Vietnamese school boy Tam can see again after Orbis supporters kindly funded his bilateral cataracts surgery

Vietnam: Young Tam saved from a life of blindness

August 2019

Tam from Quy Nhon, Vietnam, struggled with his vision from an early age. But thanks to your support, and the work of our Vietnam country office and partners we were able to give Tam his sight back without any cost to his family. Tam was diagnosed with bilateral cataracts and had it not been spotted in time, he would have been blind permanently.

Tam’s mother first discovered he had issues with his vision when they visited the park together. She pointed out some pretty lights to him but he couldn’t see them.

She realized that unlike the other children pointing and laughing Tam, who is five years old, was squinting and struggling to see. The family who live in Quy Nhon had a friend who worked at Binh Dinh Eye Hospital who suggested they took Tam for a check-up.

There he was diagnosed with bilateral cataract and they could only be corrected using surgery. “At first, I was very surprised,” Tam’s mother Thao told us. “I didn’t know what to do about it. Then I was very worried - I didn’t know if the surgery would go well and then if he would be fine for the rest of his life.”

Vietnamese school boy Tam can playing with his favourite toys trains and cars after Orbis supporters kindly funded his bilateral cataracts surgery

Tam loves playing with toys especially cars and trains

Fortunately our Orbis-supported pediatric eye care program was due to start delivering surgeries just a few weeks later; not only would Tam receive the sight saving surgery he needed, but the family wouldn’t have to fund it.

Gallery: Tam's life at home in Vietnam

We are quite poor so we were afraid we couldn’t afford the surgery but then after talking to people at the Eye Hospital, we found out that Orbis would support us financially. We were relieved.

Thao

Tam's mother

It was very lucky that his parents noticed that something wasn’t quite right with Tam’s vision. At only three years old, some obvious markers – struggling with reading and writing, for example – simply didn’t exist.

His mother told us that when watching television, Tam would sit extremely close to the set; but what small child doesn’t want to get that close to the action?

Dr Lai, an Orbis-trained ophthalmologist visited Tam’s home with us to check on how he was doing. He explained that had the parents not spotted Tam’s condition in time, he would have lost his sight permanently.

It wasn’t an easy process for Tam’s family. After two successful surgeries at Binh Dinh Eye Hospital to remove the cataracts from both eyes, his family were told he would need a further surgery due to a complication.

Understandably they were worried but Dr Lai reassured the family that the complication was common and Tam would be fine. And he was better than fine in fact!

Gallery: Tam's school life in Vietnam

Tam was thriving again. Dr Lai explained that when he first met Tam he was blind in both eyes; had his parents not spotted his condition, he would have lost his sight permanently. Now his vision is very good he simply needs glasses. His visual acuity has improved from being able to count fingers from 1 meter distance, to being able to see at 6 meters what an average person can at 10 - a huge improvement.

Extremely happy with his progress, Dr Lai said: “His vision is very good, he can see faraway and near and he only needs to fix his glasses. Now he can study well, and he is able to get on with everything.

Unsurprisingly little Tam was far less interested in his visual acuity than we were. He just wanted to play with his beloved car and train toys just like any other five year old.

"He gets very excited whenever a car or train appears on the television. He enjoys school and likes studying, but he also plays a lot too, because he’s a kid.” His mother smiled when she told us this.

If Tam hadn’t had his surgery – it’s unimaginable. I just thought he needed glasses. When I heard about cataract, I didn’t even understand it. If I hadn’t detected this, I would have been very regretful. He would have gone blind and I would have regretted so much. I just want him to have healthy eyes. I would just like to thank you very much, thank you Orbis for the surgery and for supporting us financially.

Thao

Tam's mother

Right now there are around three million children who are visually impaired and 23,000 children who are blind in Vietnam. While blindness has decreased over the last decade, there are still millions of children unable to see the world around them - needlessly.

With your support we're increasing the skills of eye teams, especially those dealing with children, whilst taking a holistic approach to improve the quality of care available and help set-up referral networks - so critical to ensuring children like Tam can get the eye care they deserve.