Stouffville mission brings miracle of sight to millions

The anticipation grows minute by minute inside the St. Joseph Eye Hospital in India.

Here, Lindsay O’Connor of CBM Canada sits eagerly in a waiting room with a local family who are moments away from finding out if their five-year-old daughter had successfully made it through cataract surgery.

The little girl, born with bi-lateral cataracts, has never seen her parents – never seen herself in a mirror. But, with the support of CBM Canada and people like O’Connor, such a chance was provided to the girl.

Just a day before, a 12-minute operation took place to remove the cataracts from her eyes, provided by charitable donations from around the world.

Now, the doctor removes the bandages from the eyes and after a moment, the girl lays her eyes on her parents for the first time in her life.

“When they take the bandages off, it is a pretty amazing experience to be there,” O’Connor said.

CBM Canada, formerly known as the Christian Blind Mission has operated in Canada for 28 years with its Canadian head office located in Stouffville, ON. The name was shortened a year ago because the organization focuses on all disabilities, not just blindness.

Recently, CBM Canada launched a campaign called ‘100,000 Miracles’. The campaign aims to perform 100,000 operations to remove cataracts from the eyes of men, women and children in the third world in 100 days. That clock started ticking on Oct. 1.

“We are just coming up to 10 million surgeries overall as an organization,” O’Connor said. “We started of with a challenge of 10,000 in 100 days and that goal was reached so we needed a new one.”

Cataracts develop as cloudiness in the lens of the eye and range in severity from slight to complete blindness.  The cloudiness blocks the light that gets into the eye.

“In the third world blindness can make someone become ostracized,” O’Connor said. “It is different than here in North America where there is help and programs available for the disabled.”

CBM Canada found and works with a supplier in India that enables the price of the operation to be cheap – especially considering it at a North American standard. The operation can be completed on an adult for $33.

“The doctors work seven to five everyday, nonstop,” O’Connor said. “Dr. Nick Metcalf along with his team were able to do 600 cataract surgeries in one day for a fundraiser.”

Though the price and the length of the operation may sound unrealistic or like a cheap fix, O’Connor assures that the result is permanent.

“The lens that is implanted is very good and it is suppose to be a permanent fix for the recipient,” he said.

O’Connor claims that the support from people across Canada is good but that any additional support or recognition helps.

CBM Canada also raised attention by taking Mike ‘Pinball’ Clemons of the Toronto Argonauts on a trip to Uganda to observe surgeries with O’Connor.

“We get a lot of support from Canada – coast to coast,” O’Connor said. “It’s really a miracle to give someone back their eyesight.”