One of the reasons I became an Ophthalmologist is because I believe that sight is the most precious of the senses. Losing your sight is life altering. Think about trying to get through the day without using your eyes; cooking, cleaning, working, taking care of your family, without being able to see. That is the reality for thousands and thousands of people in Nicaragua.
Nicaragua is the second poorest country in Central America and access to health care is extremely limited. The health care system in Nicaragua is two-tiered: a government-sponsored tier that is free and a private-pay tier. Only private pay patients have access to modern cataract surgery and those who can afford it are very few. Without access to modern surgery, thousands of Nicaraguans become blind every year. I knew the incredible impact our team’s surgical skills could have on the lives of these patients. Just a few minutes with us could change their lives forever and give them back the sight they lost. So when I was asked to return to Nicaragua again this month, I jumped at the chance.
Our team of twelve—three surgeons and nine surgical assistants—carried 1200 pounds of surgical equipment, instruments and microscopes down to the National Eye Hospital in Managua, Nicaragua. For four long days, our team of surgeons and scrub techs performed 152 cataract and glaucoma surgeries. The people of Nicaragua are incredibly kind and were so patient as they waited for their turn under the microscope.
Watching someone see for the first time in months, even years, is something I’ll never forget. When the patches were removed, there were hugs, expressions of amazement and joy and many tears. Those moments of happiness are what I live for and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Sometimes I think I get more out of the experience than they do.
I have loved giving back through my medical mission trips to Jamaica, India and Nicaragua. We are a self-funded group and all of our staff have to take vacation days to be a part of this team. Some people may feel that we are incredibly generous with our time and resources, but every single one of us feels lucky and fortunate to be able to participate in these life altering experiences and give back the gift of sight.