“Doctor, please have a look at my son. He can’t see properly and keeps bumping into things.”
I looked up from my study group in the Eye ward to see a man enter the room with a young boy. The father could not have been older than forty and the son looked to be about eight years old. The first thing I noticed about the father was that he seemed to have a “cloudy” left eye but as I pointed it out to my friend, she corrected me. “He’s blind,” she said softly. It was a painful truth – the man held his son’s shoulder and when he talked, he did not really look at the doctor.
The small room was quite crowded with patients and the doctor quickly sent away the father. “Go register him outside and get his eyesight checked,” said the doctor without a second look. He had other patients waiting for him.
My heart went out to the poor father and son. Leaving our class, my friend and I hurried out to make sure they made it to the registration desk. The innocent little boy who couldn’t see properly and, with his mouth hanging open slightly, tried to make sense of his hazy world was our major concern. The duo got through the registration, free at this government-run hospital in the heart of Karachi and then proceeded to the makeshift eye testing chart on the other end of the Hall. We were relieved, thinking it would be smooth for them now.
“Don’t come here! Go to the pediatric department OPD there!” said the doctor’s assistant impatiently, at the eye-testing desk. My friend and I were horrified by the pathetic manner in which this poor father and son were being treated. All the while, the father would enquire where to go and then encourage his son to lead the way… a young eight-year-old in desperate need of assistance.
We followed them into the Pediatric OPD off the hall. More disappointment awaited the father and as he became agitated, we knew we had to intervene. The help-desk informed us that that the father and son would have to return next week for a two-hour test and could not just take up some one else’s turn today.
“But you don’t know how difficult it is for me to get here! Can’t I please just meet Mr. Edhi?” the worried father pleaded, referring to the senior Professor of the Eye ward, who was famous for his expertise. “I just need to get my child’s retina checked please!”
A young father with his innocent son – all he wanted was to make sure his son would not suffer the same fate and lose his sight. We tried to do explain to him that he would have to return the next week, early in the morning, for an appointment. It was impossible not to sympathize with their situation – the father was a government employee as a wireless operator in the police department. His son was in grade one, with a bright and friendly little face.
“I just want to get his retina checked. Okay, I’ll come back next week at 8:30 am. Will you be able to help me please?” the father asked us, hope and worry etched in his tone. We provided reassurances – it was all we could do. A quick on the eye-chart had revealed the son had an astonishingly low visual acuity…6/60 in both eyes. The next test would reveal what had to be done. For now, they had to return with nothing achieved.
“They all want to meet the professor. They don’t want to consult with us,” said a doctor who’d witnessed the scene. He was half-right – patients sometimes focus on one thing only but in this case, I wondered whether doctors (and we students, as future doctors) needed to think about where we were going wrong. True, there were many deserving patients in the hall who were there first but who could help the blind man’s son?
He prayed for us for helping him through but it was him that we should have been thankful to, I now feel. Looking at those two, whose heart could not have melted? The greatest concern that a parent has is the welfare of his or her child and this handicapped father was battling for his son’s eyes.
They hobbled away to the exit – the blind father and his young son, each strengthening the other, making their way through the thick crowd.
(The above took place on 7th August, 2008 at the Eye OPD in Civil Hospital, Karachi. Please pray for the welfare of the the father and son!)