It was a Sunday night when nine-year-old Fakatele was running next door to find his neighbourhood friend. As he darted under a clothesline he didn’t see the pole with a coconut husker attached to it, hidden by the clothes. He ran straight into the sharp end of the hook, which caught his right eye.
In New Zealand, if a nine-year-old boy seriously injures his eye and is rushed to hospital, his family can expect an expert medical team, up-to-date equipment and the best care possible. In Tonga, where Fakatele lives, high-quality eye care is hard to come by. As Fakatele’s mum and dad rushed him to the hospital, they didn’t know who would be there to help. Fakatele’s mum, Mavae, tried to comfort her frightened son, but she didn’t feel any comfort herself.
His mother told us:
“I can’t even look at my son, his eye is so bad. I am so scared they won’t be able to fix it and he can’t see.”
The same Sunday Fakatele injured his eye was the day before The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ Outreach Team was due to start seeing patients. Luckily, Dr Duke Mataka and his team were still at the hospital setting up for the next day when Fakatele and his parents arrived.
Seeing the severity of Fakatele’s injury, Dr Duke decided to treat him immediately. Fakatele needed stitches on his eyelid and an operation, which was time-sensitive. If Dr Duke wasn’t there and Fakatele’s treatment had to wait, the accident could have resulted in permanent vision complications and possibly blindness.
“I am so so lucky the eye doctor is here –there is nothing I can do but he can do it all.” - Fakatele's mum, Mavae
Thanks to supporters like you, Dr Duke and his team successfully treated Fakatele’s eye and tragedy was avoided. If the accident had happened just one day before, the outcome may not have been so positive. Fakatele and his family were very lucky. But when it comes to medical care, luck shouldn’t factor into it.
A mother shouldn’t have to worry that her son will go blind, simply because there is no eye doctor available.
After finishing his training through The Foundation, Dr Duke recently returned to Tonga, where he is now the only permanently based eye doctor. But one eye doctor is not enough. There is a constant backlog of patients and without our supporters, people like Fakatele can miss out on the urgent care they need.
That’s why we are working on training a new generation of eye doctors and nurses.