An Eye Opening Experience I Will Never Forget
ACS Hillingdon student, Julie Lestrup, is 17 and from Denmark. She is one of the lucky students taking part in our journalism internship. During her trip to Vietnam to check out Orbis's work she has been able to watch live surgery, talk to patients AND been sung Let It Go! Frozen songs are the choice of children all around the world! Read her blog to find out why the experince will have a lasting impact on Julie.
As I prepared myself for this internship, I knew it was going to be an incredible opportunity. I was told this was going to be an eye opener and I can most definitely say it has been. I’ve already learnt lessons for life that I won’t forget. I have never been to Vietnam before so I was excited to learn about the culture, eye care and to meet passionate doctors saving sight and lives. From stepping out of the plane, to driving through the streets my mind was blown. I’ve never experienced something quite so chaotic and overwhelming. The streets were filled and busy and people slept in their tumble-down shops.
On our second day, we started out by visiting the Hue Eye Hospital where we interviewed three patients and we even got to see one of their operations. Two of the patients had cataract, which is when there is clouding in the transparent lens of the eye, resulting in blurry vision. The third one had strabismus, which is when the eyes do not align. After the interviews, we went to the pre-op room where we had the pleasure of meeting a little girl. She was not shy and impressed us with her singing of ‘Let It Go’ and a family song in Vietnamese!
We also met Phuc, a 16-year-old girl with strabismus affecting her left eye. Three years ago, she received cataract surgery on the same eye. We were so lucky her family allowed us to watch her surgery. Before going in we had to get ready in our gowns, a mask and a hair net. But we enjoyed that. After taking pictures of each other and feeling like real doctors, we walked into the operation with confidence and curiosity to see the doctor operate. This was such an interesting opportunity to watch our first surgery.
Later this day, we visited the home of a five year old boy named Tuan who had received cataract surgery a year ago. He's the only son in a family of four children and his dad was very worried about the surgery and the complications it could lead to. In Vietnam, sons are a very important part of the family.
His parents started to notice that Tuan was moving closer to the television and when they would ask him why, he would respond that he couldn't see because it was blurry. Tuan's family couldn't afford to pay for the surgery and had to go home again after visiting the hospital. Luckily, support became avaliable to cover the operation and Tuan could again be a young, playful boy with good eye sight.
Two weeks ago he received a checkup. Sadly his parents discovered their son needed more medicine. The dad could not afford it and had to borrow from his neighbours. The price for the medicine was 85,000 Dong which is about £2. I've always known that there is severe poverty, but I never could have imagined it was this bad. We take things for granted, assuming all children have access to the things we do. Tuan’s dad told us his older sisters don’t have a bike and all I wanted to do was go buy them one.
Already on the second day I have seen what an important role the doctors have and what a significant change they make in their patients’ lives. I’m inspired by their passion and determination whilst saving the lives of many. This internship didn’t just teach me about the importance of the doctors but the severity of poverty some people experience, the importance of good eye care and helping each other in a community. If it hadn’t been for Tuan’s neighbours, or Phuc's mother and her determination to get help for her daughter, he never would have received the medicine and she would have not accessed surgery. There are many other cases like these that Orbis has had a part in. Orbis, thank you for showing me the importance of education, eye sight and making me realise how lucky I am.