March 5 2015
On Wednesday, the three children operated on last week returned for follow-up from Wa. All three claimed to see better, be “very happy” and also function better according to the teachers. One has to be careful though with what patients and family members say about improvement: It is not accepted culturally here to displease someone who made an effort to do good to you. Over many years the only feedback I received indirectly about ANY patient from doctors and nurses who did the follow-up was “Everybody’s fine”. No one ever did poorly, which is of course not possible. In the clinic, when we ask patients if they see improvement after surgery, even those who do not read any more on the chart than before claim they see better. It is just politeness, and also Africans frequently tell you what you want to hear, not the truth. They also do not complain much and are eager to please.
Lovia, the 12-year-old girl who has been blind since birth saw the same objectively, but looked more animated. Unfortunately we did not have time to assess her thoroughly, but she still could not walk around unaided. David, who had cataract surgery before, but shortly after an inflammatory membrane blocked his vision again, could move around alone now and could obviously see the near chart as he was pointing at the Es on it. But we could not explain him the E-game (show which way the E goes) as he believed it was still Braille and kept on touching the letters to feel them. Prosper saw amazingly well, he could read about half of the near chart.
The last three children for surgery were all teenagers, old enough to withstand local anaesthesia, even if it was in both eyes. It is amazing how brave African children are – they are used to pain since an early age, know it is part of life, and their pain-threshold is unbelievably high. They also do not get too worried or nervous about procedures, they are extremely brave and also stoic.
One of the teachers, Abdul-Salaam returned with the three postops on Thursday, and the other three had surgery. The surgeries went well, and I was also a bit less nervous as I got some experience with the previous cases.
Rose-Mary stayed with them till the evening, fed them, and bathed them. She returned to my house at 8pm, we had dinner together and talked a lot. I am so happy I got to know her– she is an exceptionally caring person, sweet, honest, and unpretentious.
We saw the postops on Friday, snapped some photos (as they say it in Ghana) then they returned to Wa with the tro-tro around noon. I called them a few times since to see how they are, and they are all “fine”! I’ll go and see them in 3 weeks, but this time I am going to go to Wa, it is easier than to have all 9 of them come to Tamale again.