A Man in Guatemala Gets the Chance to See Again

Felipe with Dr. Dario Aldana, a local optometrist who helped Dr. Robert Brown and his team remove Felipe’s cataract.

Felipe was blind, and in Punta de Palma, Guatemala, changing that fact seemed unlikely.  With a cataract in one eye and the other rendered useless by glaucoma, he could only see a flashlight turn on and off in front of his face. Otherwise, he had no sight. And because one eye was permanently blind from glaucoma, Felipe had only one chance to see again.

Armed with medicine and surgical supplies provided by AmeriCares, Dr. Robert Brown and his volunteer medical team had been in Guatemala for two weeks when they met Felipe*.  Knowing that he had just one opportunity to restore his patient’s sight, Dr. Brown removed the cataract in Felipe’s eye with the help of a local optometrist, Dr. Dario Aldana. The procedure was successful -- and because they used a minimally invasive surgical method, there was no need for a suture, which speeded recovery. The day after his procedure, Felipe was up, walking around – finally able to see his surroundings. Months later, he is still enjoying his vision.

“His life was changed by the surgery,” says Dr. Brown. During their time in Guatemala, Dr. Brown and his team from the Fort Hill Presbyterian Eye Ministry saw 550 patients and performed 60 cataract and other surgeries—all crucial to the futures of patients like Felipe. “From blindness to sight in one hour—and to be with them when the patches are removed—there are few things sweeter in the world,” says Dr. Brown. “All I can say is thank you, AmeriCares, for letting us stand on your shoulders.”

Each year, AmeriCares supports more than 1,000 volunteer medical teams with supplies, medicine and a website where they can share best practices. More than 80% of teams train local staff on their visits, growing in-area health care capabilities.

*name changed