Friday, August 18, 2017

Sayadaw help patients in Putao regain vision

Sitagu Sayadaw (C) with an elderly woman (2nd R) who received eye treatment at Putao District Hospital in Kachin State in early October 2012. (Boothee / The Myanmar Times)Sitagu Sayadaw (C) with an elderly woman (2nd R) who received eye treatment at Putao District Hospital in Kachin State in early October 2012. (Boothee / The Myanmar Times)

Villagers in remote areas of northern Kachin State flocked to receive free eye treatment from the Sitagu International Buddhist Missionary Association in coordination with Htoo Foundation earlier this month.

The program was launched in Putao in November 2011 and this year a team of four eye specialists treated about 1074 patients for eye ailments at Putao District Hospital between October 15-17, conducting 148 operations.

U Tone Pho Yin, 72, trekked for two days from his home in Nogmung township to Putao District Hospital – a journey of more than 112 kilometres (70 miles) – for his checkup. After suffering blurred vision all his life, he received treatment from the association’s doctors.

“I learned that I was suffering from cataract. The cataract in my left eye was removed last year. When I heard that Sitagu International Buddhist Missionary Association was providing free eye treatment in Putao township, I trekked alone all day and slept at my friend’s house on the way to get treatment,” he said, adding: “There is no eye specialist in Nogmung township. I’m very grateful to the doctors.”

“Cataract is common here, and glaucoma is the second most common eye disease. I also found a few patients with eye injuries,” said Dr Mya Aung, one of four eye specialists.

Sitagu International Buddhist Missionary Association vice chairman U Khin Maung Win said the association’s founder, Dr Ashin Nyanissara, launched the program in Putao after learning that residents from the area travelled as far as the state capital Myitkyina to receive treatment for eye problems.

“Most people in Putao couldn’t afford to see a doctor, and go untreated. Those who can afford it usually go to Myitkyina, but the travel expenses are high,” said Daw Lu Bu, who brought her 72-year-old mother to receive free eye treatment on October 15 from Pan Hlaing, about 1.6 kilometres (1 mile) from Putao.

“My eyesight started to fade when I was 15 years old. I left it untreated because I couldn’t afford a checkup. This was the first time I’d ever seen an eye specialist. I was really pleased,” said 24-year-old Ma Za Me Sar, who was given a pair of glasses to wear after her treatment.

“Putao residents could benefit from free treatment for all kinds of diseases. When they advertised free eye treatment, more than 1000 patients came from nearby towns and villages to Putao to receive it,” she added.

Daw Phone Pwint Jar, 80, said: “I’ve had very little sight in my eyes since last year. When I heard they would give free treatment, I walked to the hospital alone.”

An orthopaedic surgeon at Putao District Hospital, Dr Labang Gon Jatt, said few people in the area could afford to use the hospital and most instead rely on whatever treatment is available in their village.

“Moderately sick patients can’t reach hospital because of difficult transportation. They don’t have money so they can’t afford transport, let alone the medical expenses,” he said.

“Most of the patients that do come are heavily pregnant women, who are sent here because home delivery would be very difficult. Most pregnant women usually give birth by a midwife.”

Dr Labang Gon Jatt said language barriers also deter patients from coming to the hospital.

“We can’t speak the local Shan languages – Rawang, Lisu or Khamti – that most people in Putao speak. Patients find it hard to communicate with us, so they seek help in their own village, where people can speak their language,” he added.

The doctor said the most common ailments in Putao are malaria and pneumonia but medicine to treat malaria is often not effective.