Patient stories: treating Shunwen, China, for glaucoma | Orbis
Chinese paediatric glaucoma patient Shunwen, in a pink dress

Patient stories: treating Shunwen, China, for glaucoma

Sporting a pink sweater and holding the hand of her guardian, seven-year-old Shunwen Wang smiles when spoken to and easily breaks into giggles.

She exhibits the hallmark signs of having limited or distorted vision: eyes not responding to motion, yet darting erratically to track the location of sounds and voices in her immediate vicinity.

In April 2014 at the Shandong Red Cross Eye Hospital, Shunwen was chosen as a teaching case in the glaucoma clinic as part of the Orbis programme in Jinan, China. With advanced stage glaucoma, she was in immediate need of surgery.

A veteran Orbis volunteer member, Dr. James Brandt of UC Davis, demonstrated to trainees in Jinan two different approaches to relieve Shunwen’s eyes from further damage: a Baervelt drainage device and an Ahmed valve implant. Post-operative care for these procedures is relatively simple for patients to manage compared to a trabeculectomy, the standard surgical treatment for glaucoma in developing countries.

Chinese paediatric glaucoma patient Shunwen receiving an eye scan from a doctor

Shunwen is an orphaned child, but if her biological parents did have glaucoma, it is very likely that they would be completely blind, said Dr. Brandt. The burden is especially high if one or more elder member of the family is blind or visually challenged as well.

Paediatric glaucoma is a needlessly blinding disease. There are effective operations, but the condition is not well managed in the developing world where most of these children live.

Dr. James Brandt

Volunteer Faculty

Unfortunately for Shunwen, Dr. Brandt and his team discovered during the procedures that her optic nerves, critical for sight, were nearly wiped out. Because of this, the long-term prognosis for retaining the vision she has is very poor.

“[But] without us having done this surgery, she would soon be completely blind,” said Dr. Brandt. “This operation [will allow her to] retain what she has now for maybe a decade or more. And maybe we'll have better treatments in 10 years time.”

Thanks to your support, Shunwen has hope for a brighter future. 

Every minute a child waits for treatment means they are more likely to be blind for life. Give the gift of sight today

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