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Ismail’s story is a sad one. He comes from a village buried deep in poverty. Born with cerebral palsy and cataracts in both eyes which have left him completely blind, eight-month-old Ismail doesn’t receive the ongoing care he badly needs.

I met Ismail last summer when our team visited Durgapur Village, Bangladesh. He lives in a one-roomed hut with his two-year-old brother Ibrahim, mother Monni and father Delowar Hossain.

When I met the family, it was plain to see that Ismail and his big brother Ibrahim hadn’t eaten a proper meal in a very long time. Despite this, something as minor as a stroke of Ismail’s cheek brought such a big smile to his face that I couldn’t help but forget all initial politeness and squeeze him immediately!

The day I visited was a hard one for Ismail’s mother Monni – as it would be for any mother whose baby was about to undergo surgery. It was all too familiar for her, as her eldest son Ibrahim had the same eye problems when he was a baby. As much as it was a comfort knowing how successful the operation could be, no parent wants to relive the moment their child was wheeled away down a hospital corridor on an operating table.

We were giving Monni and Ismail a lift to the hospital. One of the main reasons people have to live with blindness in developing countries is the lack of affordable medical care. The costs associated with having an operation – travelling to the hospital (which can often be very far away), taking time off work to be with your child, aftercare – quickly stack up.

 

Looking frightened and tired, carrying Ismail in one arm and a carrier bag with his belongings in the other, Monni stepped into our van. As she took her seat she broke down in tears. I didn’t know what to do – what could I say to comfort a mother whose son is about to go under anaesthetic? Not much. All I had to offer was a hug.

While Ismail was in surgery Monni couldn’t sit down. Even when a meal was offered to her (and it had probably been a while since she last ate properly) she couldn’t bring herself to eat. After what seemed like an eternity Ismail was out of surgery and Monni could breathe again. But seeing her little boy in bandages, looking so small and helpless in the big hospital bed brought Monni to tears. It had been an exhausting day for everyone.

The next day I stood with Monni and Ismail as the doctors began removing his eye bandages. Unaware of what was happening, but aware he was in a strange place among strange people, Ismail started to cry. Monni said his name over and over – she had always done this to comfort him and to remind him she was there – and soon his tears stopped.

The bandages were off and what I saw next was quite miraculous. Ismail’s eyes were screwed up tightly. Slowly, he tried opening them, but I could see he had no idea what was happening. As his eyes opened wider Ismail looked shocked. He was seeing the world for the first time! He turned his head to the familiar voice he’d heard since he was born, we watched as he registered that the person holding him tightly in her arms was his mother. That moment, when they looked at each other, was a moment I’ll never forget. This was the miracle. This is what your donations paid for.

 

We were due to leave that day. It had been an amazing experience meeting Ismail and his family. Although they still have a lot of hardship to face day-to-day, the successful operation had opened up Ismail’s world and made life a little bit easier for him and his family.

 

Written by Ella Pierce, Head of Digital Fundraising at Sightsavers.

 

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