We're close to the end of a glorious week of eye surgeries at the Hospital Nacional de Santiago de Maria. For the first time ever, in my experience, we've had more than 50 potential patients show up (50 being the maximum our surgeons and our materials will stretch to). Several patients were not qualified for surgery - because the risk would be too high or because there were serious complications - so our ophthalmologists completed 50 surgeries, right on the number possible.
Usually our problem has been patients who don't show up because they're afraid or uncertain about the surgery. This time, thanks to the amazing work of Marvin Hernandez, our coordinator in Estanzuelas - where our patients live - just about everybody came. And the problem we had to solve was lack of some of the materials needed to complete our 50 surgeries - in midweek, we had to find more Viscoelastic, a fill used during surgery, and sutures. But with a lot of cooperation and even more driving - both Darren and Hernan, our motorist, had to travel an hour to San Miguel on Thursday - we purchased just enough to get through.
What's been most beautiful, as always, is our patients, and the delight and gratitude they express when the bandage comes off the morning after surgery and they can see more clearly. Lots of hugging and thanking and blessing happens then - it's the very best reward for us. Here are a few of them ready to go home with new vision:
Tomorrow we'll check the patients from Friday, pack up and take off for San Salvador. And there are two very special patients, our very last patients, whom everyone will be waiting to see. One, Marta Elena, wasn't on our original list, but came in for three days with the group from Estanzuelas, hoping that we might find a space for her. And on the last day, we did. One of her eyes was blind, the other had a cataract so dense she could see nothing: the doctors expect that tomorrow she'll see for the first time in years. The second, Calixto, heard about our mission because he sells papers in the hospital. No one can quite figure out how he saw to sell papers or get around, but he did. And he came to us and asked if we could look at his eyes. He, too, is blind in one eye and the other had the largest, blackest cataract Dr. Tony Pisacano has ever seen. We had just enough materials left for Calixto's surgery and we will all be waiting tomorrow as he wakes up to a very new and brighter day.