Papua New Guinea is known as the Land of the Unexpected, for one grandmother, that unpredictability turned out to be an excellent thing.
Igabi Cadio travelled from her village in Parama to Daru with her daughter, Lucy. A keen footy fan, Lucy was hoping to watch the local rugby tournament, but Igabi was just there for the atmosphere. She’d been blind for more than a year and wouldn’t be able to see any of the on-field action.
When the pair arrived in Daru, Lucy saw a notice pinned to the wall at the supermarket. YWAM Medical Ships were looking for patients to see if they were eligible for eye surgery. Papua New Guinean Ophthalmologist, Dr Wahamu, was able to board the ship a day earlier than expected, and he was keen to see patients and operate if possible.
Lucy was happy to change her plans if there was any chance that her mum would be able to see again. “I wanted to watch the rugby, but I brought her here instead to get her eyes fixed”.
Daily life wasn’t easy for Igabi or for Lucy who mainly cared for her mother. “At night time we lead her by the hand because she can’t see anything. We give her a bucket so she can have a bath.”
Before she became blind, Igabi spent her time gardening, gathering firewood and fishing. In a country where daily life can be quite a challenge, being blind makes it difficult to have any independence. Igabi was keen to be able to do things for herself once again. “I just want my eyes to come back.” She said.
After being assessed, Dr Wahamu and his team operated on Igabi on Friday afternoon and inserted a new lens. Lucy sat beside her throughout the operation, and afterwards with the help of the deckhands, led her mother back to the boat to be ferried back to shore.
Early Saturday morning, Lucy and Igabi were back on the ship, ready to have the eye patch removed. Igabi had slept well and hadn’t experienced any pain. The ophthalmology team gathered around her in anticipation, holding their collective breath as Igabi’s eye was revealed.
Her massive smile said it all. “Oh Lucy! These are the people who made my eyes well!” Igabi and Lucy’s tears of joy were infectious.
Few things in life can be more touching than seeing a blind person see again. It’s a bit like being present at a birth. Suddenly a whole new world opens up and they’re a part of things that weren’t previously available to them.
That morning, Igabi made her own way back down the steps to the boat that would take her back to shore. What were they planning to do now? “It’s Grand Final day,” grinned Lucy. “We’re going to go now and watch the football!”