After Zackaria was born, his mother, Binta, began seeing signs that he was suffering from cataracts — a condition that her eldest child had experienced.
“I knew about Zackaria’s eyes when he was still very young, as I had the same experience with my firstborn,” Binta said. “Elimane had an operation, but his surgery was not successful. I wept when I saw that my new baby was looking and moving in the same way.”
Although Binta knew she had no control over her children’s poor eyesight, the fact that both her boys had been born with cataracts caused her overwhelming stress. Over time, this developed into illness. With Binta overcome with grief, her mother offered to step in to take the two boys to live with her.
As Zackaria grew up, he was aware that he could not see like other children, but still wanted to live a full life, including playing with other children and even being ambitious enough to try and kick a football. His teacher encouraged his playful personality so that Zackaria would not dwell on his disability. The young boy would sometimes come home sporting scratches and bruises from his ventures, but even those could not dampen his inquisitive nature and zest for life.
One day, while Binta was visiting her children, the family heard on a local television channel about the pending arrival of the Africa Mercy. Elimane asked his mother if he and Zackaria could go to the hospital ship in hopes of finding healing.
“There are some people coming for free surgeries for the eyes,” he said.
Binta quickly took her boys to where the patients were being selected and introduced the two to the volunteers screening potential patients. Unfortunately, after an in-depth screening, it was discovered that Elimane could not be operated on. He had been blind for too long, and the chances of a second surgery being successful were very slim.
However, young Zackaria’s case was more hopeful! He was given a date for his hospital admission, and Binta was elated.
“The family prayed for the ship to be blessed and that the operation would be successful,” she said.
Zackaria was incredibly excited about having, as he terms it, the “things in his eyes” removed. He was in a great hurry to see and began counting down the days to his surgery. Every day he would come and ask his mother, how many more days it was.
When they were admitted to the hospital on board the Africa Mercy, Binta knew that her son’s surgery was becoming a reality. While she was afraid, she also grew more confident, saying, “It was hard, but I put things in God’s hands.”
In the blink of an eye, the operation was over. Zackaria was discharged the day after surgery and asked to come back a week later for a checkup and some eye tests. Six weeks post-op, Zackaria was back for a final checkup – and for the “Celebration of Sight” ceremony on the dock. He was given some glasses to help him focus and joined in the celebration!
“Now Zackaria can see better, he hardly stays still and is constantly moving about,” Binta said. “I am so happy. I never thought that Zackaria would have this opportunity for surgery. Even I was suffering from something that Mercy Ships has healed!”
Binta hopes that one day her son decides to pursue a career as a surgeon, saying, “He could help people as people have helped him.”
As for Zackaria, his main ambition after surgery was to play outside and to build things. With a newfound ability to go to school, it was time to start a different chapter of his life — one that is brighter than ever!