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Stories Of Hope

Posted on September 30, 2020

Setting up an Ophthalmology Unit in Cameroon

Growing up in Cameroon, Dr. Jeanne Mayouego Kouam struggled with vision issues. Her father took her to visit an eye doctor where, in a very dark room, the doctor performed an examination called a retinoscopy. Retinoscopy is a technique used to determine the refractive error of the eye or how well someone could see, by shining light into the eye to observe the reflection off the retina. This visit with an ophthalmologist had a profound impact on Dr. Kouam’s life. She was inspired to learn more about ophthalmology in an attempt to explain her treatment to her father. Later, Jeanne became fascinated with the idea of cataract surgery because the procedure restores sight to someone who only sees darkness.

Today, Dr. Kouam serves as an Ophthalmologist at Nylon District Hospital, a public hospital located in an urban area in Doula, Cameroon. Most of her patients are farmers. During the rainy season, transportation may be impossible for these patients to reach the hospital. They come to the medical facility with mature cataracts that have hardened in their eyes and do not have the money to be treated. Like her cataract blinded patients who cannot afford surgery, Dr. Kouam is one of the thousands of doctors in Africa who desperately require training to eliminate cataract blindness.

Thankfully, because of generous donors like you, HelpMeSee was able to cover the cost of training for Dr. Kouam. She traveled to Mumbai, India and attended our training course that instructed doctors who perform Extracapsular Cataract Extraction (ECCE) on Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS). The MSICS procedure is superior to ECCE because it requires a much smaller incision that can heal without sutures and significantly reduces the risk of infection.

The HelpMeSee mission is to illuminate treatable cataract blindness by training ophthalmologists around the world, especially in regions with large backlogs of cataract patients like Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. We work diligently to rapidly train and deploy many surgeons who can provide high-quality treatment. With HelpMeSee’s high fidelity Eye Surgical Simulator, it is possible to train many surgeons efficiently. Surgeons have unlimited practice sessions on how to perform MSICS on the Simulator, which will make them better equipped and more competent to perform live surgeries.

Simulator session Back row (left to right): Trainee Dr. Arlette Josiane Notuom Signe, Senior Simulator Technician Rohit Kholapure, Trainee Dr. Jeanne Mayouego Kouam, Medical Officer Dr. Jean-Marie André.

Simulator session Front row (left to right): Trainee Dr. Stephanie Flaviette Tchuindem Epse Ndjinga, Trainee Dr. Finangni Wilfried Miller Assogba Back row (left to right): Trainee Dr. Jeanne Mayouego Kouam, Trainee Dr. Arlette Josiane Notuom Signe.

People suffering from cataract blindness in the poorest areas in the world are not only vulnerable to falling and bumping into objects as they try to navigate their way through the darkness, but they are also in danger of enduring physical and mental abuse. Many people blinded by cataracts have no other choice but to rely on loved ones to take care of them. Lastly, because cataract patients can’t see, they also can’t perform their everyday work to support themselves and fall into even worse poverty.

In one of the most unfortunate situations for one of Dr. Kouam’s patients, a 70-year-old farmer who has many children was suffering from cataract blindness. He endured physical abuse and public humiliation when people in his village mocked him and threw stones at him. The man felt isolated, depressed and could not eat his food properly. Fortunately, Dr. Kouam performed Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery to help restore the patient’s sight that significantly improved his quality of life.

Dr. Kouam dedicates herself to providing the best care for her patients. When she first started work with Nylon District Hospital, the medical facility did not have an ophthalmology unit. With the support of the hospital’s administration staff, Dr. Kouam committed her time and effort to build the hospital’s eye clinic. Dr. Kouame’s primary career goal is to perform MSICS on her patients to restore their vision from (deleted the) needless blindness from cataract. She strives to contribute to the HelpMeSee mission to train doctors in disadvantaged communities to perform the MSICS technique.

Dr. Kouam truly lives ups to this year’s World Sight Day theme of “Hope In Sight.” She gave hope to the farmer persecuted and to many more with the Ophthalmology unit at Nylon District Hospital in Cameroon, where she works. You can provide Hope In Sight, too, by supporting the work of more cataract care providers like Dr. Kouam. Donate to HelpMeSee today by clicking on the following image.

I would like to train more cataract specialists like Jeanne and chose to make a special gift to HelpMeSee today on World Sight Day 2020.

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