Dr Carole has just spent four years at The Pacific Eye Institute in Fiji, studying for her Masters in Medicine in Opthalmology. At the end of 2019, she completed her studies and returned home to the Solomon Islands to serve her community. She arrived not a moment too late, as doctors have since been cut off from travelling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
And now, she has returned and joined the small eye care team in the Solomon Islands; she is already making a difference to help end preventable blindness in her local community.
Cataracts in both eyes left baby Shaylan without the ability to see much more than light and blurred shapes. No way to know where voices were coming from. Trying to learn and grow without sight. Dr Carole returned from her training, performed a successful bi-lateral cataract surgery - giving Shaylan his sight for the first time at just five months old.
The moment after successful surgery is a true miracle. His little face lights up and his family is instantly relieved of the immense weight placed on them. Shaylan can smile with his mother and see his Father’s happy face. For them, the anxiety and stress over the development of their child is replaced by complete joy.
Shaylan has had one successful surgery, but it doesn’t end there.
His cataracts will try to grow back, and he will need a second surgery in two months. The team can then fit him for custom-made, tiny wrap-around glasses.
When Shaylan is around two years old, he will have another operation, this time to fit an intraocular lens so that he will fully gain his sight.
Now situated permanently in the Solomon Islands, Dr Carole will be there to help Shaylan and his family again and again.
If Dr Carole was not there, his life would be wildly different.
Dr Carole, newly returned, is supported by senior eye doctors, including Dr John Szetu, The Foundation’s Medical Director. Dr John is currently based in the Solomon Islands and unable to travel. But not all our graduates have this support right now.
Our Graduate Programme is crucial.
We now have a full-time eye doctor in the seven key countries we work in. But some countries, such as Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu, only have one eye doctor for the whole country. We need your help to change this, to train more eye doctors and more eye nurses. One doctor cannot do it all.
COVID-19 has made our work more challenging. With eye doctors still unable to move between countries, each nation must rely on its own resources, meaning our eye doctors in Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu are currently without senior face-to-face support. Imagine if you hadn’t helped us train those eye doctors in the first place.
But we need more than eye doctors and eye nurses.
It’s easy to think, the eye doctors and nurses are there now and the solution has been found. Unfortunately, it’s not so simple. Many of the eye clinics have equipment that is old and no longer fit for purpose. Much of it needs long over-due maintenance or replacing altogether.
Medicines and supplies like anaesthetic and antibiotics are often scarce. Even Shaylan’s glasses are not readily available and need to be made. It’s sad to see our graduates without the tools they desperately need just to undertake the work they have been trained to do.
Your support means we don’t just train eye doctors and eye nurses. It means we support them once they have returned home, mentor them to restore sight and provide the best results for their patients. While we get support from governments in the Pacific, it is not sufficient to cover our costs. That’s why our graduates need you.