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Vision for All

Posted on May 26, 2017

Aisatou Bah’s Story: A Nurse’s Vision

There is an old African proverb that “It takes a village…” to raise a child, and that’s true to this day in The Gambia, where we started working with local surgeons and community health agents to treat cataract blindness. And that saying still rings true for Aisatou Bah, a 26-year-old nurse we met at Sheikh Zayed Regional Eye Care Center in Kanifing. Aisatou lives in a nearby village about 4 miles from the hospital along with her family, working hard to build a stronger community..

When Aisatou graduated from university, she knew she wanted to improve healthcare for her friends and neighbors. Growing up in The Gambia shaped her perspective. “When you look at the setting in The Gambia, you can see there are people who need care.”

Aisatou’s motivations came in part from her family’s experience. Several years ago she saw her grandfather suffering from cataract blindness before he passed away. “When I became a nurse,” she said, “I decided to specialize in ophthalmology. I knew that when someone has cataracts, [they] must be treated.”

In the past, blurred vision from cataracts in The Gambia was considered “just part of old age.” Aisatou told us she remembered when people with cataracts would first visit traditional spiritual healers instead of going to the hospital. This option, of course, did nothing to correct patients’ vision loss. Gradually people are becoming more aware now, she says, and patients are coming to health centers to receive eye exams.

As word spreads through the community about the treatments available to prevent blindness, Aisatou has noticed an increase of patients to her health center, Sheikh Zayed, which now sees about 75 patients a week. Aisatou believes it is her responsibility to help patients with any number of eye care issues.

Despite being busy with her family and nursing work, Aisatou told us she is studying to become a cataract surgeon someday, using the training and tools we provided her to make a more significant impact on her neighbors

“If I have the knowledge I will be able to help my family, to help my friends. I also would like to help other people, because if someone comes to you having problems with the eyes (like cataracts) and you follow-up with the person after the operation and they can see again, you will only see smiles on their faces (and that) makes me feel good.”

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HelpMeSee is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization registered in the United States.

The HelpMeSee mission is to eradicate preventable cataract blindness globally. We achieve this through an innovative, scalable simulation-based cataract surgical training program. Our program covers Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS), Phacoemulsification Simulation-based Training Course (PSTC), Suturing Simulation-based Training Course (SSTC), Complications Management Course (CMC), Phacoemulsification to MSICS Differences Course (PMDC), and MSICS to Phacoemulsification Differences Course (MPDC). These offerings empower eye care professionals to refine their skills, master vital procedures, and excel in ophthalmology. We are dedicated to restoring vision for those with severe visual impairment and cataract-induced blindness worldwide.

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