I can’t imagine what it must have been like for 33 year old Pulcherie from the Republic of Congo when she gave birth to her perfect little girl, unable to gaze into her precious newborn’s eyes due to her own blindness.
Laurie, one of our ophthalmic volunteers on the Africa Mercy tells the story:
Pulcherie made her way carefully through the crowd with her baby wrapped on her back. I was dismayed to see a white, cloud-like corneal scar in her right eye. It was beyond repair, but the cataract in her left eye…that we could fix! She’d never seen her baby girl. “I know her by the feel of her nose, her hands and the smell of her hair,” Pulcherie said quietly.
Completely blind at 15, abandoned by her husband at 33, and left to raise her child as a single mother with no hope of a job due to her lack of sight. Through my tears, I told Pulcherie that she was in good hands.
The following month, in less than 20 minutes, Pulcherie’s life was changed forever as she received a free cataract surgery on-board the Africa Mercy. As her eye patch was removed, Pulcherie first looked down at her dress and said, “It is orange.” She turned and embraced us. Looking up at the Africa Mercy, Pulcherie exclaimed, “And look how big the boat is!”
Recently, I visited Pulcherie in her village. Under the tranquil shade of a mango tree, Pulcherie held her daughter in her arms. Her eyes joyfully took in every details of her baby’s beauty – from her eyelashes to her tiny toes. She has found work and so happy that she is able to help her daughter grow up strong and healthy under her watchful eye!