Surgical first a gift of life

In a surgical first for Cambodia, Sight For All-trained ophthalmologists have restored the sight of an elderly rural man who had been blind for four years, with the ongoing condition pushing him to contemplate suicide.

Today, villager Oeun Svaing, 70, is smiling and happy.

His life changed dramatically when he  decided to make the 400km journey from his home in Cambodia’s rural Banteay Meanchey region to the Eye Clinic at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh.

Svaing, who could barely walk, was often carried by his wife when he visited local doctors.

At the KSFH hospital, the sight in Svaing’s left eye was improved following the removal of a cataract, with surgery performed by Sight For All Fellow Dr Chhour Long.

In a second operation, Visionary Prof Tim Sullivan and Cambodian Fellows Dr Heng Sotheary and Dr To Vichhay, worked on Svaing’s right eye which was affected by ptosis, a condition that impairs the opening of the eyelid, performing sling surgery by taking fascia lata from his leg.        

Just a day later in the hospital ward, Oeun Svaing was smiling and laughing with his wife.

With his vision completely obstructed in his right eye due to trauma, Svaing had previously travelled from town to town seeking suitable medical treatment, but the doctors he saw had told him they could do nothing for his condition.

 “When I was told there was no cure for my eyes, I fell into depression and I wanted to commit suicide,” Svaing said.

“I felt my life had no value. I was a burden on everyone, including my wife.

“My 11-year-old grandchild had to feed me food every day, take me to the toilet and my wife had to shower me.

“I sat in one place as if a dead man,” Svaing said.

Svaing’s ptosis surgery was successful, the first of its kind ever performed in Cambodia.

On the day after surgery, his surgical eye patches were removed, to which he responded with surprise and delight.

 “I see!” Svaing exclaimed to the doctor.

“I see you wear a white shirt, I see you wear glasses. I see my wife’s face, which I have not seen for four years, I just recognised her by her voice,” he laughed.

Oeun Svaing’s operation was one of of 15 Oculoplastic operations performed among 65 cases examined during a five-day visit by Sight For All Visionaries from Australia.

The impact of Sight For All extends far beyond the physical aspects of education, training and the provision of equipment, it reaches into the very heart of life for the poor and marginalised living in rural Cambodia.

At the age of 70, Oeun Svaing has had not only his sight restored, but also his life.

“Thank you so much to the doctors and all the generous people who gave my sight and life back,” Svaing said.

“With this gift, I will start my new life as soon as we return home”. 

“When I was told there was no cure for my eyes, I fell into depression and I wanted to commit suicide.”– Cambodian villager Oeun Svaing

Oculoplastic Visionary Prof Tim Sullivan performs ptosis surgery with Cambodian Fellow surgeons.

A smiling Oeun Svaing, recovering in the KSFH ward a day after surgery, is visited by his wife.