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How Opening Eyes can save lives: Indonesian teenager discovered with rare condition at World Games

Four young men sitting in a group, two have on long sleep red Special Olympics Abu Dhabi 2019 pull overs.
Yusuf Adi Nugraha during after competing at the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019.

Five years ago, teenager Yusuf Adi Nugraha was happily playing football with his peers in Jakarta, Indonesia. During the match, the 15-year-old saw a good opportunity to score a goal. Without wasting time, he took the shot but the ball hit the post, deflected back and hit him in face, making direct contact with his left eye.

After the strike, Yusuf was in pain and blacked out for a while. Afterwards he felt an imbalance in his eyesight and experienced blurred vision in his left eye. He was advised to wear glasses, which the teenager wore only intermittently. It would later be discovered that he had been affected by a retinal tumour.

—Four years after the incident, at the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, Yusuf found out about the tumour. Yusef, a Unified partner in the Indonesia futsal team at the Games discovered the news when he went to an eye screening at the Special Olympics-Lions Club International Opening Eyes programme. He was encouraged to visit the screening—where treatment is available to both athletes and Unified partners—by his team mates. It turned out to be a crucial move.

“My eyesight in the left eye is blurry since the incident, but it is still normal in the right eye. My vision is normal when I see with both eyes, but if look with only my left eye, then only I can feel that my vision is blurry. It’s not painful and I thought it wasn’t serious,” the now 20-year-old told AIPS.

The next step is organizing treatment with an eye specialist back home, which Yusuf’s mother—who is a single parent—might struggle with. However, as it was caught during the World Games, the medical officer with the Indonesian delegation, Dr. Rora Asyulia, has been able to help. He is now looking for solutions for medical treatment to be covered through government incentives.

Yusuf is among more than 3,000 athletes who had their eyes screened in the Opening Eyes programme during the Special Olympics World Games. About 25 percent of those screened had eyesight issues and received free prescription eyewear following after a 12-step visual exam.

“We have a number of athletes that come who have never had their eyes examined. We provide them with prescription eyewear, sunglasses and sports goggles when necessary. In some cases, we refer them to specialists in a hospital if it is serious. This was the case with Yusuf, who was recommended for a three-stage surgery because of retinal tumour,” Drew Benson, administrator of the Eye Institute of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi said during the programme.

According to statistics obtained from the programme, a large number of Special Olympics athletes have untreated eye problems. Up to 23 percent have never had an eye exam, 16 percent have an eye disease and 36 percent need new prescription glasses.

As well as Lions Clubs International, Opening Eyes is also supported by Safilo Group—a leading eyewear creator and worldwide distributor—which supplies free optical frames and sunglasses. Meanwhile, Essilor International—the world leader in ophthalmic optics—is the official global supplier of lenses to the programme.

This article was produced as part of the AIPS Young Reporters Programme at the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, generously supported by the Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF).