By Rose Talbot, Africa Mercy (shortened)

© Mercy Ships – Lara Arkinstall

Adama was five months pregnant when the world around her started to flicker and fade. Because of clouded, disc-like cataracts in her eyes, soon all she could see were shadows and shapes. Months passed as her vision continued to dwindle. “Maybe it will clear up after I give birth,” she told herself, hoping that the loss of sight was somehow linked to her pregnancy.

But once she’d delivered her twin babies — a boy and a girl — 30-year-old Adama had to face the truth. She was blind, and afraid that she might never be able to see the faces of her new-borns. And without access to affordable, safe surgery, she felt like there was nothing that could fix her sight. “I held my babies after they were born, and I couldn’t see their faces. I thought this would last forever; that I would never know what they look like. I was very desperate,” Adama said. “I didn’t have any hope.”

Adama, along with her new-borns and four other children, moved in with her older sister, Aissatou, who became their caretaker. Aissatou welcomed them in lovingly, but with her own children to take care of, the burden was heavy. “It’s been a very hard year,” Aissatou reflected in tears.

For Adama, the reliance on her sister was challenging in a different way. The sudden inability to take care of her own children left her feeling guilty. “Since my eyes are dark, I can’t walk alone, go to the market, cook, do laundry… I can’t do anything without help.”
Adama’s blindness stretched on for almost a year. The twins were six months old, their faces still a mystery to their mother, when her husband first heard about Mercy Ships. It meant hope.

The day after her operation on the Africa Mercy, Adama sat on a wooden bench waiting for her eye patch to be removed. It was the moment she’d learn whether or not her eyesight had returned fully.

Adama and her twins © Mercy Ships – Lara Arkinstall

As the patch was peeled back, Adama kept her eyes closed for a few moments. Gradually, she blinked them open. A smile slowly spread across her face as she realised she was seeing the world again for the first time in almost a year. She reached for her twins, drinking in the details of their faces for the first time. Tiny noses; long eyelashes; round cheeks – Adama cradled them both in her arms at the same time, eyes dancing between the two.

“I never expected that my babies would be so beautiful,” she murmured.

The cataract surgery Adama received with Mercy Ships took less than half an hour. The impact of her restored sight will reverberate throughout the rest of her life. There will likely be countless moments where Adama rejoices because of the ability to see again — but it’s hard to imagine a moment more meaningful than a mother’s patient love being rewarded with the sight of her children for the first time.

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