I honestly don’t know where to start in terms of how things have been. I’ve been conducting research with Unite for Sight (UFS) to determine whether or not patients who have received free cataracts sugery (funded by UFS) think other people who have cataracts in Ghana will be willing to contribute a little money to the cost of treatment. I’m learning a lot about how to conduct research and how to work with interpreters. I’ve been keeping in touch with Arancha and she has been absolutely great at helping with the research process and helping me put things into perspective.
Since UFS works with different eye clinics in Ghana, I’ve also had the opportunity to work in different parts of Ghana. My first week, I worked with Crystal Eye clinic on their overnight outreach to Takarodi in the western region of Ghana. Conducting research has also allowed me to interact with Ghanians which I’ve enjoyed. During outreaches, volunteers help eye clinic staff by assisting with registration, conducting visual acuity testing, data entry, or dispensing medication. Each day, we travel to communities in the region and help the clinics to provide eye care to a number of people. Depending the location, the number of the people at the outreaches ranges from 100 to over 300 people per day. The team is usually made up of 1 or 2 optometrists, 1 or 2 drivers, local volunteers, and UFS volunteers. My day typically starts with interviews with patients who have had cataract surgery. After that, I spend the rest of the day helping out with visual acuity, data entry, or dispensing. I’ve also had the opportunity to observe cataract and pterygium surgeries.
So far, I’ve worked with clinics in Takarodi/Sekondi (western region), Kumasi (Ashanti Region), Elubo and Nzema (western region near the border of Ghana and Ivory Coast). I could see the Ivory Coast from where the outreach was located which was pretty cool.
On our way back from an outreach to Elubo, the van I was in had an accident (I’m okay and so is everyone who was involved). The van ran into an old man that was trying to cross the road. It was dark and the road was bumpy and dusty so the driver didn’t see the old man on time. The man was rushed to the hospital and thankfully only suffered a minor cut to the head and a fractured femur (He’s recocvering well). While he was rushed to the hospital, myself and others who were in the van spent an hour surrounded by villagers on the side of the road while we waited for another ride to where we were lodging. We ended up spending an extra night in the area because the van’s windscreen was damaged and needed to be replaced. That was quite an experience.
On a lighter note, I’ve picked up some twi and it’s been fun and interesting interacting with locals, clinic staff, volunteers, and Nigerians that I’ve ran into. People often think I’m Ghanian and are surprised or even displeased when I say that I don’t really understand the language. I’ve also enjoyed spending time at the cultural center, museums, markets, Jamestown, Osu, and the kente weaving village in Kumasi.
I’ve definitely expereinced a lot of different emotions while being here (good and bad) but overall, my experience has been positive. It’s been a dose of reality but also very strengthening and inspiring.
Charity Eye Clinic outreach team in Kumasi
A visual acuity station
Staring at the Ivory Coast from Ghana
Dr. James Clarke performing cataract surgery at Crystal Eye Clinic in Accra