Unasa lives on Savai’i, the largest island in Samoa, but some distance from Apia, the capital, on the main island of Upolo.
The Foundation Outreach Team met Unasa in Savai’i. He was one of several patients suffering from diabetes eye disease, with further complications arising from diabetes. Sadly, Unasa was among the worst affected.
Cataracts in both eyes had left him completely blind for three years. Unable to walk because of his diabetes, he was sitting in a wheelchair that belonged to the hospital. He was extremely depressed, unwilling to communicate, except with his daughter who spoke for him.
Little did we know, two days later he would be such a truly heart-warming sight, a man completely transformed.
Unasa had been a farmer, a burly fellow used to hard physical work. Reduced by diabetes, and suffering from a tremor, he now cut a very unhappy figure. Unable to afford a wheelchair, he relied on his daughter Pauline to carry him from one place to another. A terrible burden for her, it weighed heavily on Unasa’s mind too.
However, light came into Unasa’s life the day after we first saw him at the eye clinic. We were able to operate successfully on his right eye, removing the cataract and restoring his vision.
We often tell of the ‘hallelujah’ moment, when we take off the bandage and the patient’s eye floods with light, then often floods with tears, so great is their joy. Imagine how Unasa must have felt, as the unchanging blackness gave way to light, colour and movement.
Think of his joy at seeing Pauline, his loving daughter.
The team experienced some of Unasa’s total elation the next day when they visited his home. Sitting up on his bed, he seemed to have not only regained his sight, but also his love of talking.
Chatty, laughing, irrepressible and so grateful, he was not the man we had seen in the hospital wheelchair, staring at the ground in silence.
The most touching moment of all was when he looked at his wife and said, “Now I get to see her face again every day”.
Around him, he could see his farm, the pigs roaming everywhere. Though still unable to walk, he would be able to help with the work again, sharing his knowledge, giving his advice.
While he will never walk again, he says we have given him the gift he wanted most, the chance to see his family and be part of everything.