Excitement ran high as the surgeons aboard the YWAM Medical Ship prepped Ella Waibala for her cataract surgery. Not only would the procedure offer Ella improved vision, it would also mark a significant event for the YWAM Medical Ships ophthalmology clinic: its 1,000th eye surgery.
In collaboration with national and provincial health authorities, YWAM Medical Ships have been providing ophthalmic services to remote communities in Papua New Guinea since 2010.
YWAM Medical Ships Managing Director, Mr Ken Mulligan, said the 1,000 surgeries represent more than just procedures, it represents the transformation of many lives in very remote communities who otherwise could have been blind for the rest of their lives.
“The surgeries are transformative for not only the individuals, but also their families and communities. It is very special to see someone walk into the clinic blind, then leave the next day with their sight restored.
“The achievement of this meaningful milestone is the result of many volunteers, generous donors, and dedicated leaders giving their time and resources to make this a reality.
“It has been our absolute privilege to be a part of each of our patients’ stories, we look forward to many more,” said Mr Mulligan.
The stories of renewed sight stretch along many coastal communities: 27-year-old Makasi seeing her young children for the first time, six-year-old Mandy slowly taking in her family’s faces after three years of blindness, and 17-year-old Bray returning to school after his vision faded away at age 14.
Other patients are excited to read, rejoin in their family’s daily routines, or see the mountains and trees of their village.
President of the PNG National Prevention of Blindness Committee, Dr Jambi Garap, said that YWAM Medical Ships has been a valuable member of the Prevention of Blindness Committee for a number of years.
“YWAM Medical Ships has played a vital role in providing remote communities with access to ophthalmic services.
“This achievement contributes toward our shared goal of alleviating preventable blindness in PNG – it is a wonderful time to celebrate in the lead up to World Sight Day next week, and our national cataract campaign due to start next month,” said Dr Garap.
The MV YWAM PNG is currently at Woodlark Island as part of the team’s two-week deployment to Milne Bay Province in collaboration with the Milne Bay Provincial Health Authority. In addition to providing eye care, the team is delivering immunisations, maternal health services, TB screening, dentistry procedures, health education, and training and support for local health workers.
Caption for feature photo: YWAM Medical Ships volunteer ophthalmologist, Dr Keith Maslin, YWAM’s 1000th patient, Ella Waibala, and Alotau Hospital Scrub Nurse, Alice Eroro.