Health
 Ghana
Project #5195

Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana

by Himalayan Cataract Project, Inc.
Dr. Judith Simon at Work
Dr. Judith Simon at Work

In December, HCP partner Dr. Judith Simon brought a team from the Tamale Teaching Hospital to Yeji, a village along the Volta River some 300 kilometers south of Tamale. It was Dr. Simon’s second trip of the year to Yeji — both on Saturdays, the day she leads outreach trips into the countryside to provide eye care for residents living in remote and hard-to-reach places. Her team performed 30 cataract surgeries that Saturday, contributing to the record number of 3,494 total surgeries HCP and its three implementing partners performed in Ghana during 2016 - more than half took place in outreach settings. 

The numbers, though, don’t tell the heart of the story about our work in Ghana. Every single cataract surgery we perform changes a human life for the better, in many cases, profoundly. In Yeji, Dr. Simon’s team gave sight to a 23-year-old woman who had been blind since birth. Another woman, from a nearby village, returned to Yeji after having had surgery there during the previous outreach. She brought five members of her village with her, all of them blind, all of them living with the belief that blindness is simply an inevitable part of aging. While one of those people had untreatable glaucoma, the team from Tamale was able to restore the sight of the other four with a simple, inexpensive procedure. Dr. Simon, who has worked full-time in Ghana for the past three years, joked about the unofficial recruiting that helps spread the word of HCP’s work. She said, “We told that woman she’ll be getting a percentage soon!”

Working in partnership with Operation Eyesight Universal (OEU) in Ghana, the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) managed a cataract surgical outreach in Akim Akroso in eastern Ghana from November 7 – November 11, 2016 at St. Theresa’s Hospital. Over the course of the week, the team provided 98 cataract surgeries and 17 pterygium surgeries. The surgical team included Dr. Boateng Wiafe (OEU), Dr. Akwasi Ahmed (KATH), Dr. John Welling (HCP), Dr. Eric Hansen (HCP Fellow), Dr. Joseph Kwarteng (KATH 2nd year resident), Dr. Mercy Dawson (local cataract surgeon), Dr. John Pajka (Ohio), Dr. Michael Yim (3rd year Bascom Palmer resident), Dr. Kristen Mendoza (1st year Ohio State resident) and Mr. Nabin Rai (Medical Coordinator from Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, Nepal). In addition to performing surgeries, senior staff capitalized on the opportunity to train ophthalmology residents in small incision cataract surgery.

St. Theresa’s Hospital is a new facility, positioned between Accra and Kumasi, built as a partnership between Ohio State University and a Dutch non-profit organization. Much of the advanced screening was carried out by Dinah, an ophthalmic nurse from St. Theresa’s, and the follow-up will be managed by Dr. Mercy Dawson and Dinah.

In August, Himalayan Cataract Project (HCP) partners at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH), led by Dr. Seth Lartey, organized a cataract outreach event in the town of Aburi, which is located in the Eastern Region of Ghana.  This involved weeks of screening of potential patients throughout the region, transportation of equipment and staff, and consecutive days of performing cataract surgeries from morning to night.  All of that hard work was worth it, however, as the KATH team was able to provide 324 cataract surgeries to Ghanaians of all ages. 

Among the many patients was a young boy who had developed a cataract in one of his eyes and was badly in need of surgery (pictured above).  Upon having the bandage removed post-surgery, he said, “I feel normal, nobody will ask me about my eyes again. I am happy to go back to school. My friends won’t make fun of me anymore.”

The KATH team has been dedicated to steadily increasing their cataract outreach efforts in 2016. Including the event in Aburi, KATH has provided a total of 1,292 surgeries so far this year. This is more than double the 645 surgeries they provided via outreach events in all of 2015. It is an amazing accomplishment, and HCP looks forward to seeing them continue to grow in the upcoming years.

HCP and its partners are dedicated to eliminating unnecessary blindness due to cataracts. Cataract surgery is a relatively simple procedure that takes 10 minutes and approximately $25 in consumable costs.  However, it is estimated that 50,000 cataract surgeries are required each year in Ghana to eliminate the backlog of those suffering from cataract blindness.  There is still work to do, and HCP and KATH thank you for your continued support in this endeavor!

Waiting for Surgery
Waiting for Surgery

Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital continues to expand its cataract outreach program to rural Ghana. This past month saw the outreach team head to Gyetease in Sekyere Central District. Though only about an hour and a half from Kumasi, Gyetease is a world away in terms of readily available access to ophthalmologic care. Without any local ophthalmologists, those with eye trouble are seen only infrequently and/or have to travel to seek care. In this largely agricultural region, blindness and other eye ailments can be a terrible burden for patients and their families. The last outreach program to this region was over two years ago.

 KATH’s clinical screening team examined nearly 1,000 people and 103 patients received surgery during the 3 days of surgery held. Of these, there were 3 children who received their vision back and 2 teens. Blindness among children and adolescents is particularly damaging with major impacts on children’s cognitive and physical development, and long-term social and economic challenges for their families. By reaching continuing to its outreach programs and regularly being able to visit villages lacking any ophthalmologic care, KATH is helping to reduce the burden of both childhood and adult blindness across Ghana.

KATH and HCP continue to thank donors like you for your continued support!

Post-Op
Post-Op
Waiting for the bandages to come off
Waiting for the bandages to come off
13 year old Patient given new sight
13 year old Patient given new sight

HCP’s largest partner in Ghana, the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) Eye Center, has been steadily expanding its outreach efforts to increase access to cataract surgery to those living in regions with no ophthalmologist. Earlier this month the KATH outreach team conducted its largest cataract campaign to date– providing 402 cataract surgeries in Keta, a coastal town 3 hours east of Accra.  HCP co-founder Dr. Geoff Tabin joined the team including KATH ophthalmologists Dr. Seth Lartey, Dr. Amos Aikens, Dr. Akwasi Ahmed and many hardworking nurses and assistants who worked tirelessly for five days from 7: 30 AM to nearly midnight each night.   

Dr. Tabin commented, “The quality of the surgery has been excellent with great surgical results – by far the best I’ve seen in Ghana!”  There were many shining eyes and happy tears of joy on post-op day, including two women who had been blind for over 10 years, and a young 28-year old mother who hadn’t been able to see her youngest child. Tears of joy flowed watching this young mother see her child for the very first time.

HCP greatly thanks our donors for helping make these outreaches possible. With less than 70 ophthalmologists in the entire country, too many Ghanaians are without vital eye care services. These cataract outreaches help bridge the gap by provided eye health services where they are needed most. 

This young mother is now able to see her children!
This young mother is now able to see her children!
Drs. Geoff Tabin and Seth Lartey
Drs. Geoff Tabin and Seth Lartey
Seeing again
Seeing again
90 year patient now with sight in both eyes
90 year patient now with sight in both eyes
 

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Organization Information

Himalayan Cataract Project, Inc.

Location: Waterbury, VT - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.cureblindness.org
Project Leader:
Geoff Tabin
Director
Waterbury, VT United States

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