It was excellent to be able to return to Kikori District with an eye surgical outreach in April. Local health provider, Gulf Christian Services (operator of Kapuna and Kikori Hospitals) mobilised patients from a wide area to access the service. Furthermore, the outreach mobilised two POM-based surgeons: Dr Vivek Jairaj (PIH) and Dr Robert Ko (PMGH) on patrol. A total of 65 eye surgeries and 122 ophthalmic consultations were provided during the 2 week remote rural outreach. This far exceeds the average surgical load for these ophthalmologists combined in Port Moresby.
One remarkable story, emerging from among many individual lives transformed, was that of Sonny*, a 16 year old boy who presented to clinic with very poor vision. His vision had begun to deteriorate around age 2 years and had progressively worsened such that he was impaired in his daily activities and had to drop out of school due to not seeing the blackboard. His mother brought him for examination and he was found to have cataract in both eyes (vision score 6/36).
After counselling and consideration with family back in the village overnight, Sonny and his mother returned for surgery the next day aboard the floating day procedure unit on MV YWAM PNG. He tolerated the procedure well and returned home to rest.
The next day, he returned once more for the eye patch to be removed and routine post-op testing. Even at that early stage, his vision was much improved (score 6/9) and Sonny declared he wanted to go back to school.
This is a wonderful example of high-impact use of a mobile surgical facility, engaging with remote communities and mobilising PNG’s own permanent health workforce to take a lead role. The outcome of sight restoration for 65 persons alone during this 2 week voyage will inject a large boost into the local community, not the least through returning Sonny to the classroom.