Special report by Brian Doolan, CEO
Vietnam: Hieu was born with cataracts in both eyes. It left him almost completely blind – he couldn’t see anything more than a metre away.
Hieu's mother was told nothing could be done
Ten-year-old Hieu lives in a small rural village in South-Central Vietnam. Hieu’s mum, Ghi, told us, "His eyes were very cloudy and he always looked down. I saw children from other mothers who were able to look straight up."
What must it have been like for Ghi to watch her little boy’s sight become steadily worse, to see him struggle more and more?
When Hieu was six, the local doctor told Ghi there was nothing that could be done for her son – that he would eventually go blind.
Hieu would have to leave school and become completely dependent on her. I’m sure you can appreciate how heartbreaking the news was for her, knowing that even if surgery was available to Hieu, it would have been desperately difficult to save up for the operation. A couple of years ago, floods left them with nothing – even their home was swept away.
But Ghi was resolute. She wouldn’t believe it couldn’t be done; she kept looking for an answer, and four years later her determination was rewarded. She heard that subsidised treatment was available at the Binh Dinh Eye Hospital, thanks to the support of The Fred Hollows Foundation.
Hardly daring to believe it might be true, Ghi sold some of the family’s precious chickens to pay for the long bus ride to the hospital.
It’s thanks to our supporters that the doctors were able to give Ghi the good news.
"They told me Hieu’s eyes could be fixed," Ghi said. "I was so very happy."
The doctors operated on both of Hieu’s eyes. When it was time to remove the patches, Ghi was so nervous, so full of hope and anticipation. Her relief when she saw the operation had been a success was overwhelming. Suddenly, her bright, funny, cheeky little boy could see clearly for the first time.
"I feel very happy," Ghi said. "With clear eyes, he can study. He might pick whatever job he likes… I feel like life will be less hard."
Now, Hieu is back among his school friends. He’s able to read and help his Mum at home, and he can even feed the family’s chickens – something he loves.
Together with our supporters, we've helped to give Hieu his independence and the potential to lead a full life.
But of course, there are many more people like Hieu who are still waiting, hoping they’ll be able to have an operation before their eyes deteriorate so badly that they can never be fixed.
No one knows better than Hieu’s mum the difference that our supporters make: "Without the surgery, I don’t know when we would have saved enough to pay for it. I want to thank everyone who donated."
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