The Eye and Ear Surgical Support Services (EESSS) has had a number of successful cases where chronic eye and ear conditions have been significantly reduced due to improved assess to surgical interventions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Read about the people we have supported below.
Dyriani lives with her grandmother in Quambatook which is 302 kilometres from Melbourne and 60 km from Swan Hill. She is a year 12 student and enjoys math and music and loves spending time playing the piano and is looking forward to completing year 12. Dyriani has one sister and two brothers who live in Melbourne.
Dyriani was diagnosed with ongoing hearing problems from a very young age. Her grandmother, also her carer, said: “they visited numerous specialists and Dyriani has had many surgeries over the years but her ear issues have been very complex, and no one has been able to help until now”. In 2017 Dr Ryan De Freitas, an RWAV funded ENT outreach specialists saw Dyriani as part of the Healthy Ears program at Mallee District Aboriginal Services in Swan Hill. He then referred her to the Eye and Ear Surgical Support Services program funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and administered by RWAV. Dr Stephen O’Leary operated on her left ear at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in February 2018.
The surgery was a great success and Dyriani has had no infections in her left ear since the operation. This has helped her to “listen to music and hear clearly in class.” After undergoing surgery, she was able to perform in her school production of Wizard of Oz as Aunty M.
She hopes to feel perfect for her 18th birthday and to play netball and girl’s footy. She has been also been waiting till after the surgery to get her first tattoo of “birds flying free”.
The Victorian Eye and Ear Surgical Support Service (EESSS) has been established to reduce the impact of chronic eye and ear condition by improving access to surgical interventions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, placed on a waiting list for an initial consultation and or surgery for their eye and ear condition. The EESSS program assists in removing financial barriers for clients and their carer by covering the costs associated with accessing specialist consultation and surgery.
On 17 May a large list of ten kids and families travelled down from Mallee District Aboriginal Services (MDAS) in Mildura to Kilmore Hospital to undertake ENT surgery with the ENT Surgeon Dr Zenia Chow. All 10 kids surgeries went successfully well with three kids being referred onto the Royal Eye and Ear hospital in Melbourne for further surgery.
Two client’s stories will be illustrated in this newsletter article with their surgical journey with RWAV.
Over the past three years Sally Martin has experienced severe health problems with cataracts. She was on the waiting list to see an Ophthalmologist in Mildura for a long period of time.
During the waiting period, the cataracts grew to take control of most of her eye sight. As a result of this a referral was sent immediately through to the Royal Eye and Ear Hospital in Melbourne to secure an appointment time for her.
Mallee District Aboriginal Services (MDAS) in Mildura had a number of issues pertaining to the funding of the travel to and from Melbourne, for the required surgeries and treatments. With accommodation, taxi and flights Rural Workforce Agency Victoria (RWAV), Outreach Services came to her assistance and were available to provide an efficient, accessible and affordable service for Sally Martin through financial assistance of funding for transport, accommodation and meals. The Ear and Eye Surgical Support Service (EESSS) was a smooth and very simple process and this met the needs of the cataract client. As the Outreach services provided an efficient reply and approval for Sally Martin this enabled her to have the cataract surgery done which she would not have been able to otherwise.
Jane Butler is another client of MDAS Mildura who had been given a late diagnosis for cataracts in both eyes. Her vision was seriously affected by the cataracts and made it very hard for her to carry out her daily tasks. MDAS applied for travel funding through RWAV, and got a quick and positive response. Jane was then sent to Royal Eye and Ear Hospital in Melbourne for cataract surgery after a short wait for her procedure. Once her procedure was completed she was very pleased and happy with the outcome.
As a result of the EESSS program both Sally and Jane now have improved and better eyesight. They are both pleased and grateful for the support they received through RWAV, Outreach services and now they are both able to carry out their daily tasks and routines without having any limitations on their eyesight and this is a very positive outcome for them and their families.
Bright young Darius has had ongoing hearing problems over the past five years and has been “struggling in school” said his dedicated father, Keith. Darius excels in math and reading but due to his hearing difficulties, his speech and education have suffered significantly. He has ongoing ear aches and has had to miss school at times. “He has been receiving speech therapy for 2 years and still his pronunciation isn’t clear” says Keith. A beaming Keith says RWAV has been a “God send” and looks on to his youngest son saying “his life is going to be so different for the rest of his life”. The single father who lost his wife two years ago, said he “couldn’t believe” that they were “able to get help for his son so soon, knowing waiting lists for surgery were well over 3 years”. They both look forward to a speedy recovery and enjoying their time together.
Though a bit hungry having to prepare for surgery, little Armani decided to colour while in the waiting room “in the big city”. Her concerned mum says she can’t wait for Armani to be a “kid again” as she is always sick and feeling tired due to complications with her tonsils. She is constantly on pain medicine and antibiotics. This surgery will “make all the difference to the entire family”. Bobbi-Jean, Armani’s mother couldn’t hide her emotions saying she is “so happy, lucky and grateful and can’t wait to see her daughter “growing up with no complications and just enjoying life”.
16 year old Brodie has been on the waiting list in Mildura for surgery for over 3 years and hadn’t been able to access surgery until RWAV intervened. She has missed so many days of school due to illness and infections quickly escalating to glandular fever. Her mum Sarah , is so grateful that her daughter can now commence year 10 and be able to attend school regularly and not fall back on her studies. In the past year, Brodie has had to access a specialist tutor to enable her to keep up with her missed school work. Brodie couldn’t wait for her surgery to “just get them out” and go to school and “stop the tutoring”. Her mum says “hopefully she can be livelier and be herself” rather than being “so sick, lethargic and tired for the past 3 years”. They look forward to a brighter and healthy year ahead for Brodie .
After a long drive down from Echuca, Kellie looked relaxed while Durant was busy playing with the toys in the waiting room at The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. Kellie was so glad to see Durant receive surgery in Melbourne and to see the positive effects on him after the surgery. She found the coordination was done very smoothly by Njernda Medical Centre and was “so thankful” to RWAV for initiating the program which will make an immense difference in the life of little Durant. Kellie was grateful that they didn’t have to bear the cost of surgery, accommodation and travel to Melbourne, which was very “helpful as well” she said. She looks forward to him recovering soon and continue his explorations.
Eric has been suffering with bad ear aches for years now and can’t wait for the operation to “stop the pain”. His mother Sally, says she even got “private health cover this year to try to have Eric have the surgery faster”. Even with private health cover the waiting list is over a year away. Eric and his mum are delighted to be in Melbourne to have his surgery and return home. Eric says he is not looking forward to “putting stuff in his ear when he goes swimming” but understands that after the operation, he will have to protect his ears. He looks forward to his ears not bothering him as they “hurt too much”.
Bubbly little Brandon was busy playing with a truck at the waiting room where his parents looked on, waiting for their son’s surgery. Brandon has had 7 severe tonsil infections over the last year which he has had to be hospitalized for and is constantly on steroids, antibiotics and hydrolytes. He would be sick for over 2 weeks at a time and caring mum, Sage says he would not eat or drink as he is feeling so unwell. She says he hasn’t gained any weight in the past 6 months which was very worrying for them. They can’t wait to see Brandon “feel well, speak more and gain weight” after surgery. They are so grateful for their son to be able to undergo surgery so soon and looks forward to much happier times for all of them soon.
Little Noah loves playing peek-a-boo, even while feeling hungry, as he was fasting in preparation for adenoid surgery. His supportive mother Kim says “he only has 4 hours of sleep a night and wakes every 20 minutes”. Noah has already had 4 hospital stays with pneumonia and Kim is positive that the surgery will “help Noah so much”. Kim is so thankful to “everyone who helped to organise everything for us” and is excited to see how Noah will feel after his surgery. Noah was one of the first clients to be referred into the Eye and Ear Surgical Support service program at just 4 months of age. It hasn’t been until know that he has been able to access support.
Every couple of weeks Marika has painful ear infections and has to visit the local hospital every few months when it becomes too painful. They have to then drain her ears for fluid buildup. She is hoping the surgery will help her “breathe easier and that the ear aches will go away”. After surgery she plans to eat “lots of ice cream” and is looking forward to not having to eat “soups and noodles” which is what she can eat when she is feeling sick. Marika’s mum, Tatum says she is “really glad to have had this opportunity for Marika to have surgery in Melbourne”. Marika can’t wait to enjoy this summer joining her brothers in the pool, free from her ear infections after her surgery.
Cloey is “irritated” with her constant sore throat, which gets worse at night time and she finds it hard to have a good night’s sleep. Carrying her “build-a bear” she is ready to go in for surgery and she hopes it will help her to not feel “so tired and sleepy all the time”. Cloey’s mum, Kathy is “very grateful” for being able see her daughter receive surgery and the support they have received to “get flights and accommodation in Melbourne”. She wants Cloey to finally be able to enjoy playing sport, as she has not been able to before because she was always “over-tired”. After being on the waiting list for 3 years, she is thankful to the organisations who helped “arrange this opportunity”.
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