Sunday, July 4, 2010

Christian Akapovi , a Crystal Clear Future

Christian is nine years old, but he is not like other children his age.

They can read. He cannot. They can play football. He cannot.

Christian cannot do these things because he has cataracts. His father, Adado, explains,“I noticed when he was three years old that Christian had a problem . We would ask him to pick things up , and he would feel around on the table or the floor until eventually identifying the item.

Christian has attended school for only one year. He is unable to read the chalkboard, and it is hard for him to focus and to learn. But his father felt it was important that he attend school. Adado says, “He is struggling to learn things , and he is slow, but I wanted him to be around others his age. I didn't want him to miss out on an education .
Adado spent an incredible amount of time and money taking Christian to hospitals all over Togo and even to Ghana. But none of the doctors knew how to fix the problem. Hope turned to desperation. And desperation turned to despair.

Then, a light shone through the darkness. A man who lived near Adado in Lomé had just received eye surgery for free. The man told Adado and Christian about Mercy Ships and where to go for screening.

Free surgery ?” Adado thought. “Could this be true?

Adado and Christian went to the patient screening site and saw an eye specialist. They were then sent to the Mercy Ships Hospitality Center. An eye tech team performed an external and internal eye examination to determine the appropriateness of surgery. They confirmed that Christian had cataracts in both eyes … and he was a candidate for surgery! He was given a priceless, bright yellow appointment card with a date for surgery.

Christian Akakpovi doing crafts in the ward before his cataract surgery.

Christian with fellow patient Gafar Alassani (center) as the kids play around in D ward. Gafar had a large tumor removed on the right side of his face. Mercy Yovo, left, was having cataract surgery on her right eye.

Adado says, “I couldn't believe it. For so long we had spent all the money we had to find help for Christian. I didn't work for days on end while in hospitals waiting with him. Now, he will get help , and I am so thankful.

Cataracts in West Africa tend to be very dense due to the intense sunlight and the lack of adequate eye care. Dr. Glenn Strauss is an expert on African cataracts and has been working with Mercy Ships for 13 years. He has developed a team onboard the Africa Mercy that is able to perform, on average, 20 surgeries per day!

Christian is rolled out of surgery and begins recovery.

Christian's father, Adado, waits patiently for Christian to recover from cataract surgery.

Just one day after surgery, Christian was feeling upbeat. He was coloring a picture with his father and playing with other kids in the ward. Adado looked at his son and said, “Christian, can you see? What is the nurse wearing?

Adado and Christian color together in the ward.

Big smiles now that Christian can see clearly!

Christian looked up at Mercy Ships Charge Nurse, Ali Chandra, and said, “Yes. I can see. She has a blue band on her head and a blue top.

Ali stood in her bright blue scrubs and blue headband, nodding her head and smiling. “Yep , h e can see!” she said. “Dr. Glenn has done it again.

Now Christian will return home and start school again in the fall. Now he will be able to read the chalkboard and won't have trouble picking up items. He fully appreciates the gift of sight that so many people take for granted.

Thanks to Mercy Ships, Christian's future is crystal clear!

Mercy Yovo with her mother and Christian Akakpovi with his father.

Mercy (left) and Christian (right) get ready to leave the ward on discharge day. They have both received successful cataract surgeries on the Africa Mercy !

Story by Claire Bufe Edited by Nancy Predaina

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