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Despite the odds, TIMA eye doctors fight for kids' right to see

October 09, 2018 | Jonas Trinidad

TIMA ophthalmologist Catherine Macaraig carefully deals with the thick cataract impeding John Evan Doliente's right eye. The surgery on September 15 at Cardinal Santos Medical Center was a success but soon realized that John Evan's retina had totally detached. 【Photo by Dr. Catherine Macaraig】

Story Highlights

  • Two eye patients from Bohol, Kristoff Jade Tatad and John Evan Doliente, were in a race to save their eyes from being blinded for good. Despite the chances of restoring their vision in full low, Tzu Chi set them up for two separate cataract surgeries.

  • Even with a little bit of vision restored, every struggle by TIMA ophthalmologists is worth taking to help patients build their futures.


John Evan Doliente underwent cataract surgery on September 15 at Cardinal Santos Medical Center (CSMC). His mother, Evangeline, had longed for the day six-year-old John Evan would be able to see with both eyes again. She was confident, as a successful cataract surgery four years ago had restored vision to his left eye.

Under the care of Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) ophthalmologist Catherine Macaraig, he had the cataract on his right eye removed. This cataract came two years after the one on his left had been treated, prompting Evangeline to seek help right away.

A week after the operation, Evangeline began to wonder why his son still has difficulty seeing. It wasn’t as much as before undergoing surgery, yet still a cause for concern. Upon consultation by TIMA ophthalmologist Carlo Nasol, Evangeline learned that her son’s retina on his right eye has come off.

“My son has a retinal detachment, which we should have treated since he was three years of age. Now, the chances of his eyesight being fully restored are very minimal,” she said.

As of this moment, the race is on to save John Evan’s left eye via laser. Despite the prognosis, the mother remains hopeful that her son’s vision normalizes by some miracle. Evangeline was still thankful to TIMA doctors for doing everything they could for her son’s sake.

“I’m truly grateful to the doctors who helped and did everything to help my son see again,” she added.

Half a month later, on October 3, five-year-old Kristoff Jade Tatad underwent surgery at CSMC, also under Macaraig. This was also a race against time, as children with cataract could develop lazy eyes the longer it persists. Divorced by her husband, Kristoff’s mother Geraldine is the only one who can take care of him.

Geraldine fell silent when the doctor told her that Kristoff’s surgery would cost Php87,000. Her job at the municipal hall of Loboc, Bohol only makes enough for the family’s basic needs. Since telling her ex-husband about Kristoff’s condition, she hasn’t received a reply.

It was then a friend referred Geraldine to Tzu Chi, who stumbled upon Kristoff’s case during a medical mission in Batuan, Bohol.

“I have always prayed that someone will come who would help us because I’m a single mom and can’t pay for the operation. So I thank Tzu Chi for all their help,” said Geraldine.

Macaraig believes that, even with a low chance of eyesight being restored in full, cases like Doliente are still worth treating. She wants to restore as much vision as possible to her patients for them to have a chance at building their future lives.

“As long as there is a way, we will fight to give more vision. If we help and give them better vision than before, it is still worth the fight,” said Macaraig.

  • Kristoff Jade Tatad and John Evan Doliente (left and right, respectively) show apparent lazy eyes caused by their cataracts. Among children, the longer the cataract persists, the more they'll lose their eyesight as they grow older. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • While John Evan awaits his big day, his mother Evangeline tries to earn money making floor mats. Many miles from their normal lives in Bohol, Evangeline does what she can to help them get by. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Lunch time comes for the tenants of the transient house in Quezon City. Kristoff is fed his share of vegetable stew with the rest of his fellow cataract patients. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • From left to right: TIMA ophthalmologist Catherine Macaraig, cataract patient John Evan Doliente, and his mother Evangeline. Lazy eyes is becoming apparent in John Evan's eyes, prompting an immediate surgery. 【Photo taken by a Tzu Chi Volunteer】

  • TIMA anesthesiologist Larry King administers anesthesia to Kristoff before his eye operation on October 3. King had to ease Kristoff's fears first by showing him the inhaling bag as a distraction. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Cautious about retinal detachment, Macaraig checks Kristoff's good eye for any such signs. Fortunately, Kristoff is released with a clearer view of the world. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】


  • 20181114 Bohol eye patients Kristoff Jade Tatad and John Evan Doliente

  • LAST UPDATED: November 15, 2018 14:11 PM