By: Mariska Meldrum
The birth of a child is one of the most special moments a parent will witness.
But Armon, a young father from the Philippines, faced missing not only the birth of his second child, but seeing both his children grow up – after losing his sight to cataracts.
Without surgery, 27-year-old Armon would live the rest of his life blind.
Vision impairment and blindness are among the top health concerns in the Philippines, with an estimated 1.24 million Filipinos living with cataracts. In a country where 18% of the population live below the poverty line, many people cannot access treatment and live needlessly blind.
“The cost [of cataract surgery] is equivalent to 100 sacks of rice,” explains Charity, an eye health worker for CBM’s field partner in the Philippines. She says that for a family struggling to provide enough for their family to eat, the cost of cataract surgery is simply out of reach.
Blindness Pulling Families Apart
Armon found himself no longer able to work and provide for his pregnant wife and four-year-old son. He and his wife had been living with his wife’s family but, not wanting to burden them further, Armon moved out.
“It is difficult for us to be together,” he said. “Because of my condition and because she’s pregnant, she’s not able to care for me and I’m not able to care for her. So we have to be apart, and I ask my siblings to take care of me instead.”
“I don’t want to be a burden to her and her family.”
He Missed His Father’s Funeral
In a country like the Philippines, many people blind from cataracts live in regional or remote areas. CBM’s field partner provide outreach missions – setting up eye screening camps in local town halls, schools, or other buildings and performing free surgeries in local health clinics or hospitals.
With just months until his wife’s due date, Armon heard about a free eye screening outreach being held in his community.
Despite his father having just passed away, Armon was determined to go – knowing his father would want him to do whatever he could to see again, even though it meant missing his funeral. His family agreed that it was more important he could see in time for his baby’s birth.
[Caption] An eye health worker examining Armon’s eyes at a remote eye screening camp, held in a local basketball stadium (above).
After his eyes were examined, Armon received the news that he could have free cataract surgery the following day. Thanks to the support of CBM and generous Australians giving to Miracles Day last year, Armon’s life was about to change.
“This will be a big change, a big difference in my life because the Lord is giving me another chance to see,” he said.
[Caption] Dr Reden removing Armon’s cataracts, while the next patient awaits his surgery (above).
Just 12 Minutes to Restore Sight
The next morning, after being prepped for surgery at the eye health clinic, Armon nervously lay on the operating table ready for ophthalmologist Dr Reden to remove his cataracts.
He couldn’t have been in better hands, with Dr Reden having been dubbed an ‘eye health hero’ of the Philippines by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.
“My passion is to give sight back to the poor and give them a second chance in life,” Dr Reden says.
“For me, it’s an opportunity to be of service to the people. God has given me this talent, and I need to give it back to him, and to give Him all the glory and the honour.”
Around 12 minutes later, Dr Reden had removed Armon’s cataracts and inserted artificial lenses, which typically last a lifetime.
Sitting up, Armon blinked his eyes and looked out a window. With a joyful exclamation, and a huge smile on his face, he told Dr Reden and the theatre staff that he could see!
After examining Armon’s eyes the next day, Dr Reden announced that his eyes were in great shape and that he’d be able to return to work soon – and witness the birth of his baby!
[Caption] Dr Reden examines Armon’s eyes after his sugery (above)
“Excited to See My Child and My Wife”
“I’m so very thankful,” he told CBM workers after the surgery. “I am excited to see my child and my wife. I always prayed that I could see again. And I was very, very thankful because God gave me this. And I am so blessed.”
A World Health Organisation report on vision estimates that at least 2.2 billion people live with vision impairment or blindness – and half of these cases either could have been prevented, or are yet to be treated. Cataracts are one of the leading causes.
CBM’s Miracles Day Changing Lives
Unfortunately, most people with cataracts live in developing countries. Even though 90 per cent of vision loss is preventable or treatable, many remain blind because they cannot afford the treatment.
That’s why CBM and Christian radio stations started Miracles Day, an annual fundraiser asking Australians to give the Miracle gift of sight-saving surgery for just $33. In the past ten years, Australians have given more than 400,000 gifts of sight to people like Armon, living in the world’s poorest places.
“Miracles Day gives us the opportunity to help change someone’s life for less than the cost of six cups of takeaway coffee. For many of us, it’s a small sacrifice, but one that has a huge impact,” said CBM CEO Jane Edge.
Give a $33 Miracle gift today to restore the sight of someone like Armon. Donate at miraclesday.com.au or call 131 226.
Article supplied with thanks to CBM Australia.
Feature image: Armon after his sight-saving surgery. (All images supplied)