Country: Sierra Leone

Age: 7

Surgery: Cataract Removal

Share Mamadou’s story

Make his future bright. Give the gift of sight.

Like any seven-year-old, Mamadou loves to play and explore the world around him.

“Bruuuuum.” He zooms around his home with his toy truck. Then he picks up his plastic horse, and imagines he’s riding somewhere far away.

But sadly, Mamadou can’t see his toy truck, or the room he plays in. He can’t even see his mum’s face.

Mamadou was born blind, with cataracts in both eyes. His vision is so hazy, that all he can see is shadow and light. The sun’s glare is so bright that it hurts his eyes. So he prefers to be in the dark inside his windowless home. Safe in the gloom.

At school, he is teased by other children. And at seven years old, he still can’t read or write.

Imagine being born with a disease that slowly steals your sight. As you grow up, your world grows darker and darker, until you can barely see at all.

His mum, Salematu, brought him to their local hospital, but the doctor said he was too young to have surgery. She felt helpless. “Whenever I look at my son, I feel sad,” she said. “I am not happy about his condition.”

Thankfully, in the UK, if you have cataracts, you can have free surgery. It’s a quick, pain-free operation.

But in Sierra Leone, Mamadou’s chances of getting medical help were stacked against him. Hospitals are poorly equipped. Eye doctors are extremely rare. Surgery seemed impossible to come by. Until now.

When the Global Mercy hospital ship sailed into Freetown, Mamadou heard the news he had always dreamed of – he could have free surgery.

Our new hospital ship is fully equipped to provide eye surgeries. Step on board and you’ll find state-of-the art operating theatres. Clean and sanitary ward rooms. And a whole surgical team ready to provide expert eye care.

When Mamadou first boarded the hospital ship, his eyes darted everywhere as he looked around. Dr Paulius Rudalevicius, the specialist eye doctor who operated on Mamadou, explained, “We suspect that the bilateral cataracts were there at birth, and slowly got worse. So he has some kind of vision, but the lenses inside are opaque. We call it nystagmus.”

There was no time to waste. Without surgery soon, Mamadou might never have regained his sight. Dr Rudalevicius advised, “If the cataracts are not removed soon enough, the brain can never learn to see, even if the cataracts are removed.”

The day came for Mamadou to have surgery. Moments before he was taken to theatre, his heart raced. Will I be safe? Will it hurt me? Will my sight be gone forever? As he felt the warm touch of his mum’s hand, he prayed it would soon be over.

Assisted by a team of medical volunteers, Dr Rudalevicius performed a Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery. The procedure took just two hours, but it will make a lifelong impact.

The next day, Mamadou opened his eyes in wonder. For the first time in his life, he could see clearly.

“When his bandages were taken off, his smile was indescribable and everyone in the room started clapping their hands,” recalls Anneli Persson, our volunteer eye nurse.

It was a moment of pure joy for everyone who witnessed it – but most of all, for his mum. “My son can see me!” she beamed.

A few hours later, Mamadou received a pair of sunglasses to help stabilise his new vision. He was also given some paper and crayons, and he sat happily colouring with the other children on the ward.

Now, Mamadou’s world is so much brighter. He can play and run around with his friends, free from fear. He can learn to read and see his favourite comic book heroes, like Spider-Man. But looking into his mum’s eyes and seeing her smile is the best gift he’s ever been given.

And that gift is because of you.

Because of you, Mamadou had the gift of free surgery on board our hospital ship. If it wasn’t for his timely surgery, he may have lost his sight forever. But now, he can see the world in new light, he can see his mum, he can see hope for the future.

One month later, Mamadou came back to the ship for a Celebration of Sight. His mum Salematu celebrates the tangible difference she sees in her son since his operation: “Unlike before, Mamadou can now move around without tripping over or falling, even when the sun is out.”

This summer, you can give another child like Mamadou the chance to see again. Every £1 you give will be doubled to £2. With your help, more children can look forward to a brighter tomorrow. Give now.