It has been two weeks since coming back from Project Theia’s first trip to Ghana. The team of 4 surgeons, 1 nurse, and 1 photographer/videographer have all returned to the normal bustle of their daily lives. We are receiving post operation pictures from the local physicians still. All are doing well. I can’t help but think that we were worlds away but yet so closely connected. I don’t think any of us had expectations of what it meant to be in Ghana. It was all of our first time in that country.
Dr. Wanye and the staff of the Friend’s Eye Centre surpassed all of our expectations with their hospitality, passion, and on-going work. Friend’s Eye Centre has two locations, Kumasi and Tamale, both in the northern part of the country which has not reaped the benefits of the economic boom in Ghana. People continue to live in dirt yurts in villages. No insurance system exists in the country, healthcare is a fee for service system. Dr. Wanye’s team serves patients who otherwise would have no access to healthcare. His team travels to rural parts of the country providing free vision screening so that patients can have surgeries to cure preventable vision loss.
We arrived in Kumasi to see 50+ patients that he had already pre-screened. We operated on some. We gave advice to many. We were unable to help them all. Just being there for a few hours in the clinic, we understood the breadth of the problem and the limitations to what we can accomplish. Most patients traveled 4+ hours to get to us. Most patients had their visual impairment for at least years. The determination of most of these patients and parents was very palpable. We were their only option for some sort of solution. The situation was very similar in Tamale, a town further north than Kumasi. As soon as we arrived there, we sensed that this area is even more under-served than Kumasi and the people were more desperate. We did many more reconstructive surgeries there but could not help everyone.
All problems have solutions. Some have a clear path while others require patience and tenacity. We are fortunate for everything in our lives. Our heads are already spinning with ideas to provide solutions that will work in Kumasi and Tamale. We are grateful for the experience. The stories of the patients we met are all of resilience and strength. They have taught us and inspired us to do more. We look forward to continuing our work in Ghana and with Dr Wanye.