Shaira Ismail tells her story of volunteering with Cambodia Vision during October to deliver medical care, spectacles, cataract surgery and hearing aids.
As a first time attendee on the Cambodia Vision mission, I had no idea of what to expect… except challenging conditions with long days, heat and lots of mozzies. What I found was the most rewarding experience of my life; wonderfully resilient and happy locals; and friends that I want to retain for life.
Cambodia Vision’s 2017 mission took place in Pursat Province, a small regional town about 200km from Phnom Penh. Our work started from the moment we landed at the KM Hotel in Pursat. A quick change into our work outfits, and we were off to the hospital for final preparations. The setup crew had done a wonderful job cleaning rooms and setting up all the equipment, patient waiting areas and surgical theatres before we arrived.
Over six days, we registered approximately 3,600 patients, provided medical care to 2,400, conducted 397 cataract surgeries, issued 502 spectacles
As a non-medical professional, I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to contribute much to the mission in comparison to the wonderful doctors, surgeons, nurses, optometrists and speech pathologists, but there was plenty to do to support their work.
My designated role was as support staff, particularly crowd control, however, as I was to discover, you just help out wherever there is a need. Consequently, I did everything from preparing surgical forms and updating the patient database (having gone partially digital three years ago), to doing preliminary eye tests and preparing a post-trip report on our performance.
We also had the support of local medical students from universities across Phnom Penh and a host of local high school students, without whose translating prowess, we would have struggled to serve as many patients as we did. Their quiet, no-fuss and hard-working work ethic was impressive (although they were not without the typical teen traits of photographing – or more correctly, selfie’ing and Facebook tagging their entire experience.
The patients showed such resilience. Some waited for up to six hours to be seen by a medical professional because urgent cases, the elderly, and the very young were always prioritised. With very limited Khmer, a smile and the occasional hug, along with random signing skills served me well as a universal language.
Over six days, we registered approximately 3,600 patients, provided medical care to 2,400, conducted 397 cataract surgeries, issued 502 spectacles, and provided 692 hearing aids. Impressive stats for such a short period of time, which would not have been achievable without the core Cambodia Vision team’s meticulous organisation and project management.
This was the most amazing experience of my life and it will not be the last time I attend a mission with Cambodia Vision.