Grace to Live Again

For more than three years, Hounsigbo lived in total darkness, cataracts clouding her vision in both eyes. Before, Hounsigbo had been busily working in her village in Togo, going every day to the forest to cut trees and weave mats out of their branches, selling them to earn a living. But now, the 70-year-old spent her nights and days in a small room in one of her children’s homes, her eyes watering constantly. If she wanted to eat something, she waited until her grandchildren brought it. If she needed to use the washroom, her grandchildren led her there. She was completely dependent on her family to survive.

“Someone without children will suffer or even be dead by now,” she said.

Hounsigbo’s grandson leads her out of her hut during a visit to their village near Azimé, Togo.

When Hounsigbo first started having headaches, she visited the local hospital. Next, she tried traditional remedies. Although they helped for a time, “[My eyes] eventually became worse, and I lost my sight altogether,” she said.

Hounsigbo’s story is not unlike many others. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, more than six million people are blind due to cataracts. With a simple surgery, most could receive their vision back.

That’s where Dr. Abram Wodomé comes in. In a city not too far from Hounsigbo, this surgeon restores people’s sight in a mere seven minutes. He’s not a miracle worker, but he has impacted his country, Togo, in a miraculous way. After training with Mercy Ships 10 years ago, he began his own clinic, where he goes above and beyond to make surgery free and accessible. For years, Mercy Ships has been partnering with him, sponsoring surgeries at his clinic for people who might otherwise not have access.

Hounsigbo is examined by Dr. Harry Nkok at a school in Azimé, Togo.

Hounsigbo had heard about Dr. Wodomé’s clinic, but she doubted she could afford it. Fortunately, her grandson, Louis, was determined to get her help regardless of their financial situation. One day, he urged Hounsigbo to go with him to a screening that Dr. Wodomé’s team was running nearby.

“I didn’t know where I was going, but my grandson said I should come along with him. I asked him, ‘My son, do you have money?’ and he replied saying, ‘Grandma, we will go.’”

Soon, Louis’ faith was rewarded. Hounsigbo was approved for surgery, and instructed to go to Lomé, all at no cost to her. Before she knew it, she was in Lomé and going into the operating room. The next day, when her bandage was removed, Hounsigbo immediately laughed out loud, then ran into the next room to give Dr. Wodomé a hug. She could see everything!

Hounsigbo having her eyes examined after her bandages were removed.

Hounsigbo and Louis made the trip back to her village, and when they arrived, all her other grandchildren ran toward her shouting, “Grandma can see!” Hounsigbo wrapped them all in a big hug.

“Seeing all of them, it brought joy to me,” she recalls.

She is no longer dependent on her children and grandchildren. Now, she is free to return to work and take her place as the matriarch of the family. “[I have been] given grace to live again,” she says. “Thank you, and may God strengthen you all… to help more people like me.”

Hounsigbo in her village near Azimé, Togo after receiving sight-restoring cataract surgery.