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13 year-old Joanna’s story about losing her sight

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Aug 3, 2020

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Joanna was like any 13-year-old in Australia – she loved cooking, sports and dancing. She was top of her grade six class and so motivated to learn to speak English that her favourite book was an English dictionary.

One day Joanna woke up in her small village in The Philippines and was devastated to discover she couldn’t read the numbers on her calendar next to her bed. Her eyesight continued to deteriorate during day.

Joanna kept this to herself for the entire day – she didn’t want to add to her Mum’s burdens. Her mother Frenil spent her days selling snacks by the road and at the local school – earning just enough to feed the family, and Joanna worried her mother couldn’t afford medical treatment.

When Joanna finally told her mum she couldn’t see, her mum took her to the local Doctor, who confirmed Joanna had developed cataracts from an undiagnosed case of type 1 diabetes. Faced with the need to buy expensive insulin to keep her daughter alive, her mum Frenil couldn’t also afford cataract surgery – and so
Joanna remained blind for many months.

Although Joanna had graduated top of her class in primary school, when her new high school found out Joanna couldn’t see, they told Joanna she wouldn’t be able to attend. And so, Joanna stayed at home, her mum despairing about what to do, until she found out CBM and its partner in the Philippines would fund Joanna’s cataract surgeries.

“When I wake up one day, I can’t see everything… I can’t see my classmates, my dictionary…”. Listen below to Joanna reflecting on her heartbreak when she found out she had cataracts and how her mum encouraged her to be brave about the surgery – and be inspired by her unfailing positive attitude.

3 Years later…
 
Below is an update by Frenil, Joanna’s Mum, July 2020 – 3.5 years after Joanna received cataract surgery

“Our lives changed when Joanna woke up one day without sight. It felt as though our family fell down really hard. But as a mother, I had to be strong for my family…for my daughter. I walked her to school every day. I copied notes for her. I helped her eat, get dress, and move around. I served as her eyes. I did it lovingly but our family also felt the difficulty of our situation. I have three kids and all of them are studying. My husband’s income was not enough and I could not work because I needed to be with my daughter all the time. We were in debt. We were all stressed.

Sometimes, I still cannot believe that a surgery, which only took less than an hour, turned things around for our family…for Joanna. God used the people who helped us as instruments to change our lives. Joanna is now 16 years old. She will be in 11th grade this school year. She joins inter-school dance competitions and is a consistent honor student. She is now independent. For me, that means I can work and contribute to my family’s needs. As soon as she healed from surgery, I started selling food in various schools. Along the way, I met people who became my loyal customers. I saved my earnings to buy other products to sell. Eventually, I made and sold frozen food products to different communities.

Today, we have converted a part of our house to a food business. We named it “3J’s Food House”. We have a small store – it’s ours…and I am thrilled! We sell favoured shakes, French fries, and sio pao. Because of this pandemic, we started a delivery service. Joanna is in-charge of preparing the food orders while my husband and I take charge of the delivery. You see, she’s a good kid.

When Joanna went blind because of cataract, she hid it from me in the beginning because she did not want me to worry. She did want to be a burden. Joanna always tells me, “I want to do well because I want to be a role model to my younger siblings.” Three years ago, our lives were very different. Things looked up for us when Joanna had her surgery. We were all given the opportunity to pursue what we wanted to do. I will always be grateful to God for all the people who supported us through Miracles Day. You did not just give her sight back; you gave our family a fresh start.”

Joanna & her mum, Frenil in July 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Miracles day, Thursday 6th August, donate $33 to give the miracle of sight to someone living in poverty and suffering from cataract blindness. Find out more information here.