Blog Submitted by Muhammad Javad
Muhammad Javed is an Intern for the Program and Communication departments at ORBIS’s New York office. He is a third-year student at City University of New York-Baruch College pursing a BA degree in Psychology.
Born in a rural village in Punjab, Pakistan, I was just another child viewing poverty up close. Little did I know that what I could see would greatly change. In 1993, at age two, I was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a pediatric cancer of the retina. My family took me to local and distant physicians, but there was simply no treatment available in Pakistan. My family was told to "go to Europe or America if you want your child to survive.”
Fortunately, my father had immigrated to America several years earlier and was able to arrange for my mother and me to come to the US in the fall of 1993. I spent the next eight months undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment for the cancer. The treatment was successful, but they had to remove my right eye and I developed a cataract in my left eye.
With the support of my family, friends and teachers, I learned to patiently persevere with my progressive vision loss. I appreciated whatever I could see and that kept me persistent for the next 16 years.
In 2009, I underwent a long-awaited cataract surgery. I had little expectations of how the world would look with better vision. Instead, I feared that I might lose it all if the surgery did not go well. Gratefully, that was not the case.
My vision improved immensely. It was nothing less than a miracle. Everything looked so vibrant and real, that I felt it was unreal. I was able to read regular print with just the aid of glasses, something I was never able to do. I no longer needed to use a cane when travelling alone and eventually applied for a driver’s license. Everything from the beautiful faces of my parents to the ubiquitous, yet indiscriminate, specks of paint on the surface of the wall of my room was visible in a new beautiful light.
But more than ever, I have come to appreciate each ray of light that miraculously passes through my minuscule pupil to paint a masterpiece on the canvas of my mind’s eye every time I blink. I was overwhelmed with all the visual impulses, insights and ideas, but I just cannot get enough of these miracles now. My eye lets me see the perpetual miracle of vision and it is has since been my mission to do whatever I can to help others experience this blessing, especially those who may be needlessly deprived of it.
I was still adjusting to my new vison when I started college a few months after the surgery. I decided to study psychology, because how we see is an amazingly intricate phenomenon that involves not just our eyes but also our mind. I began to volunteer at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, the hospital where I had my surgery. I also served as a sighted-guide to blind individuals at various organizations and events. It was through this dedication to vision that I eventually learned about ORBIS.
My ophthalmologist told me about ORBIS during one of my follow-up visits. I already had an affinity with anything related to vision, but ORBIS’s novel Flying Eye Hospital gave the noble initiative to prevent blindness a completely new dimension. In the following semester I enrolled in an “Internship in Nonprofit” course at my university and requested to intern at ORBIS.
I received the privilege of interning at ORBIS in April and I cannot be any happier. The mission and vision of ORBIS is innate to me and I hope to continue to contribute to it in the years to come. My personal experience of being born in a developing country, developing a tumor in my retina, losing a significant amount of vision and fortunately regaining vision after sixteen years of vision impairment inspires me to be a part of ORBIS to further our shared goal to help people see the world.