Tzu Chi Foundation will conduct an eye screening in Bohol on June 1 as preparation for an eye surgical mission scheduled on June 11 and 12. On May 31, Tzu Chi volunteers and staffs from the Buddhist Tzu Chi Eye Clinic in Sta. Mesa, Manila arrive in Tagbilaran City, Bohol to prepare the venue for the screening.
One day before Tzu Chi’s scheduled eye screening in Bohol, patients suffering from different eye problems slept in the grandstand just behind the venue to be the first in line for the screening.
Night is fast enveloping the oval behind the Cultural Center of Bohol in Tagbilaran City on May 31 as some 21 individuals try to get some sleep on the bleachers, waiting for the morning.
Rufo Cantoneros and his wife, Dominga, are among them. The couple are residents of San Miguel in Dagohoy, which is a good 4 to 5 hours drive to Tagbilaran City. Upon hearing that Tzu Chi Foundation will hold a screening for its eye mission, they joined their neighbors in the long journey to make sure they will be first in line.
"We arrived here at 4 o'clock (in the afternoon)," shares Rufo. "My intention is to receive treatment for my eye condition because I can barely see now."
The 55-year-old farmer is left to stay inside their home after both of his eyes lost function four years ago due to cataract. Today, the meager income that Dominga gets from working as a house helper gets the couple through every day.
"We rented an ambulance and divided the fee among ourselves (neighbors) so that we can come here," says Dominga. "This is the first time we heard that a medical mission for an eye operation will be held here so we are really hoping that we will be helped."
At the bleachers, the Cantoneros couple and their neighbors are joined by patients who are also coming from far away municipalities like Carmen and Buenavista. About 700 patients are expected to turn up for the eye screening scheduled on June 1. It serves as preparation for the medical mission to be held on June 12. Those who will pass the screening, which involves a consultation with Tzu Chi's volunteer ophthalmologists and laboratory procedures, will be operated during the medical mission.
Meanwhile, a group of Tzu Chi volunteers and staff from Manila arrive in Bohol on May 31 to set up the venue for the screening.
Inside the Bohol Cultural Center, the volunteers prepare stations for the eye consultation and a general medicine area, where the patients can get their health clearances after their check up with the ophtha doctors.
Aside from the usual mobile eye consultation equipment that they brought and shipped from Manila, Tzu Chi volunteer Rosita Daluz says they also brought devices to monitor the patients blood sugar, blood pressure, as well as an ECG machine.
"This is so we can save time. After their consultation with the ophtha doctors, the patients can go directly to get their health clearance. This way we will be able to immediately shortlist patients who will be operated on May 12," she adds.
Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) Dr. Gina Ang will serve at the General Medicine area. The Bohol Medical Care Institute, a private diagnostic center here, also offered to provide free x-rays and other needed laboratory tests to the first 200 patients from Tzu Chi Foundation.
This is the second time Tzu Chi's Eye Clinic in Manila is reaching out to the patients in Bohol. Last year, they also held an eye mission that served 34 patients.
The positive result of the mission inspired them to do it again this year.
"After the cataract mission last year, many patients who heard about it also want their eyes to be operated so we thought of inviting the TIMA doctors here," says local Tzu Chi volunteer Joven Uy.
"We hope that through this mission we can help a lot of people gain their eye sight back. This is a very noteworthy project because it really transforms the lives of the patients," he adds.