Phuong from a rural district in Vietnam has crossed-eye until strabismus surgery

VIetnam: Phuong no longer teased at school

August 2019

Phuong from Hoai Nhon, Vietnam, was three months old when her family first spotted her crossed-eyes. After years of wrongly being told that glasses would fix her poor vision, an Orbis-supported school screening program finally gave little Phuong & her anxious mother hope for the future.

Despite being born without any issues with her eyes, it was clear to Lan that there was something wrong with her daughter, now 8. Concerned, she took her to Ho Chi Minh – hundreds of kilometres from their home in Hoai Nhon district – a number of times for check-ups where Phuong was simply given glasses to treat her condition.

Lan could see that the glasses weren’t improving her condition. “I was sad,” she explains. “I went to Ho Chi Minh city a lot of times. People told me to wait until Phuong got older but I didn’t want to. Then I met the Orbis program!

8-year-old strabismus patient Phuong from Vietnam at home with her mother Lan

Phuong lives with her mother Lan in the rural district of Hoai Nhon

Luckily, at the beginning of 2017, a family friend that taught at a nearby secondary school reached out to Lan to let her know that an Orbis school screening program would be taking place. Teachers would test children for eye conditions such as refractive error and cataract, and refer them for treatment if necessary.

Although Phuong was still in primary school, Lan’s friend invited her to come anyway. There Phuong was diagnosed with strabismus in both eyes and referred to Binh Dinh Eye Hospital for surgery. Lan was nervous but extremely happy that her daughter was finally having treatment.

As well as the stress of making the 11-hour journey to Ho Chi Minh many times with no resolution; when they would go out people would tease them, saying that her daughter had “crossed eyes” – “I felt sad about it. Quite upset,” she tells us. “After the surgery, I felt happy for my daughter."

Gallery: Phuong's life at home in rural Vietnam

I like doing housework. I can cook, I can wash the dishes and I can sweep! I have cows and ducks here. I like dogs, I like cats, I like ducks.

Phuong

Strabismus patient

Now Phuong is doing well. When we met her, she was quite quiet watching her mother intently while we spoke. However she did want to tell us about school. She is second grade and she clearly enjoys it; rattling off her timetable for us. “I like maths. I like solving maths problems,” she said when we asked what her favourite subject is.

Earlier she told us it was art. A girl of many talents! “I like going to my grandfather’s house to hang out,” Phuong says. Animal lover Phuong takes us behind her home to a small pen and shows us a cow that belongs to the family and how they feed chickens.

She also tells us she likes playing with her skipping rope and other games.

8-year-old strabismus patient Phuong from Vietnam feeding her family's cow

Animal lover Phuong feeding her family's cow

It’s clear her mother is extremely happy and she is quick to thank Orbis for supporting the surgery. After false starts in Ho Chi Minh, they finally managed to find a solution and little Phuong’s vision was corrected – all the better to see her maths problems with.

It's thanks to our incredible supporters and the work of our Vietnam country office and partners we were able to give Phuong her sight back without any cost to her family.

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 Phuong can get the eye care they deserve.

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