A Note From Cameroon | Own the Equinox, Day 11
September 4, 2015
by Rachel Chaikof
Rachel Chaikof is a bilateral cochlear implant recipient who received the first cochlear implant in 1989 at age 2 and half, as part of a clinical trial when it was not yet approved by the FDA for children. She graduated with honors from Savannah College of Art and Design with a BA in photography and also graduated from University College London with an MA in anthropology. You can view Rachel's photography work here and read more about her Peace Corps journey here.
I’m currently living in Cameroon as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I work with persons with disabilities by helping improve their life through health education. Most of them have no access to quality healthcare due to lack of financial means and many interventions being non-existence. When I listen to their stories about their life as persons with disabilities, I am reminded that medical care is often the most powerful tool for removing obstacles. If these people had access to the best quality healthcare, many of them could have been treated to the point that they are no longer disabled. Or they could have received technologies that would allow them to complete activities that they have not been able to do. A deaf man told me that he wants to go to America. When I asked him why, he said that he might be able to go to a hospital and hear and speak again. People in Cameroon look up to the U.S. as a role model for disability advocacy and medical innovation. Cochlear implantation is not being performed in Cameroon at the moment. Most have no access to hearing aids due to lack of financial means and access to getting them fixed if they break.
In the United States, even though we are privileged to have high quality healthcare, we still cannot say that we have the most advanced medical care. While we are fortunate to have cochlear implants, which have given miracles of hearing to thousands of people, we still have no effective treatment that would allow people with vision loss see well. We need to change this situation by continuing to plead medical researchers that we want a treatment that would give us vision back as soon as possible. We need to keep advocating for more funding so that medical researchers can continue to work on creating a miracle for us. I have learned that money unfortunately dictates how fast the research moves, just as money dictates how well people can access quality healthcare. Of course, the healthcare situation in Cameroon also needs to be changed, as every human being in the world deserves to have the best quality of life.
Recognizing Usher Syndrome Awareness Day on September 19th will be one of the most important days in my life because many people with Usher syndrome, including myself want to continue to see the world for the rest of their lives.