Wednesday, March 16, 2016

I Was Immediately Drawn to the Baby.....

I was immediately drawn to the baby. Chubby-cheeked, swaddled in a cozy blanket and a flannel, this infant wore a snug knitted red hat and almost looked ready for a Canadian spring day. The baby fell asleep in my arms a few minutes after one of the "mothers," the older women who work at the orphanage we visited, put him in my arms. I couldn't help but recall the infant faces of my own son (now 10) and my daughter (now 8), and how different their lives in Nanaimo, BC, are from this child's. 

The unfairness in this world, where people don't have equal access to health care and eye care, is what drew me to Nepal. This is my third TWECS project in the developing world and I believe we truly make a difference: perhaps a person with correctly prescribed glasses can see well enough to work, and to better their lives. 

I saw thousands of people flow through our "triage" station, the stage at which patients in a TWECS clinic are first assessed. Many, especially the children, had surprisingly good eyesight. But the dominant complaints were sore, itchy, watery, burning eyes and headaches - some of the untold "aftershocks" of the earthquake that devastated this region a year ago. The Kathmandu area is covered in rubble, and the dust, heat and rough conditions take their toll on people's vision. I saw an 18-year-old who lost vision in one eye from a piece of glass. Stories like this are too common here.

I met someone I'll never forget on my first TWECS project in the Philippines. She was a 40-year-old woman, almost entirely toothless, with vision so poor she could hardly count my fingers in front of her face. At the time, she was close to my age. Yet she couldn't work, care for herself or enjoy what we'd consider a "normal" life. Anything I can do to help correct this kind of injustice makes the time away from my home, family and regular practice all worthwhile.
Dr. Allison Chang

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