Yolanda Patiño, a 65-year-old mother of eleven, lives in a rural village two hours outside of Tarija, Bolivia. She, her husband and their children are farmers who also tend to the land of others in the community in exchange for meals. She suffered an unfortunate traumatic accident a year ago that would transform her life. Since the accident she has dealt with chronic watering in both eyes, swollen eyelids and daily pain. The pain was especially excruciating when she was at work in the fields.
She visited the local ophthalmologist who told her she needed a $2,000 surgery. Since that was more than their yearly family income, she turned to natural medicine and other rustic palliative practices which her neighbors recommended. These methods were not very effective. She dealt with the pain and swelling for a year, until the day she heard the hopeful news on the radio that Dr. Birenbaum would be arriving in Tarija to provide free surgeries. She was completely overjoyed and made arrangements to travel to Tarija.
June 21st is a national holiday in Bolivia, so Yolanda did not attend her scheduled appointment as she thought the hospital would be closed on that day. The list of patients and the schedule of surgeries was finalized without Yolanda’s name. Distraught and nervous she showed up early one morning during the mission, hoping to ask Dr. Birenbaum to please examine her. She explained that she was in a lot of pain and apologized for having missed her appointment. Dr. Birenbaum examined her and said, “These are the people I am here to help, and she needs my help.” Yolanda’s name was added to the surgery schedule.
The diagnosis was bilateral palpebral trauma and inflammation of the conjunctiva gland. The joy radiated from Yolanda’s face when she found out she would receive surgery that would cure her problems permanently. Yolanda spoke before and after surgery and was sharing exciting and thankful comments with the doctor and his team and to all who made this day possible.