United Methodist hospital changes blind boy’s life

Born blind with cataracts on both eyes, 8-year-old Morlai Bangura, who lives in the remote village of Barmoi in northern Sierra Leone, can now see. Thanks to successful eye operations at the Sierra Leone Conference’s Lowell and Ruth Gess United Methodist Eye Hospital, Morlai has started attending school in eastern Freetown. Photo courtesy of Dr. Moges Teshome, Lowell and Ruth Gess United Methodist Eye Hospital.
Born blind with cataracts on both eyes, 8-year-old Morlai Bangura, who lives in the remote village of Barmoi in northern Sierra Leone, can now see. Thanks to successful eye operations at the Sierra Leone Conference’s Lowell and Ruth Gess United Methodist Eye Hospital, Morlai has started attending school in eastern Freetown.

Born blind with cataracts in both eyes, 8-year-old Morlai Bangura can now see and has started attending school in eastern Freetown, with support from the Sierra Leone Conference’s Lowell and Ruth Gess United Methodist Eye Hospital.

In a country where opportunities for the blind are limited and many are reduced to beggars, Morlai — who was living in a remote village in northern Sierra Leone — did not have the slimmest prospect of sight or city life, let alone education.

He now has all three, thanks to the United Methodist eye hospital’s outreach team who discovered him in the woods of Barmoi and brought news of his condition to hospital authorities in Freetown.

“There is no health care facility in that very remote part of the country, no school. He was blind and was working on the farm. Nobody knew his cataracts were operable,” said Dr. Moges Teshome, the ophthalmologist who performed the surgeries.

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Eight-year-old Morlai Bangura experiences sight for the first time after an eye pad is removed following cataract surgery on his right eye. Photo courtesy of Dr. Moges Teshome, Lowell and Ruth Gess United Methodist Eye Hospital. 

“His operations were done successfully without any complications. … He was really encouraging to us also. We were happy (with) the outcome. … After all corrections (were) made, he had almost regained his sight by 100 percent,” Teshome said.

After a primary diagnosis, which indicated that he had cataracts that the hospital could remove, Morlai, his father, mother and younger brother traveled to Freetown. The family stayed on the hospital premises until his operations were complete.

Morlai’s right eye was operated on in May 2017, and the left eye was done two weeks later. The hospital provided all services free of charge and paid for refractive corrective glasses to help him see more clearly.

The procedures have paved the way for a brighter future for the boy, Teshome said.

Morlai is enrolled in school in Freetown for the 2017-18 academic year and the hospital is taking care of his expenses and well-being.

“Considering the abject poverty of his family, the hospital has supported Bangura by paying for school registration fees, school uniforms, shoes, a school bag, exercise books, pens and pencils and a regular lunch,” Teshome said.

“Everyone who knew Morlai before and sees him now is enjoying the maximum happiness due to the results and the changes in (his) life.”

Teshome said he feels personally grateful every time he plays a part in a story that brings sight to people, especially children. It gives him a sense of fulfillment as a Christian, he said, because Jesus Christ started the healing ministry.

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Morlai Bangura, who can now see after two successful cataract operations, attends school in Freetown, Sierra Leone. “He is highly intelligent,” said Dr. Moges Teshome, the ophthalmologist who performed the surgeries. Photo courtesy of Dr. Moges Teshome, Lowell and Ruth Gess United Methodist Eye Hospital.

Morlai recently visited his family in Barmoi for the first time after his operation. He is enjoying going to school and is learning his letters and numbers. “He is highly intelligent … and already (has) started speaking English,” Teshome said. 

Despite these successes, there are some challenges that could disrupt Morlai’s education. His life in Freetown may not be sustainable, Teshome said. He lives with an uncle who is jobless and has a family of five. With no school in the remote village where his parents live — the children do only subsistence farming — he cannot return to his rural community and continue to learn.

“I am not sure if the hospital can manage to support him for a long time. As a solution, I will bring this issue to the hospital management and (the Sierra Leone) Conference for longtime assistance,” Teshome said.

Hospital authorities also are looking for a trustworthy foster parent to take care of Morlai long-term.

Teshome hopes to share Morlai’s success story with other ophthalmologists at their annual National Program for the Prevention of Blindness meeting.

The hospital’s partner, Christian Blind Mission, also recently filmed Morlai so that his story can be shown in Europe for fundraising efforts for the construction of a children’s eye care facility within the hospital premises.

Most of the funds are being raised in Europe through the mission, a German eye care philanthropist agency. More than one million Euros (roughly $1.2 million U.S.) is needed for the construction. 

Jusu is director of communications for The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone. News media contact: Vicki Brown at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests. 

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