Patson lives on the island of Maliata, in a small village not far from Malu’u, where there is a hospital. There is no permanent eye doctor on the island, only nurses. Surgical outreaches are the only option for patients like Patson.
His eyesight had been failing as his bilateral cataracts worsened. Patson eventually went blind in 2019. At 70-years-old, his world shrunk to almost nothing. His wife had died of cancer earlier that year, and he now became dependent on his nephew.
“It was a terrible time for me. I couldn’t recognise anyone. I couldn’t see my food, let alone cook it. Everywhere I wanted to go, someone had to come with me, in case I fell. I was no good. So, I just sat at home. I was sad, I was lonely, but I tried to have a positive outlook on life despite being blind.
My nephew and his children were good to me. They helped me bathe. All I could do was dress myself, but I didn’t really know what I was wearing. They had to take me for walks because in my village the roads are not level and I might fall and hurt myself. It was hard. I could not read or write. This matters so much to me - I love to read. To write too.”
Patson knew his eyes could be operated on. He asked about surgery at his local health centre. There was no eye nurse there at the time, and he had to wait until the nurse visited his village.
Patson waited in darkness, not knowing when help would come.
“It was so bad. I would hear the motorbike of the nurse going past my house. I was hoping he was coming to see me. But he was going to help other patients.
But one day the nurse came to our house. I was so happy because he told me Dr Carole was going to come to Malu’u. I knew all my problems might end if I just waited some more.”
Patson was an unusual patient. He had no fear of the operation and had total faith in the eye care team.
“The day the truck came, I could not wait to get on. I sat on the truck with the other people who had gone blind. Some were worried and afraid, but not me. I was excited. I was going to see again.
The night before the operation we stayed in the health centre. They organised everything. I did not need anyone to come with me, the nurses were so good. I said to the other blind people don’t worry. You must do this. You are going to see again.”
Of course, he was not able to see yet, he had to wait until the next day when the eye nurse, Alice Ete, took off his bandage.
“I couldn’t wait. I just wanted to see again. The bandages, they came off and everything was blurry. It was bright…and then, slowly I could see faces. I could see who was there. It felt so good.
I am so happy. Nobody will have to do everything for me. I can walk on my own.”
We cannot stress how important this independence is to so many of the patients we treat. They hate being a burden to others. This operation not only gives them back their life and their freedom; it also changes the lives of their families and friends.
“I am now at home with my nephew. I am not a problem now, they don’t have to help me when I have a bath, I go for walks and I see my friends. And I can see my food. It tastes better, it is because I can see it.
I am now able to read again. And write. For me, this the best of all. Your sight is everything. I say to people who are blind, go to have the operation. It doesn’t hurt. You will see again, you will be yourself again.
I am so happy I have gained my independence and I want to thank you, who sponsored the eye team so I could see again. I have been given life again.”