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Dear Editor,

“Oh magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt hi name together” - Psalms 34:3 This is someone’s thankful heart for God’s presence with us, everywhere we go.

My name is Laaloi Fulu Lili’o from Fagasa. It was early last year that I noticed that the beauty of our country was not very clear to me and probably for others who suffer from eye problems relating to injuries. especially diabetes.

We must be grateful for our forefathers that their dreams are fulfilled, that we are sailing along in the ocean of blessings from the USA, including Medicaid that sent us so we can receive quality and the best medical care in New Zealand.

From our local hospital in Fagaalu, I was referred by ophthalmologist Dr. Salofi Laititi and his assistant to New Zealand. All the expenses for myself and my escort, Mrs. Fatu Leulua’i Al-Shehri, were paid for by Medicaid. Sandra King and her local Medicaid staff were very efficient in making professional arrangements for our journey to and from New Zealand.

Our local hospital (LBJ) is facing challenges including the lack of equipment and accessibility. The overall threat debilitating our dear country is diabetes, the main cause of eye problems throughout the Pacific. With a fatty and cheap diet from fast food restaurants overtaking organic food, nutrition is a preventive measure that requires time and education.

Awareness is the main key as people are not aware that diabetes can affect their vision. People need to be screened so our physicians can nurses can identify patients who need services.

Who can say that our local physicians are not efficient? My strong opinion is based on my belief and experience from when I was in American Samoa. With the limited equipment they have, their performance blends with their trust in the Lord to treat our people. I say this over and over again - our local boys and girls (doctors and nurses) are very efficient, it’s just they don’t have adequate and quality equipment for proper care.

I already mentioned this in my previous “Thank You Article” after my major operation that lasted 8 hours, a full abdominal hysterectomy. It was a great success as I trusted God that our hospital could do wonders.

In New Zealand, Dr. William Cunningham, cataract and retinal surgery specialist and his team of two optometrists, Radha Soma and Teresa Flanagan, performed a vitrectomy on my left eye, which was the main reason for my referral. The process lasted an hour and the operation was highly successful. May God bless them all.

A post operation follow up took a week, followed by a second procedure to remove a cataract in my right eye, which lasted 10 minutes, and one day for post operation care. This was carried out by the same professional team, with the help of Dr. Ping Gao, a specialist I saw before my operations. Everyone was remarkable during this journey.

Bobby Naidu, a transportation coordinator - and his family - were very friendly. May God bless them all. The service was excellent, from the airport in NZ to the hotel, to the Eye Institute and back.

Special thanks to the local Medicaid Office, Sandra King Young and her staff for the smooth consultations, and also the honorable government leaders who made the connections possible. Jane Iopu, the patient coordinator in NZ, made perfect arrangements not only for myself and Fata, but all others who travel to NZ for the same purpose.

My journey was more than just seeking medical care. It is my hope to encourage our people to move forward for better care and help our own medical providers to be aware of our needs. Whether you are rich or poor, everyone has the right to quality care. An old saying states: “What is good for the goose is good for the gander.” If quality care can work for rich countries, it works for us too.

We have access to quality care if we abide with the Lord and trust Him fully.

My grateful heart of thanks to my relatives in NZ for visiting me at the hotel and bringing food, clothes, and money. I know the Holy Spirit whispered to you to come and be kind to me while in NZ, though we hadn’t seen each other for more than 50 years, since Upolu.

My thanks to Insel Hotel in Apia for good service, although some improvements are needed to make patient stays more enjoyable. An elevator or ramp should be installed for people with disabilities. ADA laws with its Modification Act was passed July 26, 1990 and is one of the main requirements for Medicaid. Otherwise, it’s a beautiful hotel with a wonderful location and view.

Thanks to my escort Fatu for your assistance. I pray constantly to bless your family in Seetaga and abroad. Bless all those who prayed for our journey. In conclusion, all throughout this memorable journey, praises and glory are due to our Lord. Praise his Holy Name now and forever more.

Manuia si o’u aiga ma si o’u nu’u pele o Fagasa - Manuia lo’u atunuu pele o Amerika Samoa

Laaloi Fulu Lili’o