“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else,” said American baseball player Yogi Berra – a man as famous for his confusing quips as for his sports abilities.
However, that statement might also represent the damage that lack of awareness can cause – and indeed, has caused! – in preventing blindness. If you don’t know what eye care options are available, how can you help yourself?
Take Asana for example. Asana, 57, lives with her husband Issah and their children in the town of Kasoa in Ghana’s Central region. Asana and Issah are comfortably middle class, enjoying an income from their rental properties. Issah is retired from his career as a carpenter, while Asana operates a provision shop (what Canadians would call a convenience store).
There was one big problem: Asana’s left eye suffered an accident a few years ago, when she was hit in the face by a hanging waist belt. Within a year, she started experiencing vision problems as a cataract formed in that eye due to the trauma. However, as long as she could see with her right eye, she managed to cope.
Then, to her dismay, she started to experience blurriness and loss of vision in her right eye too. Her vision became poor – so poor that she was forced to ask one of her daughters to manage her shop.
Asana became very alarmed. She and Issah visited a hospital in the Accra district, where she was diagnosed with bilateral cataracts. However, as is common in Ghana, the hospital didn’t have an ophthalmologist or cataract surgeon, or equipment to perform eye surgery. Asana was referred to another hospital some distance away.
Tired and discouraged, Asana and Issah were on the way home, when suddenly Issah saw a signpost for Watborg Eye Services. They decided to stop there before making the journey to the other, more distant hospital.
Issah and Asana didn’t know it at the time, but they had made a very good decision. Built in 2012 by Operation Eyesight’s generous donors, Watborg Eye Services is a high quality surgical eye hospital that serves about one million residents in the region.
At Watborg, optometrist Rasheed Quainoo discovered Asana could only count fingers held in front of her at a half-meter length (less than 20 inches). He diagnosed her with cataracts in both eyes, and recommended surgery. He told Asana and Issah that like all Operation Eyesight’s hospital partners, Watborg’s services are free for those who are unable to pay, and cost-recovery for those who can afford it. Recognizing their own relative wealth, the couple paid the fee for surgery.
Good news! After surgery on both eyes, Asana’s vision returned to an excellent state. With her sight restored, she is now back managing her shop and selling to her community as before. She has recommended Watborg to friends and family, some of whom have started accessing these local eye health services.
Asana and Issah are grateful for Operation Eyesight’s donors who built Watborg Eye Services in their region, and delighted that they discovered this quality eye hospital, literally on the side of the road. Their experience might echo another wisecrack from Yogi Berra, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
Read more about our work at Watborg here.