Garden Valley, TX: May 9, 2014: Mothers are honored for Mother’s Day with gifts, cards, and visits from their children. But one mother in Congo received what she most desired—her sight. Pulcherie lost her sight when only a teenager. She later married and had a child, but her husband abandoned her, leaving the blind mother alone with her child and with no hope of finding a job due to her disability.
Fortunately, Pulcherie found out that the Africa Mercy hospital ship was offering free operations to remove cataracts through their Mercy Vision™ program. Although one of Pulcherie’s eyes was permanently damaged due to a childhood accident, doctors gave her hope that they could remove the very dense cataract in the other eye. Just 24 hours after a free operation on the Africa Mercy, the bandage was removed from her eye, and Pulcherie saw her baby girl for the very first time.
Laurie Nelson, a Mercy Ships volunteer ophthalmic technician from Coarsegold, California, and also a mother, recalls when she first saw Pulcherie. “I remember watching her as she made her way through the crowd to the screening site. She carried a baby on her back. By the way she walked, it was clear she was blind. ‘How on earth did she get here by herself?’ I wondered. I looked into her right eye and was dismayed to see a white, cloud-like corneal scar that was beyond repair. Then, I looked into her left eye and saw a thick cataract. Thankfully, we could fix that.”
The extent of Pulcherie’s vision was hand movement—she could see a hand move, but she could not count the fingers on it. When Laurie asked her if she had ever seen her baby, Pulcherie smiled, closed her eyes and made the shape of her daughter, Guychelle, with her hands, “I have only ever touched her and felt her,” she said. “I know her by the feel of her nose, her hands and the smell of her skin.”
It reminded Laurie of her own story. She was adopted and found her birth mother when she turned 30. The first time she called her to introduce herself, her mother wasted no time in asking her, “Are you okay? What color is your hair?” She explained that when Laurie was born in 1965, her mother never saw her. So, her mother had experienced many of the same unanswered questions as Pulcherie.
Back in her parents’ village in the tranquil shade of a mango tree, Pulcherie held her baby in her arms. Her eyes joyfully took in every detail of her Guychelle’s beauty—from her eyelashes to her tiny toes.
She has since found work to support them. And, every chance she gets, she cannot stop gazing at her daughter. She told Laurie that she would love to do what Laurie does—returning sight to the blind on a big hospital ship in Africa.