Although afflicted with strabismus since birth, 6-year old Liu Ke Li was a clever, outgoing boy who everyone called "Chocolate". While his Dad and Grandad struggled to feed four mouths from their less than RMB100 a month laborers' wages from a local brick factory, the family was happy.
Sadly, no one was aware of Chocolate's strabismus. The trouble only really began when the boy started school and the other kids began cruelly mocking the way he narrowed his eyes in class. It was around this time Chocolate's parents also grew aware of their son's visual problems. Sadly, while they loved Chocolate unconditionally, their poor education meant they didn't understand or trust medical techniques and were terrified about the risks involved in surgery.
While his Mum and Dad agonized about treatment, Chocolate's strabismus grew steadily worse. Because he had to tilt his head to read, the boy's shoulders had started to slope. Broken-hearted by how her son's eye condition was now ruining his posture, Chocolate's poor mother was distraught.
2012 not only marked ORBIS and its Flying Eye Hospital's 30th anniversary, but also our DC-10 teaching hospital's second visit to Lanzhou, Gansu. While there, our volunteers helped Second Hospital of Lanzhou University launch a two-week sight saving project. Luckily, Chocolate was one of the potential patients who was screened by our volunteer medical team. When we first checked the boy's eyes, he wasn't the least bit shy or worried! "I'm not afraid of surgery! I know the doctor will cut my eyelids and cover my eyes with bandages! All I have to do is avoid rubbing or getting water in my eyes for a few days!" Isn't it wonderful how a tiny child like Chocolate could give his much bigger, older and more frightened Mum so much courage?
In the end, Chocolate's bravery and confidence persuaded his parents to agree to his surgery. When we asked the boy why he was so unafraid of his operation, he told us: "When I grow up, I want to be a policeman and you are not allowed to narrow your eyes when you are shot at!"