When I was a freshman in high school, my family and I took a trip to Myanmar that changed my life. Below is one of my college app drafts that I wrote over a year ago. My dream of being involved with global health delivery is becoming a reality through my project with Global Vision.
Not many people can say that they have carried one half-dozen human corneas over the Pacific Ocean at over 30,000 feet in the air, but then again even fewer would ever want to say that, too, I’d wager. At the age of 14, however, I was ecstatic to be given such a task. My father, an ophthalmologist, conducts retinal surgery worldwide on a pro bono basis. I was fortunate enough to accompany him to Myanmar (Burma) for one of his mission trips. My job during the flight was to keep these cadaver corneas transplantable by replenishing them with fresh ice. As I later came to realize, the styrofoam chest below my seat carried not only the future vision of six blind Burmese citizens, but my own, as well.
After 22 hours of flight travel, we finally landed in Myanmar, and I was relieved of my corneal caretaking. We had three days to tour Mandalay before my father began his surgeries. Although I had previously lived in Saudi Arabia for eight years and also traveled throughout Asia, a heightened awareness now gripped me as I viewed emaciated children using tin cans as soccer balls and entire families living under staircases. The weight of poverty and the magnitude of unmet medical needs were both inescapable. Nonetheless, the locals were extremely inviting and personable; their serenity and their constant smiles puzzled and intrigued me.
I was in the eye clinic when I heard anguished cries and the commotion, of what seemed to be something gone terribly wrong. I whirled around, but what I saw was a Burmese man, wizened well beyond his 63 years, reveling in a rebirth. As he removed the white gauze from his eye, his first sight was of a small operating room crammed in the back of an airplane and the doctor who gave him vision. The new cornea in his eye was one that I transported across the world. I played a role in restoring this man’s sight. Catching a glimpse of lights, colors, and figures he had never seen before, he fell to the ground crying, holding his palms up in the air while thanking my dad for vision—a gift he had not had since his early teens.
Never before had I witnessed anyone so profoundly grateful; never again would I forget how monumental a difference one human could make in the life of another. The miracle I beheld would not have been possible without non-profit organizations and the generous loan of time and expertise by international volunteers such as my father and his colleagues. These individuals had already taken the lifestyle leap I had only began to contemplate the previous night. When I made this connection, I asked again, “How can I lead a lifetime of happiness?” Although I was not the one who directly transplanted a new cornea in the man’s eye, I had been the courier, if you will, of that man’s newfound possibilities. At that moment I knew I would do anything to be a laborer in this field of possibilities—possibilities that only global medicine could provide.