March 2012

Dr John operating on his cake!

The knife hovered above the eye. Fellow surgeons and other observers of the operation looked on with keen interest. ‘I think it will be a small incision’, said one watching the doctor, knowingly. Another, her mobile phone held high, edged closer to take a photograph and, as the knife lowered, the camera flashed to catch the moment. The cut was made. The doctors and other observers applauded enthusiastically as visiting surgeon and long standing friend of the Eye Clinic, John Sandford Smith, cut the first slice of a great cake on the top of which had been printed a picture of a very large and beautiful eye. He beamed and set to dissecting the rest of the cake for all the staff gathered for mid-morning tea in the community room.

It was a good conclusion to ten days of very intense surgery and training by John, and his thirteenth visit to us. He came first in 2001.

Dr John supervising a trainee surgeon at the Ras Morbat ClinicIt was wonderful to see both clinics – the general medical clinic and the eye clinic buzzing, the courtyard and covered waiting areas bustling. Most eye patients had at least one relative, friend or supporter with them, some as many as three or four. Recreational facilities here are few and a day at the clinic makes for a change. Most came from across the city, ten or fifteen from Dhala, two hours drive away and two from the Red Sea port of Hodeidah.

One hundred and thirty seven cataract operations were carried out. Most were performed by John but five or six each day were done by our local Yemeni surgeons under supervision. John is confident that Dr Loween, the senior one, can handle ten or twelve cases each week now on her own.

Over the next three months we hope to welcome back two other surgeons for further short stints of operating and training – an exciting and encouraging prospect.

Operations ceased for two days for ‘the election’ We flew in the day afterwards to see many streets covered with debris, burnt tyres, rubble, bricks and broken glass from  the noisy protests and shooting that accompanied election day. The familiar stern and swarthy face of previous president Saleh has disappeared from all public places to be replaced by the more benign face of his successor Abdrabba Mansour Hadi. Opinions on the future of the nation are as varied as the people one talks to. For the moment there is a welcome breathing space from strife and agitation. It may be short.

Yesterday, Friday, we worshipped together in the morning, just eight adults and four children – Filipino, Eritrean, Pakistani, Ethiopian, Indian and ourselves. We sometimes wonder what nationality we are! We whooped with joy to learn Wales had beaten England in the rugby recently, which must indicate some loyalty there! In our worship we followed loosely the order of worship for Morning Prayer. A space for open praying was quickly filled with fervent praises and prayers for Yemen and Syria, and after the blessing at the end there was a request for ‘more singing’. The redoubtable and self deprecating surgeon John had accompanied the worship with his clarinet. We thought it was great. Afterwards, Sameera from the congregation roasted, ground and poured Ethiopian coffee. Today the aroma still lingers – deliciously.

The weather is warming to the high seventies and thankfully there’s little humidity. Two snakes were spotted in the garden last week. (We have never seen one in the country). The guard asked for dried red chili to chase them away. You learn something new every day!

With our warmest thanks for your support and interest & our very best wishes in Christ.

Peter & Nancy

Yemen - Heartbreak and Hope by Peter Crooks

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