19 February 2015
Yesterday 3 blind children came with one of their teachers, Abdul-Salaam from the Wa Blind School for surgery to our hospital. They took public transportation: tro-tro and shared taxi, as there is no money for them to take their own car. They arrived around 5pm, a bit exhausted, thirsty and hungry. We gave them water, got their folders in order and took them up to the hospital floor for admission. The nurse assured us that they will get dinner and breakfast. One boy who is 12 years old needed general anesthesia, so we repeatedly told him not to have breakfast. I checked the teacher’s eye pressures who has glaucoma and then we went home, as he was staying with me.
We had dinner together and he told me a few interesting stories: The attorney general of Ghana is his brother. He is blind and graduated from the Blind School in Wa before going to university. He became blind from measles, which can cause corneal perforation in malnourished children. This is how Abdul-Salaam became interested in working with the blind. He taught himself Braille and to translate from English to Braille. He is one of the few experts in this in Ghana, and because of this, he is held in very high esteem by the blind community, as he saves a tremendous amount of money to the government with his expertise. The Minister of Chieftaincy, Henry Siedu Daanaa, who is also blind and graduated from the Wa Blind School is his brother-in-law. He is a good friend to his blind brother and that is how he met his sister. He talked about the difficult conditions in the school: The government has not been paying them for over 2 months and they owe a lot of money to the food suppliers, some of whom stopped delivering food. They cannot pay the trash collection fee either so the trash is just standing there.
Next morning we went to the hospital together. The children were brought down from the ward. We asked the 12 years old if he had breakfast, he said no. It came out in the afternoon that neither the other two children ate, and they did not have dinner either the night before. (But they did not complain at all.) The hospital has no money to buy even food now. I wish the nurse had told us this.
The surgeries went very well even though they were not easy. The scrub nurse was a student who had no idea what to do, and I had to train him while I was struggling with the eyes. But I got used to this over the past two years, better to keep quiet and try to manage than to make a scene. After finishing the children we operated on an old man with a cataract, the other eye blind, a very difficult case; then a young glaucoma patient, also blind in his other eye. He was also from Wa, so I wanted him to take the children with him, but he is also taking public transport the next day, so he will join Abdul-Salaam.
After finishing the surgeries we tidied up the OR, saw a few waiting patients, bought the children food, and left. I am so much hoping they will see at least a little better tomorrow!