Eye surgery provides a new outlook on life
GRAFTON – Dilrabo (Dilya) Parvozbekovna sees things much differently than she did when she arrived in the United States from her home in Khorog, Tagikistan, in September. The ASSE foreign exchange student has a wonderful host family and a compassionate ophthalmologist to thank for her new outlook on life.
Parvozbekovna was affected by infantile glaucoma and as result developed lazy eye. The required surgery to correct the vision impairment was not available to her in Tagikistan, and her family would have to travel to Russia or China for treatment. Jayne Brown of Grafton, who is an area ASSE representative, knew of Parvozbekovna’s condition through Skype visits she had with her following her application with ASSE to come to America through the student exchange program.Fargo ophthalmologist Dr. Lance Bergstrom, whose family had already committed to hosting another ASSE student this year, learned of Parvozbekovna’s eye condition and offered to do gratis surgery to correct it. However, ASSE had not been able to find a host family for Parvozbekovna within traveling distance of Fargo where she would have to go for treatment.
That is when Brown’s husband Ron suggested they become Parvozbekovna’s host family. She would be the third exchange student the couple has welcomed into their home.
“I just couldn’t let her miss the opportunity to have the surgery,” Ron said.
While attending classes at Grafton High School, Parvozbekovna was experiencing difficulty reading the white boards used by the teachers in the classroom.
“In Tagikistan, we only use books in school and I could always read,” she said. “But here the teachers write on the boards at the front of the class and I could not read them.”
At Parvozbekovna’s first appointment with Bergstrom, he found that in addition to her lazy eye, she was far-sighted and prescribed glasses. He suggested Brown take her host daughter to Heartland Eye Care in Grafton for them. When Dr. Carlson and Dr. Helgeson learned of Parvozbekova’s condition and that treatment was not available to her in her own country, they graciously donated the glasses Bergstrom prescribed.
“When we found out that Dilya needed glasses, we looked to the Lions organization for help but because she is not a U.S. citizen she did not qualify,” Jayne said. “There are some funds available through ASSE we could apply for and we were prepared to pay for them out of our own pocket. Then Heartland generously offered to cover the cost.”
On Dec. 27, during Christmas break from school, Parvozbekovna had the surgery and since had therapy to strengthen her eye. However, Bergstrom was not entirely happy with the correction and will schedule another surgery in March.
Parvozbekovna said having the eye surgery was a wonderful thing for her, even though her mother could not be with her. The support she received from her host family, particularly her host mom, made the experience much easier for her.
“It was difficult not having my mom with me, but I wasn’t scared because Jayne was with me and hugged me when I cried,” Parvozbekovna said. “During the surgery the doctor was talking to me. All of his people that were there took care of me and were very good to me.”
Now back in the commons and hallways at Grafton High School following Christmas break, Parvozbekovna said her classmates notice the difference in her eye, as do her friends back in Tagikistan when she talks with them via Skype.
“I want to say thank you very much to the doctor for making me feel like a person without a disability,” Parvozbekovna commented. “I’m very happy to have met him.”
“I can’t believe everything that has happened to me – to come to the United States to study, to have surgery and a new family,” she continued. “When I go home in June I will miss everyone here who has helped me so much.”