Medical volunteers visit Cambodia

The gift of sight………

Cambodia Vision, established in 2006 survives solely through sponsorship and community support including a dedicated medical team from Australia.

These include surgeons, nurses, general practitioners, pharmacists, optometrists and volunteers – carrying out cataract procedures, eye-tests, and providing glasses to locals completely free of charge.

Their aim is to give the gift of sight to Cambodia’s poor, who suffer from debilitating eye disease and have no means to pay for eye tests or to have vision corrected, either by surgery or glasses.

Cambodia is one of the countries with the highest incidence of preventable blindness, with approximately 70,000 new cataract cases each year.

Jenny Smith, theatre sister at the Bundaberg Friendly Society Hospital, joined fellow colleagues Eileen Betts, Angela Baker, and Marie McAneney from the Bundaberg Base Hospital on the team’s latest eight-day visit and intends to return this year.

“I felt I was doing something really worthwhile with my skills – that we were making a huge difference to people’s lives,” she said. “It’s such a worthy cause with all funds and equipment donated going directly to the people in need – I’ve seen that.”

Jenny said the most moving case among the 70 to 80 daily cataract procedures involved a 100-year-old blind woman and mother of 16, who’d been waiting patiently for someone to have time to bring her to one of the annual surgeries.

“We removed cataracts from both eyes and her amazement and gratitude at being able to see after so many years was truly rewarding.”

“All the patients are very poor and speak no English but clearly demonstrate their thanks to us – an interpreter explains the procedures to them and despite any pain or discomfort, they never complain – not once.”

This was Jenny’s first visit to a third-world country, with the team of 50 staying at the brand new Mekong Dolphin Hotel, where they relaxed over Cambodian food and beers after a 12 to 14 hour day.

“A $5 donation allows a Cambodian patient to see again with glasses and $50 provides them with cataract surgery and medical tests,” she said.

Eileen Betts from the Bundaberg Friendlies Hospital, a nurse since 1969 and passionate about ophthalmic surgery has been with the Cambodia Vision team since 2007, and responsible for corporate sponsorship to help supply medical equipment.

For more information and details on how you can help – www.cambodiavision.org.au 

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Jenny and a nurse from China who helped the team wear the scarves which all the team members received at the presentation dinner on the last night in Cambodia.

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One of the patients thanks Doctor Audrey Murgonsen, Jenny and two nurses. Beside the patient is nurse Maly Nun a Cambodian nurse who lives in Sydney.

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Dr. Audrey Murgonsen operates on a Cambodian patient.

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Morning tea time for Dr Audrey, Jenny Smith and a local nurse

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Getting ready for the next cataract operation is Dr Ben Sim a registrar from Sydney's PA Hospital and Jenny Smith from Bundaberg.

Team Cambodia – Jenny with Dr Neil Rowe