I once met a little boy with one eye.
Last year while in India, I visited the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad, India. This world-class centre for vision care works closely with Operation Eyesight. I was touring the facility, marvelling at all the different departments. LVP handles just about every kind of eye problem you can imagine, including really complicated cases like corneal transplants.
In their Ocular Prosthesis department, I met a set of parents with a little boy who was being fitted for an artificial eye. I was impressed to learn of all the care that goes into the creation and fitting of these objects. They are made from medical grade acrylic and are designed to be an exact replica of the companion eye, complete with a natural look and movement.
More impressive was the effect it had on the boy. This little guy, about seven years old, experienced an eye injury that became infected. By the time he got to the hospital, it was too late to save his eye, but LVP still performed a miracle. Here he was, dressed in his Sunday best with mom and dad, for the big moment.
When the boy looked in the mirror, instead of a gaping hole he saw two eyes looking back at him. His delight and excitement was palpable. And the look on his parents’ delighted faces also told a story: My son will not be singled out as the kid with the disfigured face – he’ll be like everyone else.
According to the World Health Organization, in many countries 85 percent of small children who are blind die before the age of five. With large populations of low income people and families already struggling to survive, blind children are often neglected. It’s not that their families have hard hearts – they just have to make hard choices about their limited resources. The same goes for any child with a serious disability.
Operation Eyesight’s strong commitment to community eye care means that parents of children with eye problems will learn that help is available, and be able to respond before it is too late. Like the little boy I met, it was a community worker that put his parents in touch with LVP. They weren’t able to save his eye, but they did save his dignity and his opportunities for the future.
In countries where resources and access to eye care are scarce, schoolteachers and midwives are often trained as primary health caregivers, able to identify eye problems when interacting with local communities.
Take some time to reflect on how vulnerable little kids can be, and let’s remember the struggling kids who need our help.
The school year is drawing to a close. If your children or grandchildren have a favourite teacher, consider giving an eCard from Operation Eyesight. By doing so, you’ll be helping children in India and Africa.