"I'm completely blind. Now I fear for my grandchildren." Nana Berthine
“I’m completely blind. Now I fear for my grandchildren. If one of them turns blind it would be a disaster for us all.”
Little Berthine is 10 . . .
. . . a happy go lucky child much like one you probably know yourself.
Her grandmother Nana Berthine is 65 ... who raised a family and wants nothing more than to watch all of her beautiful grandchildren grow.
But she can’t . . . because tragically, Nana Berthine is blind. The cause . . . River Blindness.
River Blindness is a devastating infectious disease that destroys ordinary peoples’ lives. It’s rampant in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where Nana Berthine lives, and other parts of Africa. Now little Berthine and her younger brothers and sisters are at risk too.
You’re probably wondering . . . “Can they really all be protected?”
And thankfully, the answer is “Yes!”
The good news is River Blindness can be stopped in its tracks by a 'miracle drug' called Mectizan. The manufacturers, Pfizer has already given us all the stocks we need for free! But we urgently need your help to send out mobile units to administer it to the thousands of families who need it.
One Mectizan tablet, taken once a year, for ten years, is enough to break the cycle of infection and stop River Blindness in its tracks.
Most people don’t even realise they have the disease, and it can be well advanced even before the eyesight begins to fade. And that’s just what happened to Nana Berthine . . .
“My skin started itching. It became unbearable. My whole upper body was itching and wouldn’t stop. Then I discovered nodules under my skin. One day, I was in the field as usual, suddenly I felt this headache, my teeth started aching, my eyes started aching and were watering.”
Nana Berthine didn’t know it, but she was suffering the early symptoms of River Blindness. All because of a simple bite from a small black fly which could have happened years earlier.
A bug-bite! One not much different from the kind we’ve all had before. The flies that spread River Blindness live close to the very streams and rivers families like Berthine’s depend on for water. They carry parasitic worms which travel around the body causing itching and forming nodules under the skin.
Worst of all, if the worms reach a person’s eyes – they destroy the tissue, breaking it down from the inside. Turning people completely, painfully, and irreversibly blind.
As Nana Berthine told us . . .
“Nobody explained to me what I had. But I remembered a disease people in the village were talking about which comes along with such nodules under the skin and which causes blindness. I feared to become blind.”
Then came the nightmare she feared most . . .
Imagine the horror of feeling this happening to you, not knowing what was going on, what was causing it. Plus the dread that you might go blind too. Of course, you and I would go to the doctor to find out – but for Nana Berthine, who has lived her whole life in poverty – the idea of visiting a doctor was more like a dream than a reality.
“I remember when I lost my eyesight completely. One of my grandchildren was just born. His name is Gregoire. Today he is five years old. I can touch his face and I can hear his voice – but I can’t see him.”
Tragically, it’s now too late to help Nana Berthine. She will never regain her sight. She will never see her grandchildren’s beautiful faces. Their big smiles. And she’ll never watch them grow up.
But there is hope for Nana Berthine's grandchildren...
There is hope for little Berthine. For her younger brothers and sisters . . . 8 year-old Jean, 5 year-old Gregoire, and the 2 year-old twins Evariste and David. And there’s hope for their Mum and Dad, Bernadette and Bernard, too. But your help is essential for them and for thousands of other families just like them.
"I don't want to become blind like my grandmother. I want to stay at school and become a teacher."
Please will you make a gift today and protect children from this devastating disease?