Dr Zongfa Wang is a happy man. Several years ago, thanks to The Foundation, the 33-year-old learnt how to do cataract surgery at Mianning County Hospital, Southwest China. We talked to him about what it’s like to help the blind see.
How did The Foundation help you?
When I first started working here, I could only treat problems like small wounds. I could tell if my patients had cataracts but then they would have to wait for the cataract surgical team from a large city which visits once a year, or go to a hospital a day’s travel away. It was so frustrating. I was longing to help more people. Then three years ago, I spent two weeks being trained in cataract surgery by a Fred Hollows Foundation surgeon. It was just wonderful because now I can remove cataracts and help people see. I also arrange for outreach teams to screen patients in remote villages.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I feel very happy when cured patients recognise me and say hello to me in the street. I love the fact that when my little daughter starts asking what I do for a living, I can tell her that I help people see. A patient I operated on recently gave me a card, which I have pinned up on my wall. It reads, “Skillful hands bring back Spring of Brightness.” That makes me very proud.
What are some of the benefits that flow from cataract surgery?
A cured patient helps the whole family, because it means someone – usually a young woman – doesn’t have to look after them anymore, and is free to return to school or work. Often it is simple things, like the patient being able to walk by themselves that makes their life so much better. For people in their 40s it means they can get a job and improve their family’s finances.
What was one of the turning points for you?
I vividly remember the medical team coming for a week to perform about 100 cataract surgeries, but there were about 200 people who needed help. I remember the terrible disappointment many of them felt who missed out. I wanted so much to learn how to do cataract surgery, so that blind patients weren’t left untreated. It made me so sad that they did not have access to such a basic service.
Do you still think about some of the patients you have seen?
I remember there was a grandmother who arrived at the hospital on her son’s back. She’d arrived on the back of an open truck in the middle of winter. After the surgery she walked up to me and said, "Thank you so much, Dr Wang". I always remember the ones who come in all stooped over with a walking stick and walk out by themselves looking taller. That’s a wonderful feeling.