Blog submitted by Rebecca Saxton-Fox
Rebecca is the Flying Eye Hospital Administrator and has been with ORBIS since 2007.
Every Monday evening during Flying Eye Hospital programs, we meet as a team to discuss the day. This past Monday was one of the first times I was really excited to get into that room – I wanted to see the surgery list for the week. When Amelia, Flying Eye Hospital program manager, informed me that Moussa, a man I had met on Saturday, was had been scheduled for surgery onboard the Flying Eye Hospital, I was thrilled.
As the Administrator onboard the Flying Eye Hospital, I rarely get to follow
a patient from screening through surgery, as I am often running around and not
directly involved in patient care. However, on Saturday, I was fortunate enough
to be able to join my colleagues during a rural screening outreach, set up by
Perry Athanason, our communications manager. About 15 of us drove out to
Libore, just outside of
I found my place as one of the “hall monitors”, walking patients from room to room, trying to navigate my way through up to 4 languages (English, French, Zarma and Housa), and ophthalmology terms I was unfamiliar with. One of my favorite moments during the day was passing out sunglasses to little old ladies who had never worn glasses before. Heather, our nursing director, was instrumental in ensuring each lady received a pair that fit her face and matched her clothes!
By the afternoon, the majority of our patients were men. At that point, I had moved from the hall into the scheduling room, making sure that all patients who needed surgery or follow-up care were scheduled to either come in for one of our follow-up hospital based programs, or were scheduled to go to the National Hospital of Niamey to be seen by the local ophthalmologists who are receiving training during our program.
One man came in with “extremely high pressure” written across his sheet. I learned from the ophthalmologists who had examined him that he had gone blind in his left eye several weeks prior due to glaucoma (a disease where improper drainage of fluid in the eye leads to increased pressure in the eye, damaging the optic nerve). His right eye was a few weeks away from blindness as well. I knew what that meant – he needed to come in to the hospital on Monday to be seen by our team. The man, Moussa, needed an emergency trabeculectomy – a surgery that helps to reduce the pressure build up in the eye – combined with a phacoemulsification surgery to remove the cataract that was blurring his vision even more.
“This is the only chance he has for this surgery. If he doesn’t come in on Monday, he will go blind soon,” said Amelia, citing the fact that with only 13 ophthalmologists in the whole country, and very limited resources, eye care in rural areas of Niger is almost non-existent.
I immediately left the room to find translators. I sat with
him for a while, walking several different translators over to him to explain
the importance of his appointment on Monday, and making sure he had a way of
getting to the hospital in
Sitting from my back office aboard the Flying Eye Hospital, I can see into the room
where Moussa is currently getting prepped for surgery. As in all of our cases,
he will be operated on by one of our volunteer doctors, along with 2 local
I’m overwhelmed and grateful for all of the hard work and
time that our whole team, as well as dozens of volunteer translators and
Photo by Rebecca Saxton-Fox