18-year-old Skolastika can now live life to the full – playing basketball with her friends, going to school and helping her family on the farm – thanks to our generous supporters throughout New Zealand.
Skolastika lives in an isolated village on the east coast of Makira Island, a remote island in the Solomon Islands. She lives a simple life. Her parents are subsistence farmers and Skolastika helps out when she can.
When a provincial eye nurse screened Skolastika, her vision had been deteriorating for some time. She had a cataract that could eventually rob her of her sight. She didn’t understand that this cataract was treatable and, even if she did, there were no local eye services to treat her.
Makira residents must rely on visiting eye teams that come to the island perhaps once every two years. Many people in Skolastika’s village were suffering from eye problems, with many blind from cataracts, accepting this as part of life.
Skolastika was lucky
A provincial eye nurse identified her cataract, whilst screening in preparation for a Fred Hollows Foundation NZ outreach to the island’s only hospital, three hours away at Kirakira. A few months later Skolastika climbed aboard the little motorboat. Her mother wanted to go with her, but there was no room on the boat. There were more people who required help than the boat could hold.
Once she reached the eye clinic, Skolastika waited nervously. She had never left her village before and felt lonely and afraid without her family. Dr Nola Pikacha, a Foundation-trained eye doctor, took Skolastika’s hand and told her in local pidgin not to be scared, and reassured her about what would happen during surgery.
A 20 minute sight-restoring operation
Dr John Szetu, an experienced Solomon Island eye surgeon and Director of the Foundation’s regional training centre, the Pacific Eye Institute, performed Skolastika’s surgery, watched by Dr Pikacha. In just 20 minutes, Skolastika’s cataract was removed and replaced with a clear plastic intraocular lens, restoring her sight.
The next morning Dr Nola removed Skolastika’s bandage and checked her eye. It was healing well. “You’ve been very brave,” she told Skolastika. “You’ll be back playing basketball with your friends in no time.”
The journey home
Skolastika waited impatiently for several days for the boat to take her back to her village. She couldn’t wait to return home and tell her family and friends about her experience, and about the kind eye team that had restored her vision.
Outreach clinics are crucial in the Solomon Islands, where over 80 percent of the population live in far flung rural areas. They also provide vital practical experience for trainee eye surgeons studying at The Foundation’s Pacific eye care training centre, The Pacific Eye Institute. When she returned to her native Solomon Islands at the end of 2008, Dr Pikacha became the country’s third eye doctor for a population of more than 600,000 people.
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