“A world that rejects the sick, that does not assist those who cannot afford care, is a cynical world with no future. Let us always remember this: health care is not a luxury; it is for everyone.” — Pope Francis
By Jeri Royce
I wish you could have been with me in Peru earlier this year. I was there to witness the work of our volunteer eye surgeons.
It’s one thing to know that Advance Community has an over 50-year history of medical missions to the world’s most underserved places. The fact that there were (and still are) people suffering from treatable conditions broke our founders’ hearts.
But it’s quite another thing to hold the hand of someone who was blind yesterday and now can see. I had that privilege with Martina.
Martina and her daughter Rosa traveled five hours from their village to get to our partner clinic in Abancay, a city in south-central Peru. Rosa had been searching for a way to help her mother, who lost her vision to cataracts. Thanks to your generosity, Rosa learned about Advance’s medical mission on the internet.
Most cataracts occur because of changes in our eyes as we age. The proteins in the lens of the eye begin to break down and clump together. This clump creates a cloudy area, or cataract, on the lens. Only 5% of people in the U.S. go blind from cataracts because we can access a simple surgery that replaces the lens. But for people like Martina in low- and middle-income countries, cataracts cause 50% of all blindness.
Rosa translated for her mother at the clinic. She told me Martina was worried the surgery wouldn’t work, or that something even worse might happen. As I led her down the clinic stairs after her surgery, I marveled at the strength it took for Martina to leave her village and to trust that a visiting doctor from the United States would restore her sight.
The next morning, Dr. Robert Brems removed Martina’s bandage and examined her eyes. She confirmed that she could see a nurse holding up one finger. The day before, she couldn’t see anything.
“Yesterday, Martina had to have a family member walk her in. Now she sees enough to walk right out, to be safer, and to see her grandchildren,” said Dr. Brems. “That’s a win — she’s going to do fantastic.”
Over 5 days, our medical team had the honor of performing cataract surgeries for 81 people like Martina. Because of you, each one received the gift of sight. But just as important, their experience also restored their faith in humanity.
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