Special report by Brian Doolan, CEO
Vietnam: When we first met Chien, he was peeking through a gap in the wall of his grandfather's house.
Condemned to a life in the shadows
Born with cataract in his left eye, this sad little five-year-old boy could not bear to be exposed to light – it gave him too much pain.
Life in the small, isolated Vietnamese village was hard for Chien and his mother, Ho Chiet.
They were abandoned by Chien's father when Chien was just a baby. His mother is the sole provider for the family, working when she can in the fields harvesting sugar and cassava. The work is difficult and irregular.
Ho Chiet was worried that Chien would not be able to go to school. She knows that without an education, he will be condemned to a life of poverty.
We talked about operating on Chien’s eye.
"I would do anything for my son," she said, her voice breaking.
It is not common for children to be born with cataract. But when they are it is vital that they get treated as soon as possible. After seven years of age, the brain may not respond to signals from the eyes.
We needed to act quickly.
Chien and his mother made the two-hour trip to Phu Yen Eye Hospital with us, to see Dr Tran Minh Phuong, the only paediatric ophthalmologist in the whole province.
Dr Phuong was trained by The Fred Hollows Foundation to perform the simple, miraculous surgery she was about to carry out on Chien. She delicately removed his own cataract-clouded lens and carefully inserted one of the tiny plastic intraocular lenses (IOLs) that Fred Hollows helped bring to the developing world.
I saw Chien the day after his surgery.
The operation was a great success.
Chien was playing in the sunlight. The look of contentment on his face was wonderful to see.
Chien is six now, and I am very pleased to report that when we recently checked on him he was at school! Neatly dressed in his school uniform, we found him talking with his friends, reading the assigned text and enthusiastically raising his hand to answer questions.
Thanks to our supporters, Chien has been given the opportunity of an education and the chance of a better future.
And, thanks to our supporters 50% of Vietnamese ophthalmologists have received some form of training through the work of The Foundation.
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