Wednesday, 31 Jul 2019
Author: Mariska Meldrum
I was born with a congenital cataract in my right eye. Since I was a baby, my vision was so bad that I couldn’t see my hand held five centimetres in front of my right eye. I saw the whole world through my left eye.
Having a cataract affects your depth perception. The other kids at school called me ‘butterfingers’ as I struggled to catch a ball. Often I’d drop the ball or get hit in the face, which meant I was always last to be picked for team sports.
When I was young my parents were told not to let anyone remove my cataract because there was a risk of losing sight in my good eye – leaving me blind. For 33 years I was told that, until eventually my cataract did what doctors call ‘mature’. It turned white and my eyes weren’t straight anymore.
I became very self-conscious about how I looked so I went to see a specialist. He told me he could do the operation to remove the cataract but because it was so bad, there were risks involved.
My church and my family said to me, ‘We’re going to pray for you that your sight is restored through this operation.’ But I said to them, ‘Don’t worry about it… the doctors have told me there is no chance of getting my sight back through the surgery.’
The day after the surgery, my husband drove me to the hospital to have the eye patch taken off. He said, ‘Do you want me to come in with you?’ I said, ‘No – they’re just going to take the patch off. I won’t be able to see, so there’s no point you being there.’
When the surgeon took the patch off, light flooded my right eye. I put my hand over my left eye to double check and said to the surgeon, ‘I can see.’ He said, ‘That’s not possible.’ But he checked – and sure enough I could see.
It’s a very strange sensation to go from darkness to being able to see everything around you. It really is a Miracle.
A few years after my own Miracle, I joined the team at CBM. In the past two years, I’ve witnessed dozens of people in The Philippines, Vietnam and Nepal have cataract surgery.
My condition was picked up when I was four years old and I was monitored throughout my life. But in countries like Nepal, children’s eyes aren’t routinely checked and conditions like cataracts can go untreated for a long time.
It wasn’t until I joined CBM that I found out that 80% of all blindness in the world could be avoided or cured. That’s 8 out of 10 people who are blind who don’t need to be.
When I was in Nepal earlier this year, I met people who had been blind for many years, not realising that a simple operation could restore their sight. It hit me hard to realise that for many of them, even once they found out what was wrong, the cost of the surgery was out of reach.
As a mum of three young children, I’ll never forget meeting nine-year-old Yangsang in Nepal. He was just a year older than my son. When we arrived at his home, we discovered that not only did he have cataracts, but his mother and cousin also needed surgery.
I’ve been working with CBM for two years, running Miracles Day in partnership with Christian radio stations across Australia. Having had issues with my own eyesight, I really feel that God has called me to this work. That I can identify in some way with people living with cataracts in the world’s poorest countries.
Miracles Day gives Australians the opportunity to give someone the Miracle gift of sight, with a 12-minute operation costing just $33.