The Shiyan family lives on a sugar cane farm accessible only bumpy, unwelcoming roads outside the Guangxi province township of Nanning. As the youngest daughter of this poor but fiercely proud family, Shiyan did everything she could to help out in the fields and around the house. One evening while she was babysitting a tiny nephew whose parents were working in the town, a baby buckle broke smashed into Shiyan's right eye. Despite being in incredible pain, the plucky girl did not want to place the added financial burden of unplanned-for medical costs on her Mum and Dad. Worryingly, within a couple of days, Shiyan's eye had began to swell up painfully. Like you or I, Shiyan simply did not know she was suffering the onset of a trauma-related cataract that would eventually cause strabismus. Scared that her loved ones might see the way she flinched with pain every time she saw a bright light, Shiyan kept her head down and her mouth closed. Increasingly concerned about his daughter’s transformation from a sunny and outgoing to silent and secretive, Zhou's Dad took her to the village doctor as soon as he found out about her accident.
Sadly, as is the case right across rural China, the local medical staff were hopelessly badly-trained and under-equipped. The best treatment they could offer Shiyan was some eyedrops. A few days later, the girl's eye turned black and she collapsed while working in a field. Her brother instantly dropped everything and accompanied Shiyan on the lengthy and uncomfortable journey to ORBIS' partner hospital in Nanning.
ORBIS-trainee medic, Dr. Tang-ying noted that as the local clinic had not given Shiyan even basic first aid, her situation looked very bleak. While surgery was needed to repair the girl's retina, any operation would be complicated by the fact that her eye was too cloudy and her wound too filled with blood. Blaming himself for his daughter's suffering, Shiyan's Dad followed Dr Tang's instructions to the letter, ensuring the girl took her medicine and attended her appointments on time.
While Shiyan did her best to study while she anxiously waited for her operation, the doctors at the hospital knew her chances of making a full recovery were very slim because of the threat of strabismus. Ultimately, all Dr Tang and his colleagues could do during surgery was to prevent inflammation and hope Shiyan's right eye could at least distinguish between light and shade.