Bringing light to the darkness

Three young brothers and sister whose lives were blighted by cataracts regained the gift of sight.

For seven years, Geneviève served as a guide to the blind. But this was not a job she chose or she could leave behind at the end of the day. This job was part of her life since the birth of her first son, Alexis. Two other children followed, and all three were born with bilateral cataracts. Round-the-clock care was much needed!

Going anywhere used to be an ordeal. Geneviève had to strap one-year-old Ricardo on her back while holding fast with each hand little three-year-old Nadège and seven-year-old Alexis. These children had to be guided down steps, into doorways, around potholes, and protected against common household hazards such as coal stoves or boiling water.

Geneviève and her husband had tried to get help for their children. They once visited a nearby hospital but were unable to afford to pay for expensive cataract operations. Naturally, Geneviève wondered what would become of her children in a country that makes no provision for blindness.

One day, they heard on the radio about Mercy Ships and about free operations done on board a ship…

The children were screened and selected to be operated on immediately. Hope of successful surgery was highest for three-year-old Nadège; she had not been blind long enough for permanent damage to occur, yet her eyes were developed enough for the new lens to fit well. There was special concern for Alexis: children past their seventh birthday often suffer permanent damage from cataracts because the optic nerve has never developed and the brain simply adjusts to the state of blindness. For baby Ricardo, the doctors' concern was that his eyes were not developed enough for the operation, implying that the replacement lens would not fit correctly.

The following morning, one by one, the bandages came off…

Nadège was first to have her bandages off. Her parents’ heart started to beat faster…  Then suddenly, Nadège grabbed the doll held out in front of her and said, ‘baby, baby.’ She could see! Not waiting any longer, they turned filled with hope to their oldest son Alexis, whose prognosis had not been as good. But straight away he was able to see and play with toys on the floor! Finally, Ricardo’s bandages came off. For some time, he lay with his eyes squeezed shut. But at last, he opened one eye and glanced around. It was not long before he was reaching out to his mother, whom he knew the voice but saw for the very first time…