“Thank you, Doctor.  I never thought I’d be able to see again.” Those were the words of gratitude uttered by Rukiah Shahbudin, 62, who had thought that her hopes of seeing again were gone. Rukiah Shahbudin, or more fondly known as Kak Kiah, is one of the lucky few who obtained free medical treatment thanks to Dr S.S. Gill from Hospital Fatimah, Ipoh.

Consultant Eye Surgeon, Dr S.S. Gill said that he initially feared the poor lady would never see again as her condition was serious. “Both of her eyes are blinded. After an initial check-up, I noticed that the combination of hypermature cataract and glaucoma were the reasons behind her affected sight,” he reasoned.

Cataract, according to Dr Gill, is the blurring of the crystalline lens which happens naturally. Cataract is the layer which obstructs the flow of light through the eye lens while glaucoma is the progressive damage of the optic nerves.

Glaucoma is known as “the silent thief of sight”, which impacts the optic nerves, the “main cable” which carries visual information from the eyes to the brain. A patient would lose his or her sight gradually over a period of time.

“Both of these conditions happened simultaneously and as such, treatment would be more difficult and complicated. The success rate of the surgery is unpredictable,” he added.

Kak Kiah is classified in the group of people with physical disabilities. She hails from Kampung Batu Satu, Malim Nawar. The loss of her eyesight, two years ago, resulted in her being shunned by her relatives who had come to consider her a burden.

“At that time, only my relatives and neighbours provided the encouragement for me to live on. I accepted my fate because everything is being determined by God. If possible, I don’t want to live in a welfare home. But what am I to do when my own siblings won’t accept me in my state.”

“I don’t expect to regain full vision after the surgery. I am very grateful even if it’s just one eye. There’s nothing else I could say except to thank Dr Gill and Hospital Fatimah for their generosity.” 

Kak Kiah underwent a series of check-ups. The first was done on March 26. A month later she was admitted into the ward for three days two nights from Tuesday, April 28 to Friday, May 1 to undergo surgery.

According to Dr Gill, both of her eyes were in critical state as the cataract was so hard and thick. It prevented light from reaching the back of the eyes. “The chance of success was only 50-50. What I could do was to try my best along with ENT Resident Consultant Surgeon, Dr Loh Seck Poh, also from Hospital Fatimah.”

“The surgery time to remove the cataract from her right eye doubled from the usual. We took 15-20 minutes. However, we did not feel the strain as we did it with diligence and patience in order to help Kak Kiah see again,” he said.

On Thursday, April 30, Kak Kiah’s anxiety ended when her eye bandages were finally removed. Seeing the lady smile moved Dr Gill no end.

“While removing her bandages, I could only leave it to God. Like I have mentioned previously, her hope was little. But when she looked and smiled at me, I knew she was seeing again. This is a perfect Hari Raya gift for Kak Kiah. Her wish to meet with her family members would come through.”

“As a doctor, satisfaction comes from seeing our patients recover. This is the most precious gift in my career. On behalf of Hospital Fatimah, I’d like to thank Ipoh Echo’s editor, Fathol Zaman Bukhari and reporter, Rosli Mansor for their efforts in highlighting the lady’s plight and bringing her to me. We always assist the poor and the needy, as we empathise with their fate. They should be given a chance to be happy in this short life,” Dr Gill reasoned.

A check with Ahmad Sukri Abdul Samad, the Senior Supervisor of Rumah Kenangan Taiping, a welfare home in Taiping, revealed that Kak Kiah is back to her joyous self but misses her kampong a lot.

“We’ll do our best to grant her wish of celebrating Hari Raya at her kampong. She wants to have a look at her little house, which she left two years ago,” said the supervisor.

RM