In the early 1990's, Fred Hollows set up a non for profit organisation that does amazing things. He saw the huge lack of eye care in developing countries and people being needlessly blinded by cataracts. He organised for intraocular lenses to be made affordable and the training of doctors from these developing countries, so they can treat their own people. He died only months after the launch of The Fred Hollows Foundation, but luckily deserving lives are still being changed 20 years later. In a nutshell, it costs $25 and takes a 20 minute operation to remove a cataract.
One thing I really love about The Fred Hollows Foundation is that is non religious! So people can be treated without the pressure of praising Jesus.
This is probably about a tenth of what needs to be explained about this foundation but you can find out more here.
Our job was to go to Labasa Hospital as an awesome two man team.
The team from the Pacific Eye Institute in Suva (funded by Fred Hollows) were coming in for a week of intensive eye care. We were to follow the teams of surgeons, hospital staff and patients over the week and bring back to New Zealand stories of success that can be used for further fundraising.
Labasa is a town on the island of Vanua Levu of Fiji. There is high unemployment, huge rates ofdiabetes (40% for people of 40) and poor health care in general, however it has a HUGE heart and is known as the 'friendly nook' of Fiji.
I have SO many photos and stories from this trip, it's hard to know where to start so I think I will begin at what happens for a patient that comes to the hospital.
First of all, there are hundreds of people waiting for an appointment. The eye clinic is free and here for a week, so everybody wants in!
People have varying degrees of eye problems and wait and wait and wait for an initial eye test.
Mostly, the problem is cataracts, their eye is marked and they wait and wait and wait for an operation.
They get up to the surgery, have an injection below the affected eye and are operated on while awake.
I am super, super squeamish and sorry for this picture, but it shows what it all looks like while they are operating (the discarded cataract is the gooby bit on the nose.)
The next morning, they wait and wait and wait for their bandage to be removed. This lovely dear was blind as a bat, he was guided in with a big stick and after the bandage was removed he was so, so happy and zipping around the room with no problems.
Then, they are given dark sunglasses and wait and wait and wait, but mysteriously.
After a few more eye tests with charts and what not, they are sightfully reunited with their waiting families. *Tear*
Pretty easy huh? I may have left out some things but that's how it works in a quick whiz. Everybody was so kind and happy to let us photograph them - I still have some individual stories to share. That can wait until tomorrow!