A Southampton eye specialist has told Eastleigh News about his work on board a charity funded hospital ship as part of World Sight day.
Every year Richard Newsom – a consultant ophthalmologist at Southampton General hospital – gives up two weeks of his leave to sail to the West African coast on board Africa Mercy a converted former Danish ferry that is operated by the Mercy Ships charity.
The 200 metre ship has six operating theatres and four wards and Richard Newsom is part of the 400 strong crew of volunteer medical and support staff, drawn from 40 countries, who aim to bring medical and developmental aid to one of the worlds poorest regions.
Mr. Newsom uses his skills to restore eyesight to people who would otherwise remain blind for life.
“The main disease we focus on is cataracts and for a very good reason, because it’s a disease we can do a single operation for and that single operation can last a person for a lifetime so it’s a very cost effective operation if we want to bring sight into a community.
“A lot of our patients would be farmers manual workers some teachers for them to lose their vision means they lose their livelihood and some people will get early cataracts and get into trouble quite early on in life.”
Earlier this year, one of the patients whose life was transformed by Mr. Newsom was Pulcherie, a young mother from the Democratic Republic of Congo who lost her sight as a teenager. After receiving surgery on the ship, Pulcherie was able to see her child for the very first time.
“Pulcherie was a relatively young lady who had just given birth but what was sad was that she had never been able to see her child.
“She was blind in both eyes; one through trauma and the other eye had an early cataract so after an examination and a lot of careful thought we did a cataract operation.
“The operation went well and she began to see things after the surgery. Suddenly she could see her baby and look after her baby the way she always wanted to it was very thrilling and a lot of the staff were rooting for her and hoping it would go well. “
Since 1978, Mercy Ships volunteers have carried out more than 33,000 free eye surgeries to those most in need through the Mercy Vision programme,
In addition to treating patients Mr. Newsom and his fellow eye specialists also provide ophthalmic training for local surgeons and local health workers.
The Africa Mercy is currently on it’s way from South Africa to Madagascar off the East African coast as the ship is unable to cope with potential ebola cases as a result of the outbreak in West Africa.
To find out more about Mercy Ships or to make a donation please visit www.mercyships.org