“To be honest, it really hasn’t soaked in as yet; to say what I want to this person, I can never find the full stop for it. The most I can say right now is that I am really grateful.”
These were the words of gratitude extended by Vaughn Duncan to the anonymous donor who has paid the balance for the much needed eye surgery for which he sought the public’s assistance.
Duncan’s plight was highlighted last Sunday after Stabroek News came across a Facebook post by him, asking for persons to support a fundraiser aimed at securing funds for a much needed eye surgery.
Once contact was established with Duncan, the young man who hails from Lethem, Central Rupununi, explained that he was diagnosed, with Keratoconus, a degenerative disease of the eye, by Dr. Neeraj Jain, at Dr Balwant Singh’s Hospital, on April 12, 2017.
Keratoconus, often abbreviated to KC, is a degenerative eye disease in which the normally round cornea thins and begins to bulge into a cone-like shape, resulting in significant visual impairment.
According to Duncan, who was an Economics major at the University of Guyana, both of his eyes are affected, and based on consultations with the ophthalmologist, the impairment could only be halted by a onetime treatment, called Corneal Collagen Cross Linkage + Riboflavin (commonly called C3R). While the surgery can be performed at the Dr Balwant Singh’s Hospital, it carries a cost of $576,000.
Up to the time of the post, he had managed to raise a total of $180,000 towards the surgery.
However, the 21 year old got the shock of his life on Monday evening when he received an email from the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Dr. Balwant Singh’s Hospital informing him that an anonymous donor had contacted the hospital and pledged the remaining amount for the surgery.
According to Duncan, after the article was published in the Sunday Stabroek, he had received a number of calls from persons who offered prayers, financial assistance, information and guidance. In addition to these calls, the young man said he received a call from a member of the public who informed him that a team of doctors would be visiting the Georgetown Public Hospital (GPHC) and would be capable of doing the surgery free of cost.
Taking this into consideration, Duncan said he consulted with his mother, grandparents and family friend, Yimochi Melville, all of whom agreed that this was the best way to go.
“I got a call saying that there were some doctors here who could do the surgery for free. So I was coming for that at GPHC because (the person) insisted that I fly down immediately. So I said okay and would go to Balwant Singh Hospital to get my papers,” he explained.
The following day, the young man said he booked a flight and travelled to the city and visited the Dr. Balwant Singh’s Hospital to uplift his medical records. However, while there he was told that such documents could not be released to him until the following day and so he agreed to return the next day.
However, that very night Duncan said he received a phone call from Dr. Singh of Dr. Balwant Singh’s Hospital asking him to check his email, as she had sent correspondence saying that an anonymous donor had paid off the balance on the bill for his surgery, a sum of $396,000.
“I got a call from the CEO of the hospital who advised me to check my email I was really shocked. It’s not something I was expecting…I have never experienced someone who was willing to do that for me. But to be honest I would never forget that act of kindness…I want to be like that; however small or however big, I want to help someone in the future like this person helped me,” Duncan shared.
Asked if he had made any attempts to seek treatment at the GPHC originally, Duncan said, “I was referred to Balwant Singh by my doctor at the Da Silva House of Optics…they told me something was wrong with my eyes and they sent me there. Me being a stranger here, did not really know where to go and they referred me to Balwant Singh and the doctor there discovered that I had this condition.”
Expounding a bit on the discomfort caused as a result of the condition, the young man said he suffers extreme dryness and sensitivity to light which sometimes impairs his ability to read, a much loved pastime.
“It was stressing me out a lot, also with the eye I am not seeing very sharp even though I changed my glasses I still get the dry eyes especially when I’m reading and I like to read. Occasionally I’d watch TV, but I love reading and when I do that it causes extreme dry eyes… Sometimes I wouldn’t be able to open my eyes when I woke up and this caused me to go to the ophthalmologist at Balwant Singh where they did their evaluations,’ Duncan explained.
While the surgery, which is set for next Thursday at the Dr. Balwant Singh’s Hospital, will not be able to correct the damage already done to his eyes, the young man observed that the surgery, as explained to him by the ophthalmologist will stop the condition from getting worse.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Public Health has since contacted Duncan and informed him that they are interested in meeting him to discuss monitoring his condition before and after the surgery, as well as, providing whatever medical assistance he may need.
Offering some insight on what the surgery entails, Duncan said the surgery is a simple one that will last a maximum of 30 minutes and contact lenses will be inserted into his eyes, before riboflavin fluid is applied and exposed to UV lights.
In acknowledging those who offered their support, Duncan made mention of family friend Yimochi Melville who encouraged him to be open about his condition.
“Yimochi is a guy who pushes a lot and if it has to be done, he gets it done and he’s the one who pushed me to go public with my condition. If it wasn’t for him I would have never gone public…I kept my condition to myself and I was hoping to quietly raise the funds myself but he’s the one who made the poster that I shared on my Facebook [page] that led to all of this,” the young man related.
He also sought to thank everyone else who reached out to him via text, phone and social media, saying, “A lot of people reached out on Facebook, text and phone calls, and I am really grateful to everyone. It has taken that burden off of me.”