I Can See Clearly Now – The Fred Hollows Foundation PNG

Posted in Mixed Nuts on April 22nd, 2010 by MadDog
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Ever since I first came to PNG in 1981, I’ve heard of this guy Fred Hollows. When people speak of him their demeanour changes. His very name commands respect. Few pop stars or politicians affect people that way. Nobody’s calling him a Saint yet, but there’s a certain awe that accompanies personalities that have clearly put the needs of their fellow humans at the top of the list of their concerns.

Since this is an upbeat post, let’s start if off with a rather dramatic sunrise panorama:Big storm over the Finisterre Mountains. Mighty fine sight.

Speaking of sight, I guess Fred was a fellow who simply couldn’t stomach the thought that indigenous people and poor folks who had no access to fancy medical care should be kept in the dark. He also seemed incensed at the disparity between the rich and the poor, a subject which is dear to my heart. He devoted much of his too-short life to bringing first-class eye care and surgery to places which had virtually no other services. One estimate is that a million people can now see as a result of his personal work, the training of surgeons and the work of his foundation.

I was amazed when I visited the The Fred Hollows Foundation PNG’s clinic here in Madang. I found out about it from Jade, a friend who regularly dives with us. She and her workmate Kate, also a diver, invited me to have a look. What I found gave me a severe case of the warm and fuzzies.

They have a stunning array of diagnostic equipment. Here you can see Melissa and a student examining the eyes of a patient:Considering this is all going on at the Modilon General Hospital, a place which I usually avoid like the plague, I was all the more impressed.

Here we see Dr. Rob and Adolf checking the eyes of another patient:I was most impressed to see that every piece of equipment was in use; everything worked!

This is Clancy and Gertruth. It takes a lot of skilled people to handle the large number of patients. This is a very impressive operation:Wherever there were no masks, there were smiles. It’s nice to be around people who enjoy their work.

Here we see Kauni working with a student. There were many students, nearly as many as staff, as near as I could tell. I count this as a very good sign:From what I have read of the foundation, training of new workers has always been a given a high priority. In the military, this is a kind of “force multiplier”. It works just as well for humanitarian purposes.

There are people who care about our needs here in PNG. This huge new instrument has recently been donated. I can only guess at its purpose, but it certainly looks impressive and expensive. Notice the large monitor on the column. This allows trainees to observe without getting in the surgeon’s way. I’d bet that an operation can probably be recorded also, so that other students can observe it even if they were not present:The huge expense for this machine was shared among approximately ten large commercial donors. That also impressed me.

And this is what it all comes down to. Here Dr. Matt performs surgery on a patient. It’s amazing to me to think that, as I watched, someone’s eyesight was being restored:There’s just not much more to be said about this.

I had my eyes opened today.

I feel like Paul.