Sharing Whitney's story – why this 8 year old will stay with me for a long time to come

Whitney and her mother
Rosi Jack.
Author:Rosi Jack
Posted on: Saturday, 17th September, 2016

My job in the Communications team at CBM means that most days I encounter moving stories of our work. Some are heartwarming tales of obstacles overcome or life-changing medical treatment. Others leave me feeling desperately sad – lives blighted by prejudice, lack of health care and poverty. It's my job to share these real-life stories, to show people in the UK what it means to be blind, disabled or at risk of disability in the world's poorest places and how together, we can transform lives.

Every once in a while, I hear of somebody who makes a particular impression on me, who I'm still thinking about long after I've left the office. One of these people is 8 year old Whitney from Uganda. She has been blind for four years but this week she'll have surgery to remove her cataracts and hopefully restore her sight.

It's partly because Whitney is the same age as my own daughter. I love seeing my 8 year-old absorbed in a book - but Whitney can't see to read a book or the blackboard at school. I wonder how she has managed to follow lessons and if she'll get the support she needs to catch up on what she's missed.

At home, I hear a great deal about the trials and tribulations of 8 year-old friendships. I can't imagine how sad it must be for Whitney's mother, Sarah, to see her daughter always left on the sidelines, unable to join in games because she can't see the ball or skipping rope. Or to live with the constant fear that she will fall down a well, or be hit by a car or motorbike that she doesn't see coming.

We hope next week will be a turning point in Whitney's life, when doctors at our partner hospital remove the cataracts that have caused her blindness. But the other reason Whitney is on my mind is that we don't yet know how her treatment will go.

Doctors think her cataracts developed as a baby, so she should really have had surgery much earlier. But Sarah, who can just support the family by growing and selling vegetables, couldn't afford it – there is no free health care in Uganda. Just a few weeks ago, Sarah found out that our partner hospital offers free treatment, funded by CBM supporters. As soon as Whitney had been examined, surgery was scheduled for 20th September. But at this late stage, the doctors are cautious - Whitney's vision should definitely improve, but they don't know yet if she will see clearly and she will probably need ongoing support and glasses.

So in the next few days, along with my colleagues and many wonderful friends of CBM, I will be praying for Whitney and anxiously waiting for updates from the hospital. I'm so thankful that, thanks to our supporters, she will get excellent treatment and ongoing support, whatever the outcome of the surgery. It's a privilege to be able to play my very small part in sharing Whitney's story, one that I know will stay with me for a long time to come.

Whitney is scheduled to have cataract surgery on 20th September 2016. Follow her story and sign up for updates. 


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