Day 6: Bandage Removal Day
After a long week of travel through Cambodia and then to Bangkok, I’m finally getting around to writing a blog post for bandage removal day. Apparently my habit of procrastinating is not confined to US borders. I’ve also been instructed by Pearson, our photographer/blog post enforcer, to tell you that this delay is entirely his fault. Enjoy!
I wake up quite nervous today, because we will see the results of Dr. K.C.’s hard work in the operating room yesterday. We take a short walk over to the Kampot Eye Center instead of bussing. It’s still quite early when patients start filing into the Laser Room, which doubles as a surgery prep room as well as a bandage removal room.
Sitting front and center is a nervous, 13 year old boy named Trean Ya. We’ve been following Trean since he arrived with his mom and dad yesterday and was diagnosed with a traumatic cataract and corneal scarring. This injury, and subsequent impairment, was caused when Trean was hit in his right eye with an iron bar about two years ago. After that traumatic incident, Trean’s family took him to a traditional healer, but his vision did not improve. With little money left, Trean’s family was unable to seek further treatment for him. Fortunately, with the services provided by Seva and SWAP Socks, he was able to make it to Kampot to finally receive proper eye care treatment.
It took Trean and his family four hours by motorbike to get from their commune in the village of Prey Peay to Kampot yesterday morning, but it was worth it for the opportunity to undergo the cataract surgery he needed. After what we can imagine has been an exhausting, painful, and distressing twenty four hours, he is now ready to get his eye bandage removed.
To put it plainly, he doesn’t seem all that thrilled with the process - and I don’t blame him. After his bandage is removed he still has to get a post-op eye exam, including another acuity test (the one where you cover each eye and look at the “E” board) and a potential follow up consultation. However, there is one upside to the whole process – after a visual examination of his healed eye, Trean receives some free sunglasses.
These are to help protect his eye which is temporarily sensitive to receiving so much light after being closed and clouded for so long. Even after I help him put on these new shades, he seems uneasy and timid. Mostly, I think he is just nervous because of all the commotion and unfamiliar faces.
As the day progresses, we all get a chance to help people find new sunglasses to aid with the post-op recovery. Honestly, we are having a really fun time matching people up with frames that fit their style and personality. It’s a moment where we don’t need words or a translator to connect with people - a smile and a laugh are universal.
Roger also fitted this gentleman with what I can only describe as the perfect glasses.
Trean is doing his post-op acuity test now, and he is struggling. Our mood immediately drops. Trean is such a brave kid who has already been through so much, and all we are hoping for is a happy ending. That’s how it’s supposed to work right?
The truth is that because Trean’s injury also left some scarring on his cornea, his vision is not perfectly restored in his right eye, even after a flawless cataract removal surgery. That being said, he has improved significantly in his acuity test, and his cataract will not cause any further complications. A brief conversation between Trean’s mom and the doctor reveals more good news for Trean. He receives some eye drops that should help to heal his cornea.
Shortly after he receives his first drops, he finds a new toy: Pearson’s fancy camera.
I can see his mom tense up, just like I know mine would if I was handling a stranger’s camera at Trean’s age. Of course, Trean picks up on the camera’s basic functions in no time (kids these days…), and with a little help from Pearson, he is shooting some great photos.
Below is a photo he took of his dad:
Here is one he took (with a little of Pearson’s help) of everyone who got their bandages removed today.
Obviously, the first day of surgeries has been an overwhelming success, and by the end Trean is happy and hyper, as a kid his age should be.
He is scheduled for a checkup in Kampot on Feb. 4th, where he will receive a follow up consultation. Hopefully the eye drops do their job, and give him the opportunity to continue his schooling with the vision he needs to succeed. We also make arrangements to send Trean printed versions of the photos he took so he can remember this important day. Good luck bud!