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Sarah Returns To Cambodia To Help More People

Sure Optical - Monday, November 20, 2017

I was lucky enough to return to Cambodia this year to do more volunteer work as an optometrist with Cambodia Vision. We were in the same location as last year, Pursat Provincial Hospital. This meant that I was able to hit the ground running as I knew the layout of the hospital and the patient flow.  In the team there were some familiar faces from last year, and some new faces. I was amazed at how passionate everyone was; this enthusiasm definitely helped to carry me through when I felt the exhaustion kicking in (so did the extremely strong Cambodian coffee!).

I was very excited to have the same translator, Siv Naseth, who I worked with last year. There was no way that I could have done my job without him and he worked the twelve hour days alongside me, with a smile on his face. I was honoured to be asked by Siv to test his Grandfather’s eyes and I was able to provide him with a pair of glasses to improve his vision; the smile on his face was priceless.  

This year we saw over 3600 patients, ranging from babies to the very elderly. For every patient that I saw, I really wanted to do something to improve their quality of life:  this ranged from offering them cataract surgery, glasses or just reassurance that their eyes were healthy.

There were some very sad cases where not much could be done to improve vision. However, even in those cases, being able to provide a pair of sunglasses or lubricating eye drops could improve comfort for these people.   For the majority of patients we were able to make a significant improvement to their vision.

It was great to see some patients who had cataract surgery done with us last year, return this year to get the second eye done.

It was an invaluable learning experience that will benefit my patients back in Australia. We always had an ophthalmologist on hand to help out with the more tricky ocular pathology. I was involved in some fascinating cases and saw things that I had only previously seen in text books.

One of the benefits of returning for a second time was that last year I was largely caught up in the whirlwind and the sheer volume of patients that I was seeing each day. This year I was mindful to take a moment to reflect and make sure that I was focused on the patient in front of me. When you are seeing hundreds of people a day, it is easy to let each person become a number. I wanted each interaction with the individual patient to be a positive experience for them, and to make the hours that they had to wait worth it. 

Cambodia will always have a special place in my heart. I can’t wait until my next opportunity to return and help preserve and protect the vision of its people.


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