That was the reaction of Fotis Velissarakos, the volunteer doctor in charge of the Opening Eyes venue at Healthy Athletes to Hicham Novara, a swimmer from Morocco competing at World Games. Hicham came to Healthy Athletes with extremely bad vision but wearing no glasses.
When he looked at his cell phone, he held it up less than two inches from his eye so he could see, and before the exam, he sat alone and only spoke with asked a question. But by the time he finished his eye exam and was wearing corrective lenses, he was smiling, talking to his coach, and proudly showing the volunteers pictures of his friends on his phone – and holding it at arm’s length.
Hicham’s vision was one of the worst among the more than 1000 athletes seen so far at Opening Eyes. “That is probably why he is a swimmer,” Fotis said. “You don’t really need full vision to swim.”
His uncorrected vision was an astonishing -22 in one eye and -13 in the other — essentially blind. The free eyeglasses he will receive from Special Olympics will partially correct his vision, but the doctors also recommended that he get contact lenses when returning home.
Special Olympics for the Middle East/North Africa region will be following up
with Hicham to ensure he receives appropriate follow-up care.