“The doctors came out with smiles on their faces and told us the surgery went well. The first words out of my mouth were ‘Will my baby see?’”
Just two days after Armineh’s son, Gagik, was born, local doctors in their town of Sarahart noticed a problem with the baby’s eyes. But they were not able to identify the issue and told Armineh that they could not help her son because they didn’t have the expertise to treat and properly diagnose the problem.
Hopeless, Armineh thought about traveling abroad for help but that was too costly and unaffordable for her family. “We basically gave up and thought that was the end of the road for us,” Armineh says.
Then the local doctors suggested Armineh take her son to Yerevan to be seen by an eye care specialist. She did and with further diagnosis, doctors there discovered that little Gagik suffered from a rare eye disease in which the corneas do not develop normally.
“The doctors arrived and told us not to lose hope,” Armineh says. “They took a look and suddenly said ‘We will operate tomorrow.’ We were shocked!”
Thanks to contributions made from donors in the U.S., Dr. Anna Hovakimyan, an AECP Fellow and Chief of the Cornea Clinic at the Malayan Ophthalmological Hospital, was able to perform the complicated surgery on little Gagik and replace the young boy’s diseased cornea. The surgery was a success.
“The doctors came out with smiles on their faces and told us that the surgery went really well,” Armineh remembers. “The first words out of my mouth were ‘Will my baby see?’ The doctor said ‘Yes, he will see, he will see.’ My whole body was shivering and I was in tears.”
Now little Gagik can experience the world around him. He likes to walk outside (without holding his mother’s hand) and can recognize his family. “It was an unimaginable experience for the first time my son saw my face and called me ‘Mama,’” Armineh says.
Little Gagik is still under the care of AECP doctors and we have high hopes that we will be able to operate on his second eye soon.
Medical education and training continues to be the cornerstone of all the AECP’s programs. Working with our local doctors in Armenia, volunteer physicians continue to lend a helping hand when needed and keep communication lines open, asking how we can help and what we can do to build upon the current health care capability in Armenia.
In addition to advancing medical education and training, the AECP also continues to provide essential and top-of-the-line medical equipment and supplies to Armenia at no cost. From text books to lens implants, surgical instruments to diagnostic machinery, our organization has supplied tens of millions of dollars worth of medical equipment to facilities in Armenia at no cost.
Of course, none of this would be possible without the support of our donors.
“We can have all these great ideas but without your support, it’s just an idea,” Dr. Thomas Lee, AECP Volunteer Physician and Director of the Vision Center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, says.
“We’d never be able to do this without the Diaspora,” AECP Founder and President Dr. Roger Ohanesian adds.
Gagik’s mother, Armineh, also knows the immeasurable value of our supporters and is so grateful for their help in saving her son’s sight.
“Thank you to the donors who brought light to my son’s eye,” she says with a smile. “I’m so happy that my son can see now and he will get to know the world.”