by Zhang Jianhua
VIENTIANE, Oct. 14 (Xinhua) -- "I come from Luang Prabang in northern Laos. I lost my vision since early this year," Khamphong, a 50-year-old patient with cataract told Xinhua Thursday in Lao capital Vientiane.
Khamphong was among many Lao residents who have vision problems caused by cataract, but they are able to regain their sight for free as a group of Chinese doctors have provided free-of-charge cataract surgery in Laos from Tuesday to Friday within the "Mekong Bright Journey" plan.
After traveling some 380 km by road from suburb area of Luang Prabang to Vientiane, Khamphong arrived very early at Ophthalmology Center in the Lao capital Vientiane on Thursday to wait for surgery. He said he was very excited after learning that Chinese doctors come to Laos to provide free cataract surgery.
"I departed at 4 p.m. yesterday (Wednesday) from my home and arrived at Vientiane 6 a.m. this morning (Thursday). I come early as I was afraid of traffic jam and I want to have surgery as soon as possible to gain back my eyesight," he told Xinhua.
Laos is the first leg of a four-country "Mekong Bright Journey" within the Lancang-Mekong River cooperation framework.
According to Professor Guo Haike from Aier Eye Hospital Group, after diagnosis, his team found that there are a large number of patients with cataract in Laos, with many of them having "mature" cataract which is more difficult to remove. The number of patients also surpassed their prediction.
From Tuesday to Friday in Laos, as many as 1,500 local patients with vision problems have been diagnosed by Chinese doctors, with 200 of them receiving cataract surgery while 500 pairs of eye-glasses being distributed, according to statistics by Vientiane Ophthalmology Center.
"We used the most advanced medical equipment and the best materials, including Intraocular lens, so that Lao cataract patients can enjoy the best technology and material," Guo said.
"With a strong team of doctors and medical staff, we can ensure the success of each surgery case. All 81 surgery cases on Wednesday were successful," Guo told Xinhua on Thursday.
"We are very happy with the result, Lao doctors and patients are also very happy," Guo said.
"Chinese doctors are well-skilled and experienced. Their surgery time is short with high effectiveness. The 'Mekong Bright Journey' is a good chance for us to study their skills and technology," said Khamkhoune Holanouphap, deputy director of the Ophthalmology Center.
"This time, the surgery team conducts cataract surgery in Vientiane only. We are planning to expand the plan to other localities of Laos, especially the poor areas to benefit more patients," Khamkhoune told Xinhua on Thursday.
Speaking at sight-restoring ceremony held on Friday at the Ophthalmology Center, Lao Vice Minister of Health Phuthong Meungpak said this marks a new era when cataract patients can gain back their eyesight.
"This plan contributed to further strengthening the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between the party and government of Laos and China as well as the two peoples," he said.
"Cataract is one of the major causes of blindness in today's world. The 'Mekong Bright Journey' has made a great contribution to patients with vision problems, reducing the number of avoidable eye-blind patients," said the official.
The "Mekong Bright Journey" has been included into the early harvest list of the first leaders' meeting of the Lancang-Mekong River cooperation. It will tour four countries, namely Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam, to offer free-of-charge cataract surgery.