Running security at a screening is far from what it sounds like. The security is not necessarily to protect the nurses and other medical staff, it is more to keep an orderly line, prevent line-cutters, prevent bribes, having to shatter the hopes of people who are beyond our help, and to make sure that no one gets past the pre-screening who was given a "no". We arrived about an hour a half before the Eye Team so we started out by walking up and down the line in either direction making sure that everything was quiet. When it started getting light, Bangura, a Guinean, would walk up and down talking through the megaphone saying that this was only an eye screening. Only those with double cataracts could be helped. Club feet, tumors, and other medical issues would have to listen to the radio or the TV to see when those kinds of screening would be held. Either Ken or I would have to walk with Bangura because the people waiting wouldn't believe what he was saying unless a white person was seen to be saying the same thing. I couldn't speak the local language but my confirmation of what Bangura was saying was enough. Telling the mother with the 2 year old with club feet, the woman with a neck tumor, the crippled man, and the boy with a lazy eye that we were unable to help them right now was heart breaking. Hope and Healing yes, but not for all. The patients who did receive the yellow follow-up appointment cards were so joyful.
The stark contrast between the despair and joy within meters of each other is such a part and parcel of Africa. Walking along the streets and seeing children running around, laughing, playing football (or soccer for the Americans), and yelling "Fote! Fote!" at the white people makes you smile. Yet when you think about the ship that you will return to, the AC, the safe food and water, and the medical care available 2 decks away, the ache returns to your heart. Yet for the lives we can and do change, their joy is contagious. The patient who had the cantaloupe-sized tumor removed from his cheek is starting to speak again. His life has been altered dramatically. Who can frown or be sad when faced with a smile so joyful?