Did you know that the government here pays people if they are blind? Doctors here tell us that patients will come in and pretend they can't see so that he will pronounce them blind! I worry that they will physically destroy their eyes so they can get $$. Sadder, the families benefit so much that they do not want their elderly to have surgery to remove their cataracts because they would lose that $$!
Our work here over the last 9 weeks has been aimed at improvements in the eye care system in the Eastern Cape Province so they can serve the curable blind more effectively. Glenn has trained surgeons. Glenys has trained OR scrub nurses as well as hone the OR systems to be more efficient (and sanitary). I have tried to choose the most needed reform in the patient delivery systems and train the ward nurses to accomplish it. Our screening team had the hardest task at the most broken spot in the system - the Primary Health Clinics. They had the job of training them to identify cataracts and to assess the overall health of the eye...and then get them to a hospital with an Ophthalmologist. It wasn't easy at all! Our task was huge, obstacles were daunting, and now we have learned that they closed down the Ophthalmology Department at our first hospital for 6 months due to lack of supplies!! We all knew that God alone could make a dent.
And He did it in spite of our many personal shortcomings. Over 600 eyes were done. Surgeon skills improved greatly and patients were for the most part able to see better than us! (Except for Shannon our 24 year old...the rest of us are all OLD! ha!) All hospitals have made changes and are inspired to continue. One doctor and her husband are seriously considering joining Mercy Ships in a year! Two "born again" nurses have felt God's calling to ministry and one group of nurses now understands how to apply scripture when dealing with their patients.
We even have the ear of the Government and the hope that they will, in time, make significant changes in their eye health system. With the frustrations, the intense schedule, and the bad communications that dogged us the entire time --- we are sure that these all came by your prayers and the grace of God. His plans have always been before us and He has accomplished it.
One more fun thing. We all noticed that the people here do not wear "African clothes" like we are used to in West Africa. But,as I watched, I spotted these "aprons" commonly worn. I do not know if they became popular because of apartheid and so many being "domestics" then, but they sure are proud of them! Here are 3 of our patients happy to pose in their aprons! And by the way, I wasn't sure if they would be able to see themselves on my tiny camera screen since they had been blind the day before, but as they bent forward in unison to take a look, and gasped while covering their big embarrassed smiles with their hands and began hooting at what they looked like now! (I just wish I could have captured THAT picture!) What a delight!
God's Word now says our parting sentiments.
"But I will hope continually and will praise You yet more and more. My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness and Your salvation all the day, for I do not know their limits! I will go in the strength of the Lord God and I will make mention of Your righteousness -- of Yours only. O God, You have taught me from my youth and to this day I declare Your wondrous works. Now that I am old and gray-headed, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come." Psalms 71:14-18 Amen.