Sunday, April 28, 2013
A glorious moment, captured
Here's Marta, one of the two patients who came to us blind, at the moment when the bandage removed and she could see again! What a joy and what a privilege to be the person standing next to her at that moment. It's even more special when you know a bit of Martha's story. Literally blind in one eye, she couldn't see out of the other because of her cataract. She had gone to FUDEM, the Salvadoran foundation that offers relatively low-cost eye care, but you still have to pay for eye surgery there, about $150, I think I remember, and that was more money than Marta could raise.
She lives in Estanzuelas, heard about our mission the week we started surgeries, and contacted Marvin Hernandez, who asked if we could possibly add her to our full list. Well, we'll try, I said, bring her on the bus. But we had a full patient load for Wednesday and again on Thursday, and for both of those days she sat there for about three hours and had to go back on the returning bus. I never saw her smile once in all that time of waiting. She sat hunched over, not communicating much at all except through her presence. Then on Friday she came in again, for the third day, and finally we could fit her in. She had her surgery - a huge, dense and dark cataract came out - and on Saturday morning I got to see Marta smile. Isn't that a beautiful sight - in all senses of the word?
Our last patient, the newspaper vendor who like Marta was blind in one eye and couldn't see out of the other, also came out seeing and smiling after his surgery, but Mitch Costin wasn't there to photograph the great moment, and my attempt isn't worth posting. You'll have to take my word on it.
Ah yes, and we completed 53 surgeries on 49 patients - (3 patients had both pterygium and cataract surgery, and one had to come back for a 2nd surgery as it hadn't been possible to implant the lens the first time). Since 50 is our usual maximum, and one we've never reached before because we haven't had that many patients, this was a happy week that kept our surgeons - the Pisacano father and daughter team - well occupied. Terry Clark, our optometrist, also gave about 130 eye exams and - when needed - reading glasses to all the hospital staff who showed up (and that was most of the hospital staff).
As a gift from our PeaceHealth hospitals, we gave some cool stuff to the hospital - scissors and forceps and tweezers (German made, the Director was delighted), wound dressings, sterile towels, patient gowns, and best of all a brand new EKG machine donated to us in Eugene, and made usable in Santiago de Maria by the manual en español that Darren found with great persistence on-line, printed and bound. We were even able to promise them the donation needed to buy a new autoclave (I hate to think how they are making do right now) through the kindness of a very special donor.
But for me, Marta's smile says it all. That's why we were in Santiago de Maria, Usulutan, El Salvador.
Photo by Mitch Costin