Posted on 12 August, 2013

Earlier this year, Open Heart International launched its first Eye Surgery project after a number of years of planning. Affectionately known as the “Gift of Sight” project, the team worked with Adventist Hospital Santiago City, a small hospital set in a rural area in the north of the country. The team restored sight to over 140 people people from the surrounding area, the Isabela province. During that trip we met Herbi and the Binwinican Family.

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Herbi who suffered from bilateral blindness (blind in both eyes) had the vision of his left eye restored on the day of his 12th Birthday after being blind for 7 years. Within 24 hours of the surgery Herbi was walking around unassisted and the smile on his face is something that I will never forget.

A few days later we met the Binwinican family, a mother and her 3 children who were also bilaterally blind and arrived at the hospital to be reviewed in the hope of having their sight restored by the team. Unfortunately their cases were not so straight forward and the particular lenses that the family required were not available at a moments notice. With the trip about to finish and having no time to find the right lenses, ophthalmologist Dr. Geoffrey Painter made a promise to them that he would return later on in the year with the required lenses to perform the operations.

Six months have now elapsed, and it is time to keep that promise. Yesterday, I arrived back in the province after 2 days of traveling from Sydney, with Dr. Geoffrey Painter, and ophthalmic nurse Kerrie Legg ready for a busy week ahead. On the operating list are around 20 cases, plus the Binwinicans and also Herbi who will be having his second cataract removed.

I’ve been volunteering my time with Open Heart International for a few years now. What I have learned so far, is always expect the unexpected. Despite being woken up early this morning by a category 3 typhoon, we are rested and looking forward to setting up and getting started on the first surgical cases shortly.

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