By: Mariska Meldrum
Excitement was in the air, with dozens of people and their families arriving, ready to receive free cataract surgery at a CBM supported eye clinic in the Philippines.
I was inside the operating room, ready to witness more than 30 people having their sight restored, thanks to Christian radio listeners who gave to CBM’s Miracles Day last year.
The words of a well-loved Christian song, “Holy, Holy, Holy” filled the room as I watched Dr Reden, an Ophthalmologist volunteering his time, say a prayer – before preparing to remove the cataracts blinding a young father, Arnido.
Arnido had already shared his story with me. He used to be a businessman working for Nestle, and provided for not only his wife and children, but also paid for his brothers to go to school. In his early thirties, undiagnosed diabetes caused him to go blind from cataracts.
Arnido felt the shame of being a burden to his family. A proud man, Arnido wiped away tears as he told me about the moment he had to explain to his sons that he could no longer work.
“I don’t want them…to be disappointed in me. It’s so hard. All I did was cry,” Arnido said.
During the next two years, Arnido’s muscles slowly wasted as he became completely reliant on his family due to his vision loss.
“I can’t manage myself even walking, even standing. I was strong, and today I am weak.”
A Struggle to Feed the Family
Being out of work for so long meant Arnido now struggled to feed his family, and could not afford cataract surgery, which cost the equivalent of 100 sacks of rice.
Arnido told me that he prayed that God would give him another chance to see. When his family heard about a CBM supported eye screening camp in a local village, they brought him along. To his surprise, Arnido was told he could have free cataract surgery to restore his sight.
Dr Reden said that despite cataract surgery being a relatively quick procedure, taking around 12-minutes, people like Arnido who cannot afford it live needlessly blind. If they are the provider for their family, this often means the family falls even deeper into poverty.
Although Dr Reden is at retirement age, his faith compels him to continue to volunteer his time and talent to serve the poor. “Cataract surgery in the Philippines is very expensive… and if you are poor you cannot afford it,” he explained.
“I thank God because He has given me good health, good eyesight, and that I’m still strong enough to travel. This is what God has given me….so that I can be of service to Him. I can help people who cannot afford cataract surgeries.”
For Those Living in Poverty, Cataracts Means Blindness
In the Philippines, 4.7 million people live below the poverty line. Around 1.2 million are living with cataracts, many in regional or remote areas. For those already living in extreme poverty, even the cost of travelling to a city for surgery is out of their means. CBM’s partner and Dr Reden undertake outreach missions – setting up screening camps and operating in remote areas.
“One of the problems faced by patients in regional areas is the financial aspect. They can only go to you once, not twice, because transportation costs are a problem. And so if we are in the area, we screen and then operate right away.”
Not wanting to turn anyone away, Dr Reden has operated on as many as 100 people in a day.
“It’s most encouraging to see those patients who are really poor and have been blind for four or five years. They’re so happy, they cry out. This gives me the encouragement I need to go on,” Dr Reden said.
The Moment of Truth: “I Can See Again”
With Arnido’s operation complete, I watched as the next morning his eye patches were removed and he was declared to have almost 20-20 vision. A huge smile spread across his face as he realised he could see again.
“I am so happy. I’ll be back strong again and work for my family. Thank you God, you’ve given me another chance to see,” Arnido says, his face beaming with joy.
Moments later when he saw his son, Arnido became emotional.
“I did not realise my son was big and I cried. I’d lost two years on their growing up.” He then said, “Thank you God, you give me another chance to see, to witness the development of my child.”
“I did not realise my son was big and I cried. I’d lost two years on their growing up.”
Finished for the day, after operating on more than 30 patients, Dr Reden asked me to send his thanks to those who gave on Miracles Day last year. With many still living needlessly blind, he asked people to consider giving again.
“I’m encouraging all the donors in Australia to be generous; your money goes a long, long way to helping people in the Philippines.”
Christian radio listeners have helped give more than 400,000 miracle gifts of sight over the past ten years. Arnido is the recipients of one of these miracle gifts. His life has been transformed, thanks to your generosity.
Miracles Day is on 27 July. You can give someone the Miracle gift of sight today for just $33 at miraclesday.com.au or call 131 226.