Special report by Gabi Hollows, Founding Director
Australia: Snowy McDonald is one of the last old-style stockmen. His sight had deteriorated to a cloudy ‘soup’ but, with the help of The Foundation, one simple operation changed all that.
Building trust and delivering results
At 80 years of age, Snowy is too old to ride, but his grandchildren love to hear stories of his life in the saddle.
Snowy spends his days at his home in Papunya, a community three hours drive from Alice Springs.
Until his recent eye operation, his vision no longer stretched to the distant hills of his country.
Because of the remoteness of Indigenous communities in this region, many elderly patients find it difficult to arrange treatment and can live with blindness for years without realising it can be easily fixed.
Snowy was among the first recipients of a special eye health blitz that is part of The Central Australian Eye Health Program coordinated by The Fred Hollows Foundation, together with our partners.
This ambitious project is no small task. With an area covering 1.6 million square kilometres, this program is geographically one of the largest integrated eye health programs in the world.
During the first phase we treated 41 patients from six outlying communities and Alice Springs. Snowy's wife Martha was one of them. She was operated on for cataracts.
Working with our partner organisations, we picked up Snowy, Martha and around 40 or so others living in remote communities that needed operations.
We drove them to Alice Springs Hospital, organised accommodation in the lodge close to the hospital, took them to their appointments and drove them home afterwards.
It's not as straightforward as it sounds.
Some of these people have never been to hospital in their lives. Some are afraid. They think we are going to take their eyes out, so we have to reassure them and build trust.
Often a cup of tea and a chat is a pretty good way to start.
Extra hospital staff are brought in from interstate to help ensure there is enough time to see all of the patients who have been transported from remote communities.
The surgical procedures are carried out by the resident eye surgeon and a team of health professionals and surgeons brought in from hospitals around the country.
In Snowy’s case his ‘cloudy soup’ vision was caused by a blockage in the passageways that form the cleaning system of his eye.
His operation was a simple one. But what an impact it had.
I’m told Snowy’s smile when he laid eyes on the MacDonnell Ranges again after his operation was a sight to behold.
Without the generosity of our supporters we could never run such a sweeping program and people like Snowy might never have their sight restored.
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