Ralph Dingul is a jack-of-all-trades. The 59-year-old from Roper River, Northern Territory, has had a varied career working as a boxer, a builder, and a court interpreter. But he has one enduring trait:
“They call me The Rubber Man”, Ralph said. “Whenever I get knocked down, I get back up again.”
Ralph’s latest knock-down is cataract in his right eye.
The condition was diagnosed during an eye check conducted by Wurli-Wurlinjang Aboriginal Health Service in Katherine, Northern Territory, a partner of The Fred Hollows Foundation.
Ralph refers to his right eye as his ‘other’ eye because when you look at Ralph and see the thick scarring in his left eye—the result of a kick to the face five years ago—it is obvious that he has no vision there.
If the cataract in Ralph’s right eye remains untreated, he will soon have no vision at all.
Ralph was advised to attend an ‘intensive’ surgery day in Darwin facilitated and funded by The Fred Hollows Foundation.
Enrolled Nurse Marie Eckel checks Ralph’s temperature, blood pressure and blood/sugar levels prior to surgery.
The intensive surgery days are a collaborative approach to eye health involving several health agencies where groups of patients from regional and remote areas are brought to Darwin to receive surgery.
Four intensive surgery days have now been conducted over the past few months with 48 Indigenous patients from Katherine and surrounding areas receiving sight-saving surgery.
Wurli-Wurlinjang Aboriginal Health Practitioner, Vayda Menmuir, enjoys a light-hearted moment with Ralph as they go through some paperwork before surgery. Vayda accompanied many patients into theatre and stayed with them as a comfort throughout the procedure. The Aboriginal Health Practitioner role is funded by The Fred Hollows Foundation.
“I feel anxious,” Ralph said as he sat in the hospital waiting room watching others going in for their surgery.
“But when you get knocked down, you get up again,” he said, true to his nick-name.
That’s what it means to be a man, you can’t stay down, you’ve got to get back up.
- Ralph Dingul
Ralph’s surgery was a success but it came with an added bonus: during a post-operative check the day after surgery, ophthalmic surgeon Dr Nishantha, took the opportunity to examine Ralph’s previously injured eye.
“I think I can fix that.” While conducting a post-op check on Ralph’s right eye, Dr Nishantha (right) took the opportunity to examine Ralph’s injured left eye. He concluded that there was a strong likelihood that he could repair the damage. Dr Nishantha discusses the situation with Ralph and Wurli-Wurlinjang optometrist, Dean Milner.
“I think I can fix that,” he said calling in Dean Milner, the optometrist from Wurli-Wurlinjang who had accompanied the Katherine patients to Darwin.
Over further examination and consultation, the pair explained to Ralph that there was a good chance the damage could be repaired and that he would see again from his left eye.
“I would really appreciate that,” a surprised Ralph said.
For a man who had no vision in one eye, and deteriorating vision in the other, Ralph Dingul – boxer, builder, court interpreter – from Roper, Northern Territory, may well end up with good vision in both.