A bespectacled girl prances around in her home located in a small village tucked away in the northern Chinese province of Shanxi.
“Look Dad! Look at what I learned at dance class today!” said nine-year-old Anni, as she leapt into the air and landed in an ending pose with a graceful back arch.
It’s hard to imagine that Anni spent most of her life not being able to see her adoptive parents clearly like any other normal child, let alone walk without stumbling.
Anni has congenital cataracts in both eyes, which means that she was born with cloudy lens, unable to see or focus on objects clearly.
Abandoned by her biological parents in a hospital bed the day she was born, Anni was put in a foster home and adopted by a couple that served in a church in a Shanxi village with around 1,000 residents.
Despite her impaired vision, Anni had set sights on her adopted father the first time she met him.
“She was just about two-years old. There were two other couples at the orphanage. Even though she couldn’t see, every time she was picked up by someone else, her arms would just reach out towards me. Once she was in my arms, she would stay still,” Anni’s father recalled, laughing.
“It’s like it was meant to be, she just had to be carried by me,” he said.
Anni’s parents were overjoyed with the addition to their family, but it broke their heart when she would struggle to read words on the blackboard even sitting at the front row of the classroom.
In China, five in every 10,000 newborns have congenital cataracts, with a third of childhood blindness due to delayed surgical treatments, according to medical journals.
With cases like Anni, a surgery should be performed within the first few months after being born so they can continue to develop a normal eyesight.
A cataract surgery was performed on Anni at the age of five, but her condition kept worsening over the years.
When a team of doctors from MedArt flew to Suzhou Children’s hospital in April this year, Anni was on track to losing most of her vision.
“If she didn’t get treated then, she would probably only be able to see light and shadows,” said Dorothy Fan, an eye specialist that treated Anni.
After a simple 10-minute laser procedure, Anni is now able to see better than she could ever before.
“Do you see a handsome uncle?” MedArt founder John Ngan asked Anni.
“Yes,” Anni replied, adding: “…and I see the prettiest woman who is my mother!”
Anni’s vision will never be fully normal, with delayed treatment meaning that her eyes are unable to focus properly on objects. She is also short-sighted and requires glasses.
What she can see within a six-metre radius, normal children can see clearly at a distance three times farther away.
“Her vision may not be like any normal child, but as a father, I want her to have the best and happiest childhood and that’s enough for us,” Anni’s father said.