- 04 May 2020
Saja recently received treatment at our St John Eye Hospital in Jerusalem. Below is her story, in her mother’s words.
“Saja, my eldest child, was born weighing 3.2kg. I remember the day like it was yesterday. One of the first things I noticed was one eyelid was more closed than the other. But when I asked the doctors they told me that it probably happened during the birth and not to worry.
When my second child, my son Ibrahim, was born he had the same problem. This was when I realised it was perhaps a more serious issue.
Society is ruthless these days, it can be difficult. Saja is very young but I could already tell she was being discriminated against. When she was three and began playing with other children she often got asked ‘why is your eye like that?’ What was worse was when she was asked what was wrong with her by adults too. It made her very shy and unsure of herself around other people.
I took Saja to be checked at St John, where we met Dr Bashar. She was diagnosed with a ptosis, or a droopy eyelid. After the laboratory tests and eye examinations they told me they would tighten the tendons of the eye. I was worried about the risks and if this might cause damage to the eye, but Dr Bashar reassured me that it would not cause her any harm. In fact it was likely to improve her vision.
Three months post operation my daughter is like a different person! I am very happy because as she sees herself in the mirror and how normal she looks I think she’s forgotten what she even looked like before. She is even prettier than she was before, if that is possible. And most importantly her state of mind when she is with other children is also much better. She can interact with the other children now she feels just like them.”
At St John Eye Hospital we treat children like Saja every day. Unfortunately the visible nature of eye diseases such as ptosis can lead to social stigmatisation just like Saja received.
The burden of this stigmatisation is exacerbated for girls because they can damage their chances of finding a suitable partner. Young women with sight issues are therefore caught in a cycle, many already living in poverty, without appropriate support for their education, unable to work, not able to meet a partner, and stuck at home depending on aging parents.
Ptosis also carries the added risk of developing limited vision, which impacts on a child’s ability to learn and develop.
With their sight fully restored, children like Saja have full access to education. Good sight opens up many doors for them, including further education and work. They will be able to support their family, rather than being forced to rely on them.
Saja is one of the 42,700 children we screened or treated at St John Eye Hospital in 2016.