Dr Andrew Bastawrous, Co-Founder & CEO of Peek Vision and Clinical Lecturer at International Centre for Eye Health, shares a tale of a patient that left an impression
Her skinny arms were pushing people away, while her son Phillip gently tried to calm her so we could examine her. We measured her vision at “perception of light” in both eyes, in other words, she can tell the difference between day and night, nothing more. I eventually get to see her close enough to see she has dense cataracts in both eyes. Mama Philip has been blind for 30 years. She is now 96.
A couple of weeks later, Mama Phillip and thirteen other patients are taken to the hospital for surgery. In the morning, Mama Phillip, who is surprisingly strong for a small, fragile lady in her 90s, is causing mayhem and is not cooperating with the hospital team. Eventually the decision is taken to sedate her and do her surgery as quickly as possible. In the early evening she wakes up, patch over her operated eye. Within minutes, the peace on the ward has vanished and she is kicking and screaming. It is believed that Mama Philip has dementia. However her friends are able to calm her and the night passes.
In the early hours of the morning, after her patch has been removed, she looks years younger, is calm and chatting with fellow patients. She is no longer displaying any signs of dementia. Her surgery has gone well and her sight restored. Later that day she is taken home.
When she arrives at her village, she stares and takes everything in. It is all so familiar, yet different. A man stands in front of her, expectantly.
After what seems like an eternity, she looks intensely and asks, “Phillip, is that you?”. Her son nods and breaks down in tears.
She walks up to him and says, “You look so old, what happened?!”
It is the same with her neighbours and relatives, who she points out and names with the usual, “you look so old”. Before long, most of the village have arrived and break into dance and song.
There are many times when we wonder if we are doing enough with what we have, if we can ever do enough. Then there are moments like this that make it all worthwhile.
We know that millions of people like Mama Phillip remain unnecessarily blind. At Peek Vision, we are committed to making this a thing of the past.
Peek is a team of technologists, eye specialists, public health doctors and product designers who are passionate about making high quality eye care available to everyone.
Peek is a unique smartphone-based system for comprehensive eye testing anywhere in the world. The Peek Vision Foundation is a UK registered charity formed from a collaboration led by the International Centre for Eye Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
Andrew will be holding a live demonstration of Peek at the IAPB Knowledge Pavilion, on 30 October at 10:30 am.
He is also presenting in several courses:
- Course 11: Developing a high-quality glaucoma care service in Africa
- Course 16: Primary eye care and the global action plan
- Course 34: Innovation in Eye Care (One of the two convenors)
- Course 38: Equity and Eye Health