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20 Feb 2013

Inaugural GIFT OF SIGHT program returns after a successful trip

HealthCare Outreach’s inaugural Gift of Sight volunteerprogram has returned from a successful operation in the Philippines restoring sight to 137 men, women and children.
The volunteer team was assembled thanks to San Cafeteria Assistant Lita Ford who suggested HealthCare Outreach, a humanitarian aid program coordinated by Sydney Adventist Hospital, might be able to help people suffering from in her Pilipino homeland.
Volunteers operated in the Cagayan Valley region in Northern Luzon which has one of the highest cataract blindness rates in the country.
 “I was determined to champion a program for the Philippians and asked HealthCare Outreach to help my community” said Lita.
The team worked alongside local doctors to perform up to 30 free cataract removal surgeries a day on blind and visually impaired people.
Many patients were totally blind prior to surgery while after surgery their eyesight was restored.
“Blindness caused by cataracts is simply a disease of poverty” says Dalcross Adventist Hospital Ophthalmologist A/Prof. Geoffrey Painter.
“It is preventable and avoidable. Cataracts do not cause blindness here in Australia because we have access to treatment. However, patients where our team will be operating are too poor to be able to afford cataract surgery. The impact of cataracts can be devastating on them as it leads to loss of sight, independence, capacity to work, social isolation and financial hardships” he said.
This is the first Gift of Sight program and is a joint programme between HealthCare Outreach, a medical humanitarian aid program coordinated by Sydney Adventist Hospital Wahroonga, and Foresight Australia.
Dalcross Nursing Unit Manager Kerrie Leg was among those who volunteered in the Philippines. Click here to view Kerrie's story published in the Hornsby Advocate 21/02/13.

Photography: Laen Henry

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