Ma. Dalia Geronimo, 67, walks slowly as her grandson, 5-year-old Ashley, holds her hand, guiding her forward. Among the crowd of patients during Tzu Chi Foundation’s 227th medical mission on September 24, grandmother and grandson made their way to the Ophthalmology Department, hoping to find cure for Dalia’s condition.
It was in early 2017 when Dalia noticed her vision was going blurry.
Nowadays her vision has become so cloudy that walking is already a challenge. Several times, she got into accidents. A few days ago, she was hit by a motorcycle and her leg got stuck. She still limps because of it.
Unable to work, Dalia and her grandson resorted to asking for alms.
“Sometimes, I am able to earn when someone with a sprain comes to me and I offer them massage. Then, people will give us alms – that’s how we have been able to survive the day lately,” shares Dalia.
This was a far-cry from the strong and abled Dalia who raised her only daughter alone. Dalia’s husband passed away after she gave birth.
When Ashley’s father abandoned him, Dalia and her daughter worked together to raise the boy. But in March 2017, Ashley’s mother passed away after a year of battling breast cancer.
After that, Ashley had no one left but Dalia. But as her vision deteriorates with each passing day, Dalia is gripped with worry for her grandson.
Right now, Dalia’s only wish is to see clearly again. “If my eyes get better, I will be able to support my grandson by working. I was able to raise his mother and him from scavenging before. I can do it again once I regain my vision,” she says.
After a consultation with a Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) ophthalmologist, Dalia found out she has cataracts on both eyes. The ophthalmologist told her she needed to undergo a surgery.
Dalia was initially worried. “I don’t have the money for that,” she told the doctor.
“Tzu Chi will take care of the expenses,” the doctor assured her.
Hearing this, Dalia grew emotional. “I thank God that although I have lost my vision, there are people who are willing to help me get it back,” she said.
She went home that day carrying a seed of hope in her heart.
Marlita Estela’s fears were also allayed after a consultation with a TIMA ophthalmologist.
Her one-year-and-six-month old son, Brenly, has a noticeable white spot on his left eye. For more than a year, Marlita has been worried about the possibilities – one of which is that her son would go blind.
“As a parent, I wanted him to grow up normally. I wanted him to experience and see the world,” said Marlita.
When the TIMA doctor informed Marlita that her son’s condition could be a case of cataract but that his retina still needs to be checked, she sighed in relief.
“If he is able to undergo the surgery, then the thing on his eye would be cured. It will be a big help to him because he will be able to live normally,” she said.
While the mission, held at the Pedro Guevarra Elementary School, only offered free consultations and provided reading glasses to the patients, Tzu Chi’s commitment to serve the said patients continues until they get better. This is done through sponsoring the patients’ needed surgeries. TIMA ophthalmologists will conduct the operations for free.
Dr. Patricia Lee, an ophthalmologist from the Cardinal Santos Medical Center (CSMC) in San Juan City, volunteers for her third medical mission with Tzu Chi.
Having joined different free clinics in the past, Dr. Lee says what sets Tzu Chi’s medical missions apart is the endless care for the patients.
“This isn’t just a mission wherein the doctors go to the community and leave afterwards,” said Dr. Lee. “Here in Tzu Chi, there is a continuity. Doctors return to check on the patients, to care for them, and to understand how they ended up with their condition. That’s what I really liked best.”
The mission on September 24 served 1, 396 patients. 413 of these patients were catered at the Ophthalmology Department.
Patients undergo initial test to determine their visual acuity.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Patients who need reading glasses immediately received them at the medical mission. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Volunteer ophthalmologists provide free consultations to patients suffering from different eye problems during the mission. The Ophthalmology Department served a total 413 patients.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Patients wait for their turn to be seen by volunteer ophthalmologists. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
5-year-old Ashley guides his grandmother, 67-year-old Ma. Dalia Geronimo as they walk. Dalia has cataracts on both eyes which made walking a challenge.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Ma. Dalia Geronimo undergoes visual acuity test. Because of the cataracts on both of her eyes, she can barely see and read. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Ma. Dalia Geronimo sits for a consultation with a Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) ophthalmologist.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Grateful to hear about Tzu Chi helping with her needed cataract surgery and the kindness shown by the volunteer doctors, nurses, and Tzu Chi volunteers, Ma. Dalia Geronimo expresses her happiness as she embraces a Tzu Chi volunteer. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Dr. Patricia Lee, an ophthalmologist from the Cardinal Santos Medical Center (CSMC) in San Juan City, appreciates the love and care philosophy that is deeply ingrained in Tzu Chi’s medical missions.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
A volunteer ophthalmologist explains to a patient the latter’s condition. To provide complete service to the patients, Tzu Chi brought necessary equipment for the consultations.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Children who suffer from different eye problems troop to the Ophthalmology Department for consultation. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】