True Lack of Access

Today my brain got stuck. For those that don’t know, my brain goes a million miles a minute. Made me good at online poker, bad at listening to my wife in the early years, and sometimes just gets stuck cycling.

My friend Becki is a missionary in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and works with a ministry who helps young girls escape sex slavery. She asked me to speak to their staff of around two dozen about eye care. What an honor!




I got to exhaust my Khymer language knowledge:  “joom reap so ah” and then we were off and running. 8500+ miles away and through an interpreter I tried to explain: what is good for you is good for your eyes (nutrition, exercise, etc), glasses don’t make your eyes worse they just show you what you’ve been missing, etc.

All was good until we opened it up for questions. <my crazy inner voice>

“What is eye drop?”  <oh my gosh! you forgot your audience is living in the third world. you dummy they can’t just go to Walgreens….or CVS….or Wal Mart….or Safeway…> Turns out the interpreter just didn’t quite hear me right. Of course they have access to simple lubricating eye drops 🙂

“I take my glasses off and everything is blurry. Is this a problem?” <some things are just universal>

“An older lady has eyelashes that turn into her eye and hurts real bad. What should we do?” Uhhh…..uhhmm well that’s called trichiasis or entropion <nice. not helpful but at least I feel better showing them that I’m soooo smart> I told them they should have someone carefully pull the lashes when they start to become bothersome. Ugh.

My interpreter: we didn't talk about it but he has an opacified left cornea...and no way to get it fixed.

My interpreter: we didn’t talk about it but he has an opacified left cornea…and I’m sure no way to get it fixed.

….and it went from there….

“My three year old has an eye that turns toward their nose. Is this a problem?” <muscle imbalance or a focusing problem or just a super strong prescription manifesting as an eye turn> Uhhh….uhhmmm it could be a simple glasses problem or they could need surgery.

“….how long until the damage is permanent?” Uhhh….uhhmmm the sooner you can get them taken care of the better. <really you just told someone who probably can’t afford much more than the clothes on their back that they need to get their kid taken care of immediately. don’t you think they already know that? they’re not stupid>

Becki: “How many of you have had your eyes checked in the last few years?” One. “How many of you have been to the eye doctor in the last 5 years?” Three.

My turn: “How much for eyeglasses?” “$40.” <WHAT????>

Average income in Cambodia $1/day, higher in Phnom Penh at $100/month so being generous with the income we’ll say a pair of eyeglasses costs 40% of a month’s income. Doing some horrible math: taking average US income at $4200/month that would equate to glasses costing nearly $1700 in the States <I need to raise my fees>

Americans don’t understand (lack of) access to health care….and don’t read anything political into that statement.

Americans also don’t understand lack of access to Biblical truth but that’s another post for another day.

It’s all mind boggling with no easy solutions…and I don’t like it <squirrel>