Clinic Blog: 2011 South Africa 3 Clinic Blog
December 2, 2011
Thursday at Clinic—Life Changing
Doctor visit to Home for Special Needs Children: December 1, 2011
A smile can cause boundaries to melt, hearts to warm up, and distances to reduce. Today was a day with many smiles, but in particular, the smile of an 8-year old born with cerebral palsy who we visited at a daycare for children with disabilities. One tends to think that if a child has reduced mental abilities or reduced mobility or any other handicap, then why bother with these children, they don’t understand the world around them anyway. Well, that is not the case as I witnessed how much a pair of glasses can change someone’s world, even for a child with reduced mental abilities.
The daycare is the home of 15 children with various disabilities, mainly cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus. When we entered the room, we were greeted with all sorts of emotions, from smiles, to cries, to blank stares. In one of the strollers, there was a girl who didn’t even look at us, she was just rocking back and forth, head down, and buried in her own world. Her name is Gunze. We tried to greet her but that only seemed to irritate her more. Another child was a little boy laying on a blanket who kept smiling at us and couldn’t wait for our attention. His name, translated into English, means Happiness. Maria, a 23-year old woman, who has cerebral palsy, was happy to interact with us and give us smiles. She appeared to us to be about 15 years old. Another boy who suffers of hydrocephalus, whose given name translates to Gift, was making eye contact with us and probably wondering who we were.
After we made a general assessment of all the children, we proceeded with putting drops in their eyes so we could give them the best eye exam possible. We continued with our eye examination for all the children by evaluating external and internal eye health and fortunately there were no major issues found. Lastly, we determined if any of the children would benefit from corrective lenses. Of all the children, only two required glasses: Gunze and Maria.
At first, Maria was not sure how to accept the glasses, probably a little scared of having something on her face. But only after a few minutes we noticed something changed in her perception of her world. And then she gave us plenty of smiles. Even while we were with the other kids, I glanced at her and noticed how she was looking with interest at something in the distance, it was certainly not a blank stare.
Gunze’s examination was an effort of 3 different doctors and numerous caregivers. We discovered that she had a significant amount of nearsightedness. We searched our inventory and found a beautiful pair perfect for an 8 year old girl. And then the magic happened. The moment we put those glasses on her face, the rocking stopped and she immediately started to look around, taking in the surroundings and the people around her. She discovered a new world. Her reaction was one of surprise, and then she slowly started to smile. It was a moment full of emotions, cheers, and even tears.
This experience transformed us all, especially the caregivers. It was such a surprise to them to see the impact a pair of glasses could make on these two children. They never thought their vision could have been impaired as the children were never were able to communicate that. We will never forget these moments. They will stay in our hearts forever. We put smiles on two more faces today, and that is a successful clinic.
Drs. Simona, Ron, and Steve