Little Inga Beero is a 4-month-old boy from Christmas Island who was born with a facial cleft. He requires surgical correction as soon as possible to preserve the vision in his left eye and to establish a more normal facial appearance. We need to make arrangements to bring him to the U.S. for surgery. Doctors estimate that he will need to be in the U.S. for about eight weeks. Here, Beero’s mother holds him while waiting to be seen at the little hospital on Christmas Island.
(In her own words, Ms. Annie Hiller of Project Vision in Hawaii writes of the great work done to restore the sight of Mikaere Baraniko from Christsmas Island in Kiribati. We at PIMA are eternally grateful for their efforts)
John Corboy, M.D. and founder of the Hawaiian Eye Foundation called me one morning and asked if PROJECT VISION HAWAII had ever brought a patient from a foreign land to coordinate a necessary surgery. I said “No,” and he said, “Well.. here is your opportunity”.
We were quickly connected with SEE International and Pacific Medical Aid then set to work. The case was accepted by Dr. Karl Waite of the Retina Institute of Hawaii. With the thorough records that were sent by the Pacific Eye Canter in Fiji Dr. Waite confirmed that this patient was in dire need of surgery to regain his vision. Having coordinated surgery at the Retina Institute of Hawaii in the past, I had an understanding of the necessary components, i.e. an anesthesiologist, supplies, a facility ect., but had no idea who I would approach for such needs. Debbie Shimabukuro, R.N. and chief admin at Retina Institute of Hawaii stepped up to the plate and lead the way. She had done this before and was critical to obtaining supplies, coordinating with the facility, and rounding up the docs. Neil Tanaka from Alcon was very generous with the supplies for surgery, Rosie Ruiz- Hernandez, R.N. of Surgicare opened hers doors for use of their state-of the art facility and Dr. Carson and Dr. Riveral Offered to provide anesthesiology. Once all the ducks were in line and we were ready to receive the patient, we contacted Pacific Medical Aid who graciously arranged Mikaere’s travel and accommodations in Hawaii.
When Mikaere first arrived he was very quiet. He was very grateful, but there was a sort of sadness about him. I met him at the Retina Institute of Hawaii for his first appointment with a warm Hawaiian greeting of a pretty lei. Dr. Waite evaluated him and was very impressed by how accurate the records from Fiji were. The doctors were confident they could improve Mikaere’s Vision and proceeded with the necessary treatments to prepare both of his eyes for surgery.
Surgery day was an exciting day for Mikaere. When I met him for pre-op he was ready and raring for his procedure. Part of this positive attitude can of course be attributed to the kind-hearted staff at Surgicare, as everyone was very warm and welcoming to him. The other part of this positivity was within him. I admired Mikaere’s bravery on this day and he came out of the procedure immediately seeing better! You could tell that something about Mikaere had changed because he became much more happy and outgoing after the surgery.
The second surgery was also a success and before we knew it, it was time for Mikaere and his lovely wife to go back to their home on Christmas Island. Rei Rei, his cousin, offered to take us to the Polynesian Cultural Center to thank us for helping his uncle regain his vision. Anovale Semisi, who had worked very closely with Mikaere and I gladly accepted this generous invitation. That night we were able to learn a lot about this very interesting man who we had helped bring regain sight. He told me of his duties as a senator for Christmas Island and his prior work with the World Bank. He is a well-traveled and cultured man who lives in a beautiful far away land with limited medical resources. He told me that before the surgery, when he had initially lost his vision, he felt like a sick man, and he would stay indoors avoiding contact with his people. He stated that he was excited to come home and to greet his people, once again, as a healthy man. He was so grateful that with these many helping hands, he was brought better vision. Mahalo to All who helped this very special person. It has been an honor to be part of this project and we look forward to more collaboration for the future.