In the eye of the beholder

When she walked through the door, I spotted her immediately. Her left eye was turned inward and it had an abnormal white reflection. I waved and she returned and shy, friendly smile.

She sat with her mother directly in front of me. I asked, “Can you tell me about her eye?”

Her mother looked at the ground and then said, “She’s had this since she was born. This is not new and has been the same for all seven years of her life.”

“Well, this is something that we should have an eye specialist look at”, I replied. “She should come to the hospital, be evaluated and likely have surgery for this (her cataract).”

The mother softly but directly responded, “I will not go to the hospital. She will stay like this”.

I was surprised and when I asked why, she remained silent. My impression at that point was that she was a careless mother.

For the next 10 minutes, I discussed the little girl’s lack of appetite. This was the reason they came to the clinic and their only medical concern at the time.

After I wrote a prescription for multivitamins, the mother spontaneously said, “I cannot bring my child to get medical care because I have other children. One is just a baby who is breastfeeding. If I leave, there is nobody to care for them and they will suffer. I cannot have one child die just to save another’s vision in one eye.”

I was snapped back into reality. This was not a careless mother……She was a practical woman looking out for her entire family.

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