Wednesday, March 18, 2009


There is a woman--a British woman--who lives here in Maadi. She moved with her mother to Egypt many decades ago, as a child. She continues to live here, although her mother died a long time ago, because Egypt feels more like home to her than Britain does. Her name is Mary, although she more commonly is known as Blind Mary.

But this post is not about Blind Mary.

Blind Mary has a maid, Miriam. She cleans Mary's home and helps control Mary's diet. (Mary is a diabetic who does not always regulate her own sugar intake like she should.) Miriam provides companionship to Mary and sometimes brings her family to visit the lonely woman. Miriam and her husband both have eye problems of their own, although they are not blind.

But this post is not about Miriam.

Miriam has a son, Ungat. He is 13 years old. Ungat, like his parents, has an eye problem. Ungat, like his parents, is not blind. But Ungat, unlike his parents, will become blind.

This post is about Ungat.

I met Ungat one time, just before Christmas. One of the ladies in my life group visits Blind Mary, and she suggested that we go to Mary's home and sing Christmas carols with her. Our life group was joined by another life group--or maybe we joined them--who also has a member who visits Blind Mary. We agreed to visit Blind Mary as a group, sing carols, and share sugar-reduced goodies for the diabetic woman with a sweet tooth. One man brought his keyboard to accompany us, and the ladies who visit Mary brought her small Christmas gifts. Miriam and her family were invited to join the celebration.

Ungat was a happy boy. He was polite, though reserved, with our group of strange people. After some encouragement, he agreed to join his sister in singing "Jingle Bells" in Arabic. He laughed with his sister and his other younger siblings. He was caught at the last minute and barely prevented from drinking from a small cup of wine that he had poured for himself from the bottle that had been brought for the adults. He laughed good-naturedly and willingly relinquished the cup. He had a mischievous sparkle in his eye most of the evening.

It wasn't very long after Christmas when the doctor gave his family the bad news. Ungat has a congenital eye defect. There is nothing that can be done. He will go blind. The expat woman who took Ungat to the doctor now regrets trying to help; maybe it would have been better for him not to know, since nothing can be done.

Can you imagine the pain of this boy and his family? I can't. I've never received news so life-altering, so catastrophic. This boy is on the verge of manhood. He was completing his education in preparation to find work, find a wife, support his family. Now he will not be able to work, probably will not be able to marry, and will have to rely on his impoverished parents for lifelong support. He doesn't read Braille, and I don't think he has any opportunity to learn.

Some of the expat women who visit Blind Mary want to help. It is possible, though doubtful, that a doctor outside of Egypt could help Ungat. Many times Egyptian doctors say "nothing can be done," when they really mean "with the amount of money you have, and the methods and equipment available to us in Egypt, nothing can be done." But if Ungat's problem is congenital, a local expat nurse says that even the best doctors with the newest equipment and latest methods probably would be unable to help him.

So now the group is trying to find a church that can help Ungat make the best of his situation. They want a church to "adopt" Ungat and provide for an appropriate education. He needs to learn Braille and to learn a trade that he'll be able to do even when his eyesight is completely gone. It will be expensive. He may have to leave Egypt to receive such an education. His family can't afford it. Blind Mary doesn't have much money, so she can't pay Miriam much. Ungat's father does the best he can, but like so many others, his family is poor. It's a desperate situation for Ungat and for his family.

I pray that God will reach down His hand and help them, either with a miraculous healing or with a God-sent source of funding for education.


  1. U|ngat's future is in our prayers also. Another well written, thought provoking blog. Enjoy hearing about your many adventures.

  2. Deborah, I too, was born with a congenital eye defect, called Duane's Syndrome. But thankfully, I will not go blind, although I could have someday lost the use of my "bad" eye. I wish I had lots of money to send you for U|ngat. But what I can do is recommend Dr. Arthur Rosenbaum at the Jule's Stein Eye Institute at UCLA. If you send him photos by e-mail, he will respond. I do know that he has international clients, as he is the foremost expert on Duane's Syndrome in the world. But I do not know if that is feasible given the trouble with getting visas, and the cost of flying U|ngat halfway around the world. I will send you Dr. R's by e-mail. Just send me a message to my gmail account. I don't know if Jeff ever noticed my weird eyes in college, but I did have surgery to correct a 30 degree head turn. It has helped a lot.


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