“When they removed the bandages, I saw my daughter as a woman for the first time” Fatmata said. “She was like a new person. She was dancing and laughing.”
Aicha was three months old when her parents started noticing there was something wrong with her vision. She wasn’t moving or looking around the same way her two older siblings had at her age. By the time she was starting to crawl, it was obvious that she could hardly see what was around her.
When they met with the screening team, it was unsure whether there was hope for Aicha’s eyesight. Having her cataracts from such a young age could mean that her vision had stopped developing — making her permanently blind. But, as they shone a flashlight in the baby’s eyes, all tension broke. A toothy grin spread across Aicha’s face; she grabbed the flashlight closer, her eyes not leaving its beam.
“It amazed me that something so small like seeing light was worth smiling about in her world of darkness,” Ophthalmic Clinical Technician Larina Brink (USA) said. “I knew that the surgery would turn out well because of her being able to follow the light as I moved it around. My heart was filled with joy to be able to offer her a surgery that would open the world up to her.”
The morning after Aicha’s surgery, an expectant crowd gathered down in the wards of the Africa Mercy. There was a breathless hush before the eye patches were removed; a wave of nervous hope. Aicha — her tiny hands wrapped in diapers resembling boxing gloves to keep her from peeling off her eye patches — didn’t know what was going on at first. But as the surgeon set her on the ground and encouraged her to start walking, Aicha’s eyes grew wide. She looked around, her signature smile slowly dawning. She couldn’t drink in her surroundings fast enough.
She ran back to Fatmata’s legs and buried her face in them, looking up at her mother for the first time. “I have no words to express how happy I am” Fatmata said.
At that moment Aicha’s world was growing, bigger than it had ever been before — and a world of possibility grew alongside it.