|Ngo Quang Thi, who is going blind, says he strives to earn a university degree and then get a job to help his parents|
Deteriorating vision has plagued 21-year-old university student Ngo Quang Thi for a dozen years, and doctors say he will almost certainly lose his eyesight altogether soon.
Thi, whose father had to quit teaching at a very early age because of tuberculosis, says he fell into a coma after an ill-fated injection for a fever when he was a third-grade student and was out for nearly a month. His vision began to fade almost immediately after he came to.
He was later diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson syndrome â“ a rare and serious disorder of the skin and mucous membranes in the mouth, nostril, eyes and elsewhere on the body. It can be defined as a type of allergic reaction to medication or infection.
Despite his condition, Thi passed the entrance examination for the Da Nang University of Technology, and moved to Da Nang from his birthplace of Que Xuan Commune in central Quang Nam Province. Once settled, he began working part time to pay his way through university.
His vision took an even greater turn for the worse slightly over a year ago, and the doctors said he would likely go blind. At the moment, his eyesight is 1/10.
One of his teachers, Tho, is very supportive but feels at a loss to help Thi. âHe kept crying as he told me what the doctors had said. As much as we love him, we can do nothing but encourage him and look for a place that can treat him,â Tho says.
After the bad news, Thi underwent four operations in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang without anyone to stay with him at the hospitals.
âPaying for the operations has taxed my family to the limit. Thereâs no way they can afford to pay for someone to stay beside me,â he says.
Thi studied as hard as he could during his stays in hospital, but had to repeat a year of university.
A glimmer of hope appeared in 2008 when he heard about ORBIS International, a US non-profit organization devoted to blindness prevention in developing countries, which was visiting HCMC. He traveled south but arrived too late to be booked for an operation in the ORBIS flying hospital.
Thi has also been examined at a Singaporean hospital in Da Nang, but an operation there would cost him VND400 million (US$23,880).
âHow could I afford that? Perhaps I will go blind,â he says.
Yet Thi remains optimistic to the end. âI can overcome whatever diseases and whatever difficulties I encounter in life, as long as God blesses me so that I can graduate from university and then get a job to support my parents.â
Reported by Vu Phuong Thao