Cataract surgery – the flow-on effect…

17 September, 2015

CBM Australia’s Content Lead, Amanda Warrick visited our field partners in Bangladesh, to collect stories and images for Miracles Day. Here she reflects on her meeting with 80 year old Shanti and how her life has changed after her cataract surgery.

In July, Melbourne was in the middle of the coldest winter for the last two decades; it was definitely not the greatest preparation for time spent in Bangladesh – where temperatures were at a constant 33C with 90% humidity.

The rivers were fast-flowing due to monsoon season, and traffic was barely moving due to the congested roads. It was very hot, very muggy and in places by the river where wild boars roam, it could only be described as very fragrant.

It was with this back drop that I gained a deeper insight into the flow-on effect of CBM’s work and how treatment is just the start.

Shanti and her grandchildren

Shanti and her grandchildren

I was privileged to meet Shanti at her home, approximately three hours out of the capital city, Dhaka. As I sat with her on the muddy ground outside her home, the local community crammed in to see the strangers who had travelled to the middle of nowhere, to visit their neighbour.

Shanti had cataract surgery six months ago, before surgery she had spent eight months living in total darkness.

“When the days were black, I was very unhappy and passed the time away alone in my home or in the yard, as everyone else was busy with their work – without sight I lost my world…” Shanti said. She was completely dependent on her family for everything; collecting and preparing food, eating, cleaning her home and herself, doing her washing, walking, going to the toilet. She felt helpless and like she was a burden.

Since having her sight-restoring surgery through a CBM partner, she’s back to her best. She contributes to her family home, by helping with cooking and cleaning. She also enjoys the simple pleasure of sitting with her grandsons, playing games with them and seeing the smiles on their faces.

When I’ve thought about cataract surgery in the past, I’ve focussed on the actual surgery – which is awe-inspiring: 12 minutes and someone has their sight restored, how amazing! But it was when I met Shanti that I truly understood the difference this one surgery made; not only to Shanti, but also to her family, and her whole community. The flow-on effect is huge and has many positive outcomes.

A simple surgery through CBM means someone like Shanti will get their world back. Shanti is able to meaningfully contribute to her family. She is now independent and self sufficient. And because Shanti no longer needs constant care, her family can go to work and earn money for food, or go to school, without fear or concern for her.

It’s more than just surgery; one treatment flows on to positively impact the whole community.

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