Sixty-five-year-old Daw Ei Zin lost sight in her right eye over a year ago. She grew very worried as her left eye began to cloud over and lose vision too. Eventually, both of her eyes became so clouded that she could no longer see.
She lives with her unmarried son, where she used to spend her days sitting alone in the house, fighting depression and waiting for her son to return home at the end of the day. She couldn’t do anything for herself or help her son. She lived like this, dejected and without sight, for at least six months before receiving care at Mettashin Charity Eye Hospital, Seva’s newest partner in Taunggyi, Myanmar.
Mettashin, meaning “Loving Kindness,” conducted its first surgical eye camp earlier this year. Still partially under construction, the hospital was able to provide two fully equipped operating theaters to restore sight to 218 patients through surgery! The camp was led by Dr. Bidya Pant, a skilled ophthalmologist from Nepal who was trained with support from Seva. It was the final step in a comprehensive sight restoration process for Daw Ei Zin.
Because of Seva’s new partnership with Mettashin, Seva can support many more people like Daw Ei Zin throughout the Taunggyi region in Myanmar. Building new relationships is an exciting venture that Seva undertakes with extreme care and commitment. We establish long-term partnerships built on trust and mutual respect with the aim to create sustainable eye care services that reduce dependence on outside assistance.
How does Seva begin a new partnership?
The relationship-building process began three years ago. Long-time Seva volunteer ophthalmologist Dr. Dick Litwin made multiple trips to Yangon Eye Hospital to meet with Hospital Director Dr. Tin Win. Together, Dr. Litwin and Dr. Tin Win discussed the large unmet need for comprehensive eye care services and developed a plan with Seva to expand access to these services for the people of Myanmar. The following year, Seva staff and Dr. Pant visited three potential locations to determine their readiness to provide eye care. When they reached Taunggyi and met with officials from Mettashin, they learned a hospital was already under construction with the goal to provide comprehensive eye care services. Thus a new partnership was born.
During the surgical camp held just one year later, Seva Board member and volunteer ophthalmologist Dr. Marty Spencer joined Seva staff to evaluate the clinical procedures at Mettashin. Dr. Spencer noted, “There are an enormous number of blind people in Myanmar who could be cured, and an obvious role for Seva to play in teaching and other support. I examined 50 patients the day after their surgery and observed the high quality of their restored sight.”
Because Dr. Pant has partnered with Seva for many years in Nepal, he brings Seva’s way of providing high-quality critical eye care services to Myanmar. For Daw Ei Zin, this meant she had access to care that would otherwise not be available to her. Accompanied by her family, she had one cataract removed and was scheduled to have surgery on her second eye to fully regain her vision.
Seva trains local people to provide eye care.
A skillful mentor as well as an accomplished ophthalmologist, Dr. Pant trained seven local young people for a year at his project in Htee Saung, near Mandalay, to become Ophthalmic Aides. He brought them back to Mettashin to be on hand during the surgical camp where they helped patients move through the surgery process with efficiency and comfort. These Ophthalmic Aides will stay at Mettashin as full-time employees to screen for eye care needs in neighboring communities for future surgical eye camps. Dr. Pant is also mentoring local doctors in ophthalmic procedures, one of whom will be trained at a partner hospital in Nepal for one year.
Seva also helps to establish administrative process and supplies for our new partners.
We now have a relationship with a local medical supply company that can purchase high quality, low-cost surgical supplies from our long-time partner Aurolab, located in India. This helps keep the cost of eye care low so that more people can see again. Over the next few years, additional Nepali ophthalmologists will provide oversight of eye camps every two months until the local doctors complete their training.
After her first surgery, Daw Ei Zin was overjoyed to regain her sight. She most looks forward to cooking, helping her son around the house, earning money again, and being able to care for herself without anyone’s help. She and her family were so grateful to the doctors and Ophthalmic Aides for their care, and to Seva and donors like you for making her personal miracle possible. In addition to patients seeking care directly at the hospital, Mettashin will be fully prepared to reach out to the community, screen for eye care needs, and conduct their own surgical eye camps with their own staff, reaching thousands more like Daw Ei Zin who are in need of critical eye care.