October 10th is World Sight Day - a day dedicated to learning and spreading awareness about vision care. In honour of this day, we want to share two heartwarming stories of individuals who got their sight back. Who got their life back.
Meet Eusebio Caal Ichich, a man dedicated to serving his community and saving lives. At 56 years of age, this hard-working husband and father has worked as a firefighter in Guatemala for more than 16 years. A few years ago, he noticed his vision started to fade. Eusebio had cataracts in each eye - a devastating problem for a firefighter. As he did not have access to proper vision care, he could not find treatment. His supervisors demoted him to lower positions because, they said, he was no longer reliable. They first transferred him to a desk job fielding phone calls. When his eyesight became too impaired for this, they made him a janitor. When his vision deteriorated further, they simply fired him.
His condition affected his life outside of work, too. He would accidentally burn his fingertips on the stove while trying to make food.
“I was used to counting on my good health,” Eusebio remembers. “Now I felt completely defeated. When I ran into my friends, they had to tell me who they were.”
Fortunately, Eusebio heard of one of Seva's partner hospitals, the Vincent Pescatore Eye Clinic. There, thanks in part to the generosity of Seva's donors, he received surgeries on both eyes. After a quick, safe, and inexpensive procedure, he could see, in his words, “as good as new again.”
When Eusebio regained his sight, he also regained a sense of purpose. Once again, he is an active member of his community, contributing as a firefighter. When he is not fighting fires, he can be found working in his garden or building furniture. He also serves as an ambassador for the Vincent Pescatore Eye Clinic, which he recommends to all he meets who have eye problems.
Another touching story is of Francisca. "Little by little, I realized that my vision was going, until I could no longer see," she says, remembering the year she dropped out of high
school because she was no longer able to read the board. As her eyesight worsened, Francísca's self-confidence diminished. "My mother would ask me to go to the market, but for years I was too afraid to go outside by myself. I thought that something bad would happen to me."
Francisca / Photo by Julie Nestingen
Francísca lives in rural San Benito, Guatemala. Like many remote areas of Guatemala, San Benito has few resources and those who live there have difficulty accessing affordable eye care services. Visualiza, a long time partner of Seva is working to make eye care more accessible.
With only 2% of the country's ophthalmologists, Visualiza performs over 20% of Guatemala's total cataract surgeries—many of which are provided at low cost or for free, making services affordable for Guatemala's marginalized communities. Seva partners with Visualiza to provide outreach services to communities in need, including vision screening camps and transportation to Visualiza's outreach hospital for follow-up treatment or surgery.
Francísca's high school teacher kept in touch and convinced her to visit one of Visualiza's outreach screening camps to have her eyesight checked. There, she learned that she had a cataract and would require surgery to see clearly again.
With the encouragement of her mother and the outreach workers, Francísca overcame her fear of surgery. Seva donors covered the cost of travel to Visualiza's clinic for her and all of the other patients from the outreach camp who needed follow-up care.
"After the surgery, I could see very well—I could even see things that were far away!" Now twenty-two years old, her self-confidence has improved dramatically in the months since her surgery. She is no longer afraid to leave the house and run errands by herself. This is a great relief to her mother, who says, "Life was so difficult without my daughter's help!"
Francísca's future looks much brighter now that she can see clearly. "Now that my vision is corrected, I plan on returning to school to finish my studies."
You can learn more about Seva's work here, and help them transform more lives with low-cost eye care by donating here.