Trinh, strabismus patient from Vietnam, wearing a pink shirt

Patient stories: treating Trinh, Vietnam, for strabismus

October 2018

Trinh used to have a severe case of strabismus, which affected her vision. She was operated on at the Flying Eye Hospital, and the operation was a complete success. Looking at her now, you would never know that she had undergone surgery on both eyes.

Like most teenagers, Trinh, 15, finds it more interesting to talk about her friends than her eyesight. She has a friend who helps her with maths, a friend she walks to school with, and another whose house she goes to to study and hang out.

We are sitting in Trinh’s small room, painted blue, in the home she shares with her sister, parents and grandmother. Her family are farmers, and they raise chickens and cows, as well as growing fruit and vegetables like papaya and prickly pear.

Trinh quite likes helping her family, especially cooking. She helps prepare the vegetables and chop the meat. She's good at it – she and her mother make us lunch while we're there, and it’s delicious.

It’s clear Trinh enjoys her studies, particularly maths and literature, but school wasn’t always easy for her.

Strabismus patient Trinh with her family, Vietnam

Trinh with her family

Trinh used to have a severe case of strabismus, which affected her vision. When she was younger, and on her way to school, she was knocked off her bike by a truck. It didn’t stop, and she was found unconscious in the street. She was in a coma for several weeks. When she woke up, she says: “My vision was poor. I could barely see.”

School was a struggle. Not only was she unable to see the board, and had to write notes from her friend’s book, but she was teased by her classmates. “They mocked me about my crossed-eyes and called me all sorts of names,” she explains.

“I couldn’t see clearly, and rarely communicated outside. When I talked to someone and looked at them, they thought that I was looking at someone else, so they refused to answer me.”

Trinh used to enjoy school, but the teasing was difficult, and she was frustrated that she couldn’t participate fully. Her teacher had to take her to school, and at home, her parents wouldn’t allow her to help with the housework.

In addition to the social difficulty of having strabismus, the condition could have had serious medical implications. If Trinh hadn’t received treatment, it would have irreversibly damaged her sight – and may have even left her blind.

Orbis strabismus patient Trinh cooking, Vietnam

Trinh helping with the cooking

After her accident, a doctor spotted her condition. Luckily, the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital was due to visit Binh Dinh province, where Trinh and her family live. Her parents took her to the screening day, and Trinh was selected to have surgery that week.

Trinh says: “I was really happy, my friends joked and said ‘you’re getting pretty eyes now! Nobody will call you cross-eyes anymore!’”

Despite her happiness, she was apprehensive about the surgery, partly as she had never been on a plane before. But she says that the doctors and nurses soon put her at ease, and she shows us the teddy bear that she was given during her stay there.

Strabismus patient Trinh, Vietnam, in her school uniform

Trinh ready for school

There was no need for Trinh to be nervous – the operation was a complete success. Looking at her now, you would never know that she had undergone surgery on both eyes.

Now Trinh has no trouble seeing the board, visiting her friends and helping at home. She says: “I feel that my eyes are working normally and my classmates are no longer teasing me. Books, notebooks and the board are also clearer. I don’t feel frustrated any more.”

It's clear Trinh is keen to head back to school and see her friends. But she makes sure to tell us one more thing: “I feel really happy.” Surely, that’s the most important thing.

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