provided support to the surgical teams and captured some of the beautiful photos provided here. 

Cataract patient in Ghana, Mary
Cataract patient in Ghana, Mary

Meet Mary, a bilaterally blind 79 year-old farmer and widow from Ekumfi, a town in the central region of Ghana where her life revolved around her six children and farming. But farming wasn’t just her livelihood, she loved and had a passion for it. Unfortunately, due to loss of vision brought on by cataracts in both eyes, she was forced to give up farming.

“My entire life and the sustaining of my family was through this business of farming. It is more or less like a hobby to me, even though people consider it as work. I really missed that part of my life. Another thing is that it is a tradition for the family to come together twice a year to meet and discuss issues. During this occasion, I get the opportunity to see my grandchildren and the new born babies who have joined the family. Because of my condition, I could no longer enjoy those moments with my grandchildren. Not only did [cataracts] rob me of my sight, but it also robbed me of my joy and happiness.”

Mary shared that she started experiencing blurred vision, headaches and itching in both eyes a year and a half after her husband passed away. Unfortunately, according to Mary, nobody paid attention to her complaints until one day she fell while she was walking. That was when her family realized her condition had worsened and her children took her to an eye clinic in nearby Esikuma, but she received no diagnosis.

According to Mary’s children, another organization came to do free eye screenings in Esikuma and recommended some eye drops, but Mary’s symptoms did not improve. Still determined to find a solution, the family reached out to a friend who also had cataracts and recently had her sight restored by HCP Partner, Dr. Boateng Wiafe, his team from Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital and HCP Global Eye Health Partner, Operation Eyesight at an outreach in Saltpond. She was directed to go to the next outreach in Saltpond, where they screened and diagnosed her with bilateral cataracts and scheduled her for surgery.

Although nervous at first, after counseling and speaking to Dr. Boateng, Mary was confident that she would regain her sight. Her surgery was successful and her vision was restored in both eyes. She is now able to move around independently and hopes to return to farming once she is completely healed. In the meantime, she is enjoying spending much more time with her family.

“I am happy because now I am able to visit my children and spend time with them, as well as with my grandchildren, especially those who have moved to other regions due to their jobs or other reasons.” 


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Organization Information

Himalayan Cataract Project, Inc.

Location: Waterbury, VT - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @CureBlindness
Project Leader:
Geoff Tabin
Waterbury, VT United States
$33,349 raised of $50,000 goal
159 donations
$16,651 to go
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