Here’s a patient story from Togo that I thought I would share from our eye team. It was written by Nicole Pribbernow with photos by Deb Bell and Ryan Chen.
The UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) Camp in Lomé, Togo, houses 3,000 refugees from the Ivory Coast. Therese is one of the refugees that fled her home in 2011 when rebel forces persecuted anyone supporting the President or anyone who called themselves Christians. Since Therese’s son was the campaign director for the current President, rebel forces quickly targeted her family. Therese was 71 years old and struggled to walk, but, when the threat was clear, she and 12 members of her family fled to Togo, West Africa. Both of the family’s homes were burned to the ground.
Therese’s struggle worsened as her eyesight deteriorated due to cataracts. Her blindness made living in the refugee camp even harder. The UNHCR saw her struggle and provided rent money for her and her daughter-in-law to move to a home outside of the refugee camp. This new location made it much easier for her to move around.
Months later, the Mercy Ships Eye Team came to the Refugee camp to screen people for cataracts. Therese slowly walked up to the line with the aid of her daughter-in-law. The Eye Team Coordinator, John Foster, and other members of the team helped her through every step of the screening process.
After a long day of screening, Therese was the only patient requiring surgery. She was scheduled to come to the ship for further screening and to set up her surgery date. John said to the team as they were heading back to the ship, “I am reminded of the shepherd and his lost sheep. The shepherd will leave the 99 sheep to find the one lost sheep. Therese is our lost sheep, and she is worth all our efforts today.”
Therese made the journey to the Africa Mercy and was quickly welcomed by everyone who had met her at the refugee camp. As she worked her way through the line, Mercy Ships crew members held her hand the entire time. After a short time, she was given her appointment card – she was going to have surgery! Therese excitedly raised her hand up and bent her head low, thanking the Lord for the hope of healing.
A day after her surgery, the eye patch was removed . . . and Therese could see! No one could take her smile away as she declared, “I am overwhelmed with happiness. You have given me a freedom I haven’t felt since before the war back home. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
And now for some videos! The first video is by my buddy Ryan, who took three of the above photos. It’s a fantastic montage of the Celebration of Sight ceremonies that take place during field service, essentially a giant party for everyone whose sight has been restored.
This second video focuses on the process of training local surgeons, like Dr. Wodome, who served on board with us the entire field service.