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The original world nomad "Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance." - Confucius.

A small footprint in Tam Ky

VIETNAM | Tuesday, 17 January 2006 | Views [3350]

9 year old boy who lost an eye

9 year old boy who lost an eye

A boy aged 9 sat on the bed quietly, having lost his right eye; a splinter of glass had got into it when he was 3, the family had not taken him to hospital at the time, and then last week he fell over and his eye-ball ruptured. The empty eye socket left nothing to the imagination.

An old lady aged over 80 had been fully blind in both eyes for over three years and her great grand-daughter aged just 3 whom she had never seen had been leading her around the family home for that time. She never exected to see again, accepting blindness as something that happens to old people.

I wonder how many of us take our eyesight for granted?

Before the Fred Hollows foundation started work here in 2004, there was basically no eye care available. The 1.5 million peopl of Quang Nam province are served by this one hospital. Patients lie on rough iron framed beds and are either looked after by the family or ... mmm. All you get here is medical attention.

I'd asked what causes cataracts and through Bao, my translator, it seems they aren't 100% sure, but unprotected exposure to strong sunlight seems a major factor, and of that, they have plenty here. Glaring rice paddies, sparkling salt fields and a glittering sea combined with little eye protection are a deadly combination.

Probably like surgeons the world over, Dr Hung had the steadiest hands you are ever likely to see combined with a rare concentration. Trained by Fred Hollows himself as a student, he has over 25 years experience as an eye surgeon. They perform the operation with just a local anesthetic and tie the arms of the patient to the sides of the operating table. Despite this, the 80 year old lady didn't move a muscle or make a single sound. Not even a whimper. Which is more self-control than I reckon I'm capable of if I had someone poking around underneath my eyeball with a scalpel. The operations take about 45 minutes per eye, they now do about 10 operations per week, and it takes about 4 days to recover.

Interestingly, after a extensive survey last year, education and information has proven to be almost as important as such operations themselves, with people leaving seeking medical attention until it is too late. Whilst this is probably common around the world, the problem in this relatively poor province where rural people are often only semi-literate and don't have access to telephones, TV or the internet is one of communication. How do you get people to understand, and when they do then actually schedule an apointment? They currently broadcast appointments on TV and radio for several weeks before and I guess that someone in the local village goes running over to the persons house to make sure they know about it.

No easy solutions here.

Back to our 80 year old with her eyesight restored: her restored eyesight is far from perfect vision but at least now she can see the little girl who has been leading her around for the last 3 years.

And the joy that brings the family is hard to describe here.

Fred Hollows is supported by World Nomads through our footprints network.

Tags: doctors, footprints network, giving, health, hospitals & health, responsibility

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