A new vision for the future
The tiny white flecks in Jesse’s eye are the telltale sign he has cataract. This means that the lens in his eye is starting to cloud over, and if left untreated will end up completely opaque, preventing any light from getting through. This will leave five-year-old Jesse blind in that eye.
Cataract tends to only affect older people in Western countries, yet in Africa and Asia it’s one of the most common forms of blindness in children. Removing cataract from an adult eye is a relatively straightforward procedure, but as a child’s eye is still developing it’s a more complex operation. It also requires more medical staff, as a child needs to be put under general rather than local anaesthetic. The cloudy lens needs to be removed, and replaced with a clear, plastic one.
Jesse’s mum Hannah and father Daniel have travelled from their home in Koforidua to the Eastern Region Hospital in Ghana for his operation, after noticing he was rubbing his eye a lot and having trouble reading.
Cheating the sight test!
First of all he underwent an eye test to check how much vision he still has. A bright boy, Jesse worked out that he could see the letters on the eye chart more clearly if he peeked through his fingers with his good eye! But the nurse was quickly onto him and the test was carried out properly. A number of other tests had to be carried out, including checking the pressure in Jesse’s eyes and using a scanner to determine what strength lens the surgeon would need to replace Jesse’s cloudy one with.
The following day Jesse sits on his mum’s knee outside the theatre, waiting to be called. A needle is slipped into the back of his hand to administer the general anaesthetic, and although he is clearly trying to be brave a couple of tears slide out. But he doesn’t complain and is quickly asleep.
A delicate procedure
It takes a little while to get Jesse’s heartbeat steady, but as soon as it is the surgeon, Dr James Addy begins the operation. It’s a very delicate procedure because the cataract has been caught early and has not fully developed. This makes it is difficult to see. Great care has to be taken to ensure all of the lens is removed before the artificial one is inserted.
Jesse’s operation takes about half an hour. Once his eye has been bandaged he is brought round from the anaesthetic. He is lifted to a trolley bed and moved to the recovery room where he’ll stay until he is well enough to return to the ward.
The next day, Jesse is in good spirits. He’s managed to remove his bandage in the night, so now has a much larger bandage around his head to keep the eye patch in place. But he’s slept well and is wide awake.
A nurse gently removes the bandage and plastic eye patch that has been protecting Jesse’s eye. She cleans the eye, and checks he can see out of it.
He then has to go back to the consultation room to have his eyes rechecked by Dr Addy, who carried out Jesse’s surgery. He is pleased with the outcome and talks to Hannah about the eye drops Jesse needs to have over the next week, and the dark glasses he has to wear to protect his eye from sunlight and dust. Hannah has to bring Jesse back for a check-up in a week’s time.
“I was very anxious yesterday about the operation, but now he’s had it I’m really happy” said Hannah. “I know his life will be so much better if he can see well. Thank you.”
It costs €85 for a child cataract operation to change the life of someone like Jesse. If you’d like to make a donation, you can do so here.
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