Meet Gladys 👏
Meet Gladys Atto, who was supported by Sightsavers while she trained to be an Ophthalmologist. The first day the Sightsavers team met Gladys, they were impressed. She was fully focused on her task, barely noticing the team had entered the room. This was understandable as at the time, Gladys and her supervisor were performing an average of 20-30 cataract surgeries per day between them.
Gladys spent 8 and a 1/2 years studying medicine and specialising in ophthalmology. She told the Sightsavers team that she loves the moment when a patient's bandages are removed and they can see again. She said “Just the outcome, it’s like so magical. When the patient sees the next day it’s so beautiful. I don’t know, it’s the most rewarding feeling one can ever get. And it’s very stressful when they wake up the next day, and they’re not seeing because of something you did in theatre.”
Gladys' believes that in her area, the main challenge for eye care professionals is access to supplies, equipment and medicine as many of the patients can't afford to pay for treatment and the government have not recognised the importance of the field. She said “The government should focus more on eye care. That is what we are fighting for right now...Most of the things we need for investigations are actually not supplied at all by the government, so we hope, that things will change".
Another challenge Gladys faces is people not seeking treatment until they are in serious pain or when they cannot see at all. This partly because of suspicion about the care offered at the hospital and limited understanding about the causes and treatment of eye conditions. To raise awareness for eye health and educate the community about the success rates of surgery, the hospital staff do outreach work. While this is helpful, Gladys explained that people who have had their sight restored through surgery are “the best advocates”.
Despite the challenges, Gladys is passionate about her job as an ophthalmologist and cannot help looking at people’s eyes even when she is not working. She said “Since my childhood, medicine was the thing. I don’t know, I just knew I need to be a doctor...even when I’m in church I’m looking at people’s eyes. Sometimes I sit back and explain, I need to see you. Do you know your child has these problems and you need to go?”
Gladys feels blessed to be supported by Sightsavers as many other areas do not have the privilege of accessing free surgery. When asked if she had any messages for Sightsavers' supporters, she said, “First you tell Sightsavers supporters ‘thank you’ for the sponsorship. It has been so beneficial... Even my studies. It is so hard to study if you having this missing, and you are doing the research and you don’t have the money to do it and that kind of thing. It is really good. But, we are really still few. […] So we still need more people here".
You can feel good knowing that you help Sightsavers' mission every time you purchase a pack of Hide&See patches. Speckles proudly donates $1 from every pack of our Hide&See patches that we sell to help Sightsavers continue to do this important work and maximise their impact. If you would like to further support this incredible charity, visit their website.