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Mercy Ships Surgeon Addresses Blindness Through Sutureless Technique
Date:10/4/2009

Patients onboard Mercy Ship "Celebrate Sight" and World Sight Day

Cotonou, Benin, West Africa (Vocus) October 4, 2009 -- Four-year-old Celine was born with congenital cataracts in both eyes. Her father, a tailor, wanted the best for her. However, he could not afford the $180 (US) for surgery for each eye, plus the money required for hospital supplies in his country. Unable to begin school because she could not see, Celine faced an uncertain future.

A free five-minute cataract operation onboard the Mercy Ship has restored hope for Celine and more than 3000 others. They are receiving cataract surgery onboard the Mercy Ship during the hospital ship's 10-month stay in the port of Cotonou from February through December of this year.

Not only do approximately 150 patients each week participate in a "Celebrate Sight" event, but many more Africans are set to benefit from a new training program onboard the floating hospital. African ophthalmologists receive training in the specialized procedure to remove the very dense cataracts that are common in Africa.

According to Vision 2020, cataracts are the leading cause of blindness, and 80% of blindness is treatable, curable or preventable.* Simple and effective strategies could address this inequity, claims Dr. Glenn Strauss. He gave up his eye practice in the US to serve fulltime with Mercy Ships as Chief of Ophthalmology Service with the charity.

Since 2004, Dr. Strauss has fine-tuned a procedure of cataract removal called MSICS (Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery). The technique, which has been developed in Nepal, India, and onboard the Mercy Ship, requires no sutures. It is also cost-effective and efficient, and it allows for a high-volume turnover of patients. Strauss says he can serve approximately 40 patients per day.

Cape Town ophthalmologist Dr. Gcobane Tuswa has recently returned to Sabona Eye Hospital in Queenstown to implement the new techniques learned from Dr. Strauss onboard the Africa Mercy. He states, "The knowledge he [Dr. Strauss has to share is invaluable and will increase capacity to address blindness."   

Mercy Ships will also continue to run remote eye clinics throughout the year in Benin. Volunteer professionals will see more than 200 patients a day, thus expanding their service throughout local communities.

Watch a recent Mercy Ships "Celebration of Sight," held for patients who have completed their final checkups in Cotonou, Benin: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0ggCZZjEXg
Celine's story can be seen at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFNfBG2m-xw

For More Information Contact:

US:
Kathy Gohmert, US Media Liaison
kathy.gohmert (at) mercyships (dot) org
Tel: 1 903.939.7019

International:
Diane Rickard, Director International Public Relations
Mercy Ships
rickardd (at) mercyships (dot) org
UK Tel: 44 1438 727 800

About World Sight Day:
World Sight Day is an annual day of awareness to focus global attention on blindness, visual impairment and rehabilitation of the visually impaired. It is held on the second Thursday in October. This year, the focus is on eye health and equal access to care. Globally, visual impairment is most prevalent in men and women 50 years of age and older. While the majority of eye conditions, such as cataract, for this age group can be easily treated, in some parts of the world there is still the need to ensure that women and men receive eye care services on an equal basis. World Sight Day is observed around the world by partners involved in preventing visual impairment or restoring sight. It is also the main advocacy event for the prevention of blindness and for "Vision 2020: The Right to Sight," a global effort to prevent blindness, created by WHO and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.
(*) http://www.v2020.org/page.asp?section=0001000100070013

About Mercy Ships:
Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class health care services to those without access in the developing world. Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 70 countries, providing services valued at more than $748 million, directly impacting more than 2.16 million beneficiaries. More than 1200 crew worldwide, representing more than 40 nations, are joined each year by 2000 short-term volunteers. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, health care trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort. For more information or to make a donation, click on www.mercyships.org.

Interviews with Mercy Ships Eye Team crew members can be arranged on request. Hi-res photos and general Mercy Ships broadcast footage clips are available for download at www.mercyshipsnews.org following a short online registration.

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Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/mercy_ship/Sutureless_surgery/prweb2984594.htm.


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