Listen: Respected eye surgeon Dr Ian Francis describes the amazing experience of an eye operation.
It’s incredible, just how much difference a simple $30 eye operation can make.
Today at Hope 103.2 we heard first-hand accounts about how people in developing nations are being impacted every day, through cataract removal surgeries.
Dr Ian Francis, OAM, is an eye surgeon who has operated on eyes around the world, and has seen countless lives being changed.
“I’ve worked in Nepal and West Africa and Burma,” he said. “Cataracts I’ve seen in third world places are usually dark brown or black, and the patient can barely see their hand in front of their face. So it completely inhibits them doing anything normal. They mightn’t know what their grandchildren look like, until they have the operation.”
Dr Francis, who worked on the Trachoma Programme with Fred Hollows, told the Hope team that seeing the impact after someone has just received their sight back, is “truly amazing”.
“Generally the results are spectacularly good, and people improve to the way they were when they were 20,” he said.
Why Is It So Easy To Cure Cataract Blindness?
A cataract is a cloudy discoloration in the lens of the eye that stops light from getting through to the retina, thus blocking sight.
To fix it, a surgeon removes the natural lens and replaces it with one made of silicone or acrylic.
Dr Francis – who is a Christian and a supporter of Hope 103.2 – told the on-air team that the surgery is cheap to do in developing nations, because it is so simple. But it requires skilled surgeons to carry it out.
“The treatment is relatively simple, but there’s not much room for error,” he explained. “It can be trivialised because it’s a significant operation. We use a microscope. There’s about a millimetre or two to move and it’s possible to get it wrong. If it goes well, it’s great. If it doesn’t, it’s bad.”
“Like Jesus”: Making Blind Men See In Africa
Another Hope 103.2 listener and supporter who has seen up close the difference an eye surgery can make, is Anne McKeown.
She worked in Zimbabwe as a volunteer with a cataract surgery project, helping elderly African people with cataracts in both eyes.
As a project leader assisting the surgeons with their work, Anne saw many surgeries first hand.
“The first man [in the project] that got his sight back, looked at me and said, “Oh my God you are like Jesus, you have made the blind man see!”,” she said.
While Anne insisted to the man that she was nothing of the sort, she used the story as an illustration of the impact cataract operations can have.
“That’s the power of the operations,” she said.
Listen: Anne McKeown shares her experience with an eye project in Africa
Anne said she also helped marginalised young people from the UK to witness the power of eye operations at work.
“We took kids in the UK who would’ve been in juvenile prison otherwise, and took them out to Africa to show them that actually they have a very blessed life, and that by helping others, they can benefit,” she said.
“And at the time I was going through a difficult patch in my own life and I found healing through helping other people.”
She encouraged people to support the work of both Hope 103.2 and CBM, a not-for-profit organisation that exists to help people with disabilities in developing nations, such as the blind.
“It’s not just about giving the money, it’s about what the money can do in the lives of others.”
How To Help Give Someone Their Sight Back
All of this week, anyone who becomes a Partner For Hope (pledging $30 a month to Hope 103.2) or gives a one-off gift of $365 or more to the radio station, will trigger a donation by a CBM supporter, to fund a cataract surgery.
The arrangement is part of Hope 103.2’s “Hopeathon” fundraising appeal until November 20.