Monday, April 22, 2013

Mission in progress

Our eye surgery mission is off to a great start.  First of all, everyone arrived (though the plane was an hour late) and our franquicia (customs permission) also arrived in good time, so we moved through the immigration and customs process reasonably quickly.

And then we were off to Alegría, a very, very long 2.5 hours from the airport - in the dark, so we couldn't see anything, and with a group who'd mostly been up and travelling since the early hours of the day.  We tumbled into the Casa de Retiros (retreat center) about 12:30 AM, and most people were up and moving again when the sun came up at 6:00 AM (not me, I turned over and went back to sleep until 8:00).

Still, it was easy to see what a great team we have - no one grumping, no one complaining about the cold water or the lack of sleep, everyone eager to get on with the mission.  It's a big group this time.  We have father and daughter ophthalmologists, Tony and Kristin Pisacano; our optometrist, Terry Clark; two scrub techs, Rosy Melara and Jennifer Woodland; two circulators, Silvia Pleitez and Sarita Angulo; interpreter Gloria Campuzano; nurse Dawn Fisher; patient coordinator Rosa Aguiar; photo-journalist and keeper of the autoclave, Mitch Costin; our beloved driver, Hernan Merino; and Darren Streff, Kathy Garcia and me.

Sunday we enjoyed lunch at an Alegría restaurant, looking out over a valley full of mist, and went to Santiago de Maria - the next town to the east, about 15 minutes away - to set up our surgery at the small National Hospital there.  As always, our first surgery was practiced on some of the machinery - here's a photo of Darren, Terry and Mitch Costin working on our slit lamp, used to calculate the power of the interocular lens:

Unfortunately, the frozen knob resisted all efforts to free it, but Terry figured out a work-around that involves raising and lowering the patients, rather than turning the knob in the machine.  A nice Salvadoran solution, that!

Today, in our first day of surgeries, we saw 11 surgery patients, which is just about unprecedented - the fruit of Marvin Hernandez' hard work in the Estanzuelas community.  Often before we've had days with four to six patients, so this felt wonderful to all of us, and our surgical team kept fully occupied.  And in the afternoon Terry, Dawn, Darren and Gloria gave eye exams and reading glasses when needed to about 75 hospital employees. 

A fine first day all round!

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