Even when The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ’s outreach team visits Port Vila in Vanuatu, patients have many other difficulties to overcome to get their sight restored. One is their distance from the capital, Port Vila.
Rex, age 29, lives in Tanna, a beautiful but remote island that is over 500 kilometres away from Port Vila. Around 29,000 people live on Tanna with no eye clinic, no eye doctor, and until recently, they didn’t have an eye nurse.
The cataract in Rex’s left eye made it very hard for him to work and to support his wife and two young children. Rex didn’t have the funds to travel to Port Vila to be seen by the Outreach team with a family to support.
David studied to be an eye nurse with The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ in Fiji and returned home to Tanna to become their first resident eye nurse last year. David’s efforts to secure funding for seven Tanna residents in need of eye care meant that Rex could be sponsored to make the journey.
His operation was a success.
When he came back to the clinic the next day to have his bandage removed, he was still worried he would not be able to see. Only when the bandage came off could he be sure. The first emotion we saw was utter relief. Then he threw his head back, took a deep breath and looked up at the sky.
But his problems were not over entirely. He would have to earn money to pay for the return journey home. He would have to wait a while yet before he saw his wife and children. Which now, he would be able to do, as never before, thanks to The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ and our supporters.
Since we first published this story, the Vanuatu National Eye Centre in Port Vila has received a $2.5 million upgrade and expansion.