I used to take eye health for granted…
Views from the Field
Sonia Ali, from ACS International Schools Egham, is 17 years old and currently exploring our work in Hue, Vietnam as part of our student journalism internship. Sonia wants to work in medicine, so this is a great way for her to understand how access to good quality eye care can transform lives. Read her blog to find out about her first day meeting patients.
During my Orbis interview, I vividly remember emphasising that there are 1.57 million people in Vietnam who are suffering from vision impairment or blindness. I don’t think I fully understood the true meaning of this number until I saw how poor eye sight can impact people with my own two eyes. Having only arrived in Hue one day ago, both myself and the other members of the Orbis internship group have been warmly welcomed by the Vietnamese people and the Orbis Vietnam team. Within the past twenty-four hours, I have witnessed both the stark reality of visual impairment and the impact of Orbis’s work by saving sight and transforming lives.
We kick started the day by visiting Hue Eye Hospital where we were introduced to Orbis’s ongoing project. With Orbis’s support, Hue Eye Hospital has been able to develop a highly skilled paediatric eye care team and department that has the capacity to provide treatments for various types of paediatric eye conditions.
We were able to witness the impact of this project by visiting the Child Friendly Eye Care Centre where we observed an eye screening and visited the post-operation quarters where patients waited for a check-up after undergoing eye surgery. Within the first few hours of the day, I was exposed to a different perspective in which eye care is not easily accessible or easily affordable. Orbis’s work is especially vital in order to provide all members of society with easy and equal access to eye care.
Personally, the most notable moment of my first day exploring was observing the retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) screening for premature babies at Hue Central Hospital. Families travelled over 80km with their new-born babies to access one of the only hospitals in Hue that provided the much needed screenings.
Witnessing the doctors undertaking the tests on the premature babies was truly touching, as the babies were extremely tiny yet they let out a loud cry whilst being screened. I was inspired by the fact that a ROP screening has the ability to prevent a lifetime of blindness for the child and the potential burden on their family through early detection of the condition.
One of the patients we visited, Tinh who is now almost two years old, was born prematurely at just 29 weeks, and as a result he developed ROP. Through the growth of specialized screenings in Hue, Tinh was able to be treated quickly, which prevented long-term damage. It was especially heartwarming to see the smile on Tinh and his family’s faces and how he is able to pursue a normal happy childhood without any ongoing vision problems.
While I take eye care for granted, these patients have taught me that this does not apply to all individuals. Orbis’s eye care project in Hue provides life-changing opportunities for both the patients and the doctors to be able to tackle various types of eye diseases. This first day has broadened my perspective by providing a firsthand medical experience that has inspired me to make a difference in the lives of others by following in Orbis’s footsteps.