The waiting room at Emmanuel Eye Center is small and full of patients seated on vinyl chairs. Some are standing along the walls, trying to stay out of the way of the nurses and doctors walking quickly through the rooms. Holding sheets of paper that tell what is needed, they are anxious to see the doctor. They watch everything going on around them, wondering what it will be like to see clearly again. Upon closer inspection, many of them have a film covering their eye called a pterygium, which is a growth that begins on the inner edge of the eye and slowly covers the entire eye. Some patients seem calmer than others.
Upon arrival at the Emmanuel Eye Center, the patients sit on wooden benches outside the clinic. They face a small white podium, where at 7:30 a.m., the clinic pastor comes out to teach them about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to pray for them and their upcoming surgery. On average, over 100 patients and relatives gather for this time of devotions every day.
For those who have not heard of Jesus or want to know more, the patients and relatives are invited to talk with the staff pastor or his assistant in the counseling room inside the clinic. "All who want to talk about Christ and Christianity can go there and have special time," said Luke Society Director, Dr. John Boateng.
While the patients and families are hearing God's Word, the staff has their own time of devotions. They gather in the waiting room, read the Bible and discuss the text.
Because of its Christian witness and quality eye care, the Center has become well-known in Ghana and surrounding countries. Ghana's population is around 22 million, and there are only 48 ophthalmologists in Ghana; therefore, there is only one ophthalmologist to 460,000 patients. These statistics are for Ghana alone, but Emmanuel Eye Center sees patients coming in from as far away as Niger and Mali!
Many of the patients who come to Emmanuel Eye Center have never received any eye care. Because of traditional medicines, many people are afraid of what will be done to them. In some villages, leaves are ground up, and the juices are poured into the eye. The acidic juices usually damage the eye, causing severe pain. In other villages, the fetish doctors will pour urine into the eye, which also leads to painful eye infections. The most common misconception is that the eye doctors will cut out their eyes, fix them, and try to put them back again.
To alleviate these anxieties, there are trained staff who talk to the patients before their surgery. They discuss the procedures and answer questions.
Dr. Abalo Kodjo is the head doctor at Emmanuel Eye Center. He is a committed Christian man with a dedication to the clinic and the staff.
Five days a week, Dr. Kodjo works in the operating room. The operating room has two chairs with a large microscope between them. When he walks in the door, there is a patient in each chair. As soon as he removes the cataract in the first patient, he moves to the other. Another patient is prepped and ready while he performs on the next patient. This rotation continues throughout the day and usually ends after he has performed over 10 surgeries.
The rest of the clinic is open to those who need eye glasses. Emmanuel Eye Center dispenses more glasses than anywhere else in Accra for about half the price. Christie and Vera are the women who fit the patients with glasses frames. Roselynn is the clinic optometrist, and she sees an average of 30 patients a day. After the patient has the prescription and the frames, Jerry goes to work, grinding lenses to fit the glasses. Jerry also fixes broken glasses and orders new frames from dealers in Accra.
The next step for the future of Emmanuel Eye Center is to begin reaching out to the small villages around Accra.
In addition to the medical help the Luke Society provides during these rural outreaches, the staff places a heavy emphasis on evangelism.
The people of Ghana and surrounding countries are seeing more clearly with quality eye care from Emmanuel Eye Center. With improved sight, the quality of everyday life is better. With evangelism being a strong component in the clinic and staff vision, patients also have the opportunity to see how much hope, love and freedom can be found in Jesus Christ.