Part of the Medical Mercy Canada team was holding a free clinic in the Mizoram Medical Mercy Centre in Zokhawthar, a small village right on the India-Burma border. A mother brought in her son because he was always complaining of abdominal pain. Through our interpreter, I took a quick history, then examined him, but could find nothing specifically wrong with him to account for his abdominal discomfort. So first I ordered the usual dose of de-worming medicine that we give nearly all children and many adults, and some children’s multivitamin tablets for 3 weeks. Then I sat there, and looked at him and his mother, seeing the fear and despair in their faces.
His abdomen was fine but his right eye was missing! It had been accidentally poked out with a stick during childhood play at the age of three. There was a little bit of pus in the empty socket where muscles twitched whenever he moved his remaining left eye. His parents had taken their son to Aizawl, the nearest centre that could help him. The cost of the examination plus a new artificial eye was about $100 CAD. Like most of these people, this family was exceedingly poor and barely had enough to eat let alone spend $100 on a glass eye for their son. As I was getting this story the mother added that the other children were making fun of him because his right eye was missing. He was becoming very withdrawn, afraid and depressed.
A decision was made to not let this boy go through life the way he was. We explained to his mother that we would take her son back with the team to Aizawl. We would arrange and pay for their transportation and accommodation. Then a visit to the eye doctor and purchase of an appropriate glass eye would be arranged and paid for by Medical Mercy Canada. Suddenly the fear in their eyes was gone, replaced by a look of uncertainty. Had they heard this hopeful news from the interpreter correctly, or was it all just a hoax, a dream, a misunderstanding?
The boy and his mother went with us, public transport, to Aizawl, a six hour ride in an old, crowded van type of vehicle called a Sumo. They stayed in a safe, warm, clean home and had plenty to eat for three days, all provided courtesy of MMC’s local project manager. A warm bath and new clothes were provided for him. He had never received such attention before, and from such people he had never seen before: big, white, mostly gentle except for one big, gruff guy (that’s me).
The eye doctor saw this boy. Upon being told the story of Medical Mercy Canada bringing this boy to him at their own cost, the eye doctor waived his fee and charged only for his cost of the glass eye – 100 Indian Rupees ($2.85 CAD) He donated his time and gave up any profit on the sale of the glass eye. He said that he was very happy to work with the Medical Mercy Canada team to help this boy.
By now, this boy was totally changed, no longer afraid but happy, talking, smiling, wanting to interact and play with us. I had a new, little friend, whom I hope we will see again every year that we return to Zokhawthar, for as long as we are able. And when he grows up and requires a larger glass eye, Medical Mercy Canada will be there to help him and his family.