Five years ago, Bernadina lost her husband in an accident that, under different circumstances, might not have taken his life. He had been out tilling fields, when a piece of rudimentary machinery caught his hand and severed it. Had he not been so far from home, alone, and unsure of how to sustain himself long enough to reach more help, his fate might have been much different. But as it were, his story unfolded tragically leaving behind Bernadina and their 7 children.
At HelpMeSee, we know we can’t solve all the world’s health problems, but we believe no one should suffer the way Bernadina’s husband suffered because he lived and worked in an area not served by traditional health care systems. Rural health care is complicated, and there are no easy answers. HelpMeSee has chosen to focus on one health care need and a cost-effective solution, where we believe we can make in-roads to tackling a single problem. Our choice is eradicating cataract blindness and for Bernadina, this means her experience with rural health will thankfully be different than that of her husband.
A hospital assistant prepares Bernadina for surgery.
When Bernadina first noticed her vision decline more than one year ago, she had no idea it was curable. In fact, she believed her incremental vision loss was the result of an earlier trauma when, at age 35, she had been kicked in the head by a work mule on a farm, rendering her unconscious for over 24 hours.
As a result of Bernadina’s belief that nothing could be done, she did her best in the last year to manage the frustration around a dwindling ability to cook or wash clothes or sew. Increasingly, she’s also accepted greater levels of isolation, as her visits to the market became less frequent and her ability to get out for walks steadily decreased.
As she began to tell her story within her community, friends and family encouraged her to pay a visit to a German ophthalmologist who had been passing through the area, frequently offering free eye health screenings. As others came to suspect, Bernadina’s very first appointment revealed cataracts in both eyes and she was immediately referred to the free surgery programme in Chachapoyas.
In early December 2014, Bernadina arrived at the hospital in Chachapoyas with no apprehensions about surgery and only great gratitude and relief, knowing a cure was now within her reach. Her first cataract has now been removed and she’s already anticipating a second surgery for her right eye.
With the promise of vision restoration in sight, Bernadina now looks forward to returning to activities that get her out of the house and active once again. She also plans to relish the everyday chores she once took for granted — like sewing and cooking. Bernadina’s history tells the story of a powerful movement that’s changing the face of rural health, one problem at time, and HelpMeSee’s global campaign to end cataract blindness is proud to be leading the march.