Sione, 76, lives with his daughter, son-in-law and their children in the small village of Lapaha, Tongatapu, Tonga.
When we first met Sione, once an active, sociable character, he sat hunched over on his bed, a broken man without hope or purpose. He had cataracts in both eyes and had been virtually blind for three years. Without his sight, Sione was fully dependant on the help of others.
He felt like he was missing out on everything he loved in life – his pineapple and yam plantation, his friendships, bike, fun times with grandchildren, and, most of all, his freedom. His daughter Lusi spent most of her time looking after Sione. She felt very sorry for him and worried about him constantly. Life was hard as the rest of the family were overseas and the burden fell on her shoulders alone.
Sione felt that sense of being a burden to his daughter greatly,
If I stay blind, it would be better to die, because that will mean I am not a big problem for my children.
Sione had been too scared to get his eyesight fixed for a long time. Still, his neighbour, Ponifasio, recently had successful cataract surgery during a Foundation-funded outreach and was living his new life with restored sight. Ponifasio told Sione how life-changing it would be and convinced him to go ahead with the surgery.
On the day Sione had his bandages removed, he had his whole family with him; even some of his grandchildren had made the journey. The family had driven all around the island, picking up all the relatives so that everyone could be there for Sione’s big day.
As the bandages came off, Sione literally could not believe his eyes, “I’m shocked… I can see the room!”
Lusi was so happy for her father; she called all the family to update them with news of his restored sight. Sione was just as excited to share the news.
I can’t wait to visit my relatives – well the ones that aren’t with me today! I can’t wait to see their faces when they see I can see! I will tell all the people here about the great doctors and nurses – people should not be scared, it is a waste to be too scared to come.
Today, Sione is back to his true self as the life and soul of his neighbourhood. Fit, lean, cheerful and full of energy.