Salt Lake City’s sister city Ouelessebougou in Mali, West Africa is in dire need of medical attention. Dr. Bryan Monson, an ophthalmologist at Logan Eye Institute, will be traveling to Mali in 2 weeks over Thanksgiving to help give sight to the many who have lost it. He joined Brian Carlson to talk about what’s happening on their trip.
Mali is a remote landlocked country with some of the hottest temperatures in the world, located in the Sahara Desert. It is also among the poorest nations on the planet, with one of the lowest GDP per capita in the world. Medically, Mali is also rudimentary in its healthcare. On average, there is only one doctor for every 17,000 people. There is a higher number of blinding eye conditions at younger ages than many other regions of the world.
Monson, along with other Utah eye surgeons, will be performing cataract surgery, cornea transplant surgery and other vision restoring operations in a facility with three different surgical beds that will be running around the clock.
All around the world, cornea transplants are needed when young and old have eye problems. There are those who progressively become blind from genetic disease, from infection, from trauma. Unfortunately, the rate of such blindness is exponentially higher in developing countries like Mali. Trachoma, a disease that can cause blindness, affects one-third of all children in this region.
Monson says those suffering with blindness in Mali risk becoming disconnected from society; they lose their place in the social structure. They also have incredibly high rates of depression, homelessness and premature death.
The team will perform cornea transplants for these patients. There is no other way to help them, than to have a donor cornea sutured in place of their damaged cornea. If this doesn’t happen, the person will remain blind.
Monson says blind eye conditions in Mali affect both young and old. It’s caused by infections and malnutrition. The hope that comes from eye surgery for these individuals is hard to measure-it often means the difference of employment, education, or marriage opportunity.
Despite it’s remoteness, volunteers and surgeons from Utah have repeatedly returned to Mali to develop schools, hospitals, modern ophthalmology surgeries facilities, and address the burden of blindness in the region in a responsible, sustainable manner.
Since 1986, the Ouelessebougou Alliance has worked to find innovative ways to provide sustainable growth. Along with the surgeries, Dr. Monson and his team will also be giving training to help others learn how to take care of some of the eye care needs of this community.They stay at the compound headed by the Alliance in Ouelessebougou and perform medical surgeries and treatment.