When Access to Eye Health Care Isn’t a Given
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What would you do if you didn’t have access to health care you urgently needed? I’ve never faced that question until recently.

I’ve always suffered from impaired vision. I am extremely near-sighted, and I’ve always needed glasses or contact lenses to do anything. But I’ve never gone without. When I was seven years old, I was given my first pair of prescription glasses when I couldn’t see the chalkboard at school, and I’ve always had vision correction easily available. I understand what it’s like to not be able to see, but I don’t understand what it’s like to not have a solution to it.

Recently, strange things began to happen with my vision. I started seeing shadowy images in my peripheral vision, and one night I saw flashes of light in the dark. I felt no pain, but these new symptoms were unusual enough that I knew I had to seek medical attention immediately.

My first thought was, “Are eye doctors even seeing patients right now?” We’re in the middle of a viral pandemic, and I’m working from home, physically distancing from other people, and living my life in quarantine to keep from being exposed to COVID-19. When I called the optometrist’s office in my neighbourhood and described my symptoms, the receptionist told me that due to the potential urgency of my problem, the doctor would come in to see me.

Working for Operation Eyesight, I thought about beneficiaries who have waited years for eye care. I can’t imagine what it’s like for them right now with our eye screening community outreach programs on hold.

I love working for an international development organization because I know the work I do saves lives. With the support of our donors, together we bring quality eye health care to people in remote communities who otherwise might not have had any options. I’ve urged people to help these individuals, their families and their communities. Many times I’ve written about beneficiaries with conditions that could lead to blindness if they weren’t treated. But it wasn’t until this moment that I got a taste of their fear. Despite the fact that I’ve suffered from poor vision my whole life, I’ve never confronted the thought of completely losing my vision, and what that would mean to the way I live my life.

In the end, a retinal tear was quickly diagnosed by the optometrist, who referred me to an ophthalmologist for an appointment the next day. The following week, I went to the hospital for a laser treatment that eliminated any risk of the tear causing a blinding retinal detachment.

That moment of fear really stuck with me. In the end, I had access to medical professionals and state-of-the-art treatment with no barriers to information or care. So many people in the world live in remote communities and don’t have access to these resources, and they often have no hope for a solution. They accept that they will have to live a life where their independence and future opportunities are compromised. Thanks to our donors, this doesn’t have to be the case.

You can end someone’s fear and give them hope. During these uncertain times where we are all facing a global pandemic, they need it more than ever. To learn more about Operation Eyesight’s response to COVID-19, click here.