Mercy Ships helps blind patients see

By Sara Story - bio | email 
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - In parts of the world, eye-care is so scarce that problems often go untreated. Thursday was World Sight Day, aimed at bringing global awareness to blindness and visual impairment. The East Texas organization Mercy Ships is helping the blind to see by offering free eyecare in Africa.

Four-year-old Celina reached up and touched her father's face. Born with cataracts, Celina has lived in the dark her entire life. And, it was the first time she had ever laid eyes on her dad.

"When a child actually sees something for the first time, it is almost like they have just come out of the womb," said Sam Smith, the CEO of Mercy Ships.

Smith says his organization brings life and light back to children like Celina. It's all done by volunteers aboard a 500 foot vessel stationed in Africa.

"The eye surgical theatre has all of the equipment that you would find in the finest hospitals around the world," said Smith.

With nothing more than a little hope, thousands travel miles to receive free health care.

"We check their eyesight and make sure it is a situation that we can address either surgically or sometimes not surgically," explained Smith.

Dr. Glenn Strauss, an Ophthalmologist from Tyler who works on the boat, says Celina's cataracts were removed by a quick and non-invasive surgery.

"It's one of those procedures that can be done in 20 minutes and the improvement in vision is almost instant, in fact a lot of patients it is immediate," said Strauss. "A lot of patients sit up in the operating table and can already see."

When the bandages come off, it's a celebration of sight.

"It is so much fun to see the jubilation because if you think about it we have taken them from a time when they couldn't take care of themselves to now," said Smith.

It's a task that seems impossible, but for patients like Celine, seeing is believing.

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