Patient Stories

Gabriella's story

Gabriella's cataract surgery changed her life, enabling her to go to school and have a childhood.

Gabriella’s life was turned around when the squint in her right eye was corrected by having a cataract removed.

At the time, Vanuatu didn't have a permanent eye doctor, so people relied on our visiting teams. It was on one of these visits we met Gabriella. She had been born at 27 weeks, and there were complications, including a cataract in her right eye. While doctors identified this condition early, cataract operations on children are not easy, and it was not until she was three that her eye could be operated on.

Gabriella was brought to us by her mother, Errollyn. For her, it was a huge relief the visiting team could help her daughter see again. She knew the operation would be life-changing for her little girl, even though both were very apprehensive.

The operation itself did not take long. The surgeon worked surely and effectively to limit Gabriella’s time under anaesthetic, and before long, the little girl was in recovery with her much-relieved mother at her side.

Her mother told us:

“If she had the eye problems, then it would be very hard for her. She wouldn’t be like other children, who can see better and don’t have a strange eye. I am so glad the doctors could come and help her to see, because it will be so much better for her, I know.”

The next day Gabriella was grumpy. She didn’t want to go back to the clinic; she didn’t like the sticky tape being pulled off her skin. But then she looked around, her face brightened, smiling with disbelief at being able to see so well. Of course, she was not the only one smiling. For her mother and the onlooking team, this was a moment to treasure.

Our outreach team performed 194 cataract operations in their two visits to Vanuatu in 2016. Sadly, this is well short of the 810 cataract surgeries that are required each year to ensure no one is needlessly blind. To achieve this figure, we need to upgrade the Vanuatu National Eye Centre and train local eye doctors and nurses.

Catching up with Gabriella two years later

The team caught up with Gabriella in Vanuatu in May 2018, and what a change! Here was a girl happily playing in the garden with her cousin, who talked to us about mermaids and unicorns and what she loves most about the school she is now able to attend.

Watching on with us is her mother, who tells us that since Gabriella’s operation, she can see through both eyes, Her world has really grown.

“She still struggles with distances and balancing, but her glasses help a lot.”

Gabriella’s purple glasses (that are so cute) may be the last visible legacy of her squint, but she is still haunted by the time before her operation. The Fred Hollows visiting outreach team to Vanuatu was truly a godsend for this vulnerable little girl and her family.

Of course, that operation was part of the legacy of Fred Hollows and another example of the amazing work our doctors and nurses do across the Pacific. It simply would not have been possible without the compassionate support of people like you here in New Zealand.

We're not holding back and we hope that you won’t either for children like Gabriella and all those whose lives could be changed by your donation.



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