Simalo was just 21 when her vision began diminishing. At 24 years old and four months pregnant- she’d had cataracts in both eyes for over three years. One of the most common refrains we hear from those with loss of sight is that it is lonely. Not being able to see faces or make eye contact is incredibly isolating. Simalo was anxious that she would not be able to see her child’s face or watch him grow. She was terrified that, worst of all, she might not be able to care for her child.
Simalo lives in Savai’i, which is as far away as you can get from the one eye doctor in Samoa. Simalo's parents were extremely worried for their daughter and future grandchild. Her Dad, a caring, humble man, was concerned as soon as her vision began to deteriorate.
“She started to have problems with her eyes. We were very worried, I knew she needed to go to the doctor. But we had to wait because there wasn’t a doctor on the island, so her sight got worse and worse over the years.”
There were limited options available to them. Even when we undertook a week-long outreach, it was still a costly two-hour journey for her family to travel to the outreach.
The eye team worked tirelessly throughout the week but sadly had to turn some patients away. There were just too many. Recognising Simalo was pregnant- The Foundation made her a priority.
For each person who is needlessly blind, others give up a lot in their own lives to look after them. Simalo has a generous and loving family, but this still makes everything harder. Without this surgery, the whole family would have pulled together and sacrificed to look after Simalo and her son. But this should never be necessary when there is an alternative—especially one so readily available in other countries.
Thanks to the generosity of everyday Kiwis, Simalo was operated on by Dr Mundi, and after two surgeries, she can see again. “It’s like a lightbulb has been switched on and I can see a whole new world.” Simalo has gone from a nervous insular young woman to a completely different person- bubbly and cracking jokes.
“We will never forget this moment. We are so happy.”
Her family were incredibly loving and supportive. They came to support Simalo as she had her second bandage off- dressed up for the occasion it was a celebration exploding with joy- and a few tears. Simalo looks forward to continuing that same warm and loving environment in her own new family. She gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby boy just before Christmas.