WORKING for eye centres makes David Chua realise how everything can change in the blink of an eye if the importance of one’s sight is overlooked.
“Losing sight has a lot of implications. It snatches away one’s earning power, which is a situation that can put the entire family in despair if the patient is the breadwinner,” said Chua.
Aware of the seriousness, he makes it a point to facilitate free annual eye check-ups for the his community, in conjunction with World Sight Day and World Glaucoma Week.
He mobilises the relevant parties, especially the eye centres he works for as corporate communication officer, to make the free checks available. And, he has been doing that for 12 years now.
There is no stopping him, as the more he organises the community programme, the more he realises how people are taking eyesight for granted due to a lack of awareness.
He witnessed how his friend’s world turned upside down because of glaucoma.
“He was a corporate figure making good money but landed in bad financial problems because glaucoma robbed him of his sight, high post and self confidence.
“The illness took everything away from him overnight,” Chua recalled.
The friend, Stevens Chan, eventually found a way to stand on his feet again and founded the Malaysia Glaucoma Society.
Chan joins Chua in most of the community eye-check sessions.
He said every person had a 3% chance of contracting glaucoma once past the age of 40, and in the case of hereditary glaucoma, the risk was 30% irrespective of age.
“The most heartbreaking fact about such mishaps is that this type of blindness is actually preventable, that is why raising awareness is so important,” he emphasised.
Blindness caused by glaucoma is preventable with early detection and treatment. If discovered early, the patient will need to only spend about RM100 a month on eye drops to prevent the worst, he said.
On the other hand, blindness caused by cataract is reversible but many are oblivious to this.
“Millions of people in India are blinded by cataract which can be reversed with a simple procedure that costs only RM60 there. Sadly, many cannot afford it.
“While in Malaysia, many think cataract is part and parcel of ageing so they just live with a blurred vision, not knowing that it can be dealt with easily,” he added.
Thanks to his kindness and industry, he has helped 400 deserving individuals receive free cataract treatment in the past years, by matching them with doctors who are willing to provide the service pro bono or getting sponsorship from Lions Club.
Arranging for the treatment is easier said than done because it is vital for the patient to have five eye checks before and after the procedure.
Logistic is a major issue, and Chua has been tirelessly attending to these technicalities.
To make it easier for the public, especially needy persons, Chua also arranges for the free checks to be held at their respective communities.
He thanked the eye centres he worked with for supporting the cause as the organiser would normally need to spend about RM20,000 for a public eye-check session, while Kuala Lumpur City Hall would foot the RM5,000-rental for canopies, tables and chairs.
In March, KL Eye Specialist Centre, where Chua takes charge of practice development, organised a three-day medical outreach campaign in conjunction with World Glaucoma Week.
About 400 people turned up for the event held at its premises in Kepong.
The centre’s senior consultant ophthalmologist Dr Manoj Sajnani said public awareness of eye health was still low because most thought that blurred vision was inevitable.
He said with the intention of giving back to the society, the centre had been providing about 50 free cataract treatments annually with small grants from non-governmental organisations.
He appealed for more parties to come on board so that they could reach out further.
“We certainly are not doing enough yet, we hope to gather the strength of more people to bring this effort to a different level, one of our plans is to build a mobile screening team to go to the underserved areas,” Dr Sajnani said.